Marco Rubio Flaps His Hawk Wings

The senator painted himself as a student of neoconservatism Wednesday.

National Journal
Emma Roller
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Emma Roller
Sept. 17, 2014, 11:55 a.m.

Dick Cheney has fi­nally found the Harry Pot­ter to his Al­bus Dumble­dore—Sen. Marco Ru­bio.

In a speech Wed­nes­day, Ru­bio, R-Fla., called Ed­ward Snowden a “trait­or,” out­lined an ag­gress­ive for­eign policy plat­form, and took some not-so-subtle jabs at Pres­id­ent Obama and some of his less-hawk­ish fel­low Re­pub­lic­ans.

Ru­bio’s speech was sponsored by the John Hay Ini­ti­at­ive, an or­gan­iz­a­tion that doesn’t have its own web­site. The group, which is the brainchild of Mitt Rom­ney’s former for­eign policy team, has been dis­creetly work­ing over the past year to help po­ten­tial pres­id­en­tial con­tenders sharpen their for­eign policy chops.

And 2016 provided the sub­text to Ru­bio’s speech on Wed­nes­day, as he verbally sub­tweeted his col­league and fel­low po­ten­tial 2016 can­did­ate Sen. Rand Paul.

“Too many lead­ers in both parties, in­clud­ing our pres­id­ent and some who as­pire to be pres­id­ent, have shown they would rather wait for poll num­bers to change than demon­strate the lead­er­ship ne­ces­sary to shape them,” Ru­bio said. “In­stead of out­lining the costs of in­ac­tion to our people months ago when they should have, they were con­tent to take the polit­ic­al path of least res­ist­ance.”

Ru­bio also used his speech to urge Con­gress to au­thor­ize more de­fense spend­ing—echo­ing a very sim­il­ar pitch that former Vice Pres­id­ent Dick Cheney made at the Amer­ic­an En­ter­prise In­sti­tute one week ago.

“Na­tion­al de­fense is not an area where we can flip a switch when a need sud­denly arises,” he said. “Mod­ern­iz­a­tion, in­nov­a­tion, and train­ing must be sus­tained pri­or­it­ies, even in times of re­l­at­ive peace.”

Com­pare that to part of Cheney’s speech at AEI last week: “Pres­id­ent Obama seems will­fully blind to one of the key facts about the post-9/11 se­cur­ity ap­par­at­us: It is not self-sus­tain­ing. Those pro­grams and policies must be kept strong and cur­rent.”

Ru­bio and Cheney’s sim­patico philo­sophies are not new. Last year, while dis­cuss­ing Ru­bio on Sean Han­nity’s ra­dio show, Cheney said, “Marco’s great…. I’m a big fan of his.” Nor is it news that Ru­bio has be­come the Re­pub­lic­an Party’s new face of neo­con­ser­vat­ism, wheth­er he wants to be or not.

Still, his speech was more defin­it­ive—and at times, more damning—than past re­marks he’s giv­en on the situ­ation in Ir­aq, and Amer­ic­an de­fense in gen­er­al.

On “de­clin­ing Amer­ic­an strength”:

“The trend of de­clin­ing Amer­ic­an strength had been largely in­cid­ent­al among pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions, but now it is an act­ive pri­or­ity. Pre­vi­ous pres­id­ents had merely taken their foot off the gas ped­al of Amer­ic­an strength, but Pres­id­ent Obama has stomped on the brake.”

On de­fense spend­ing:

“First came de­fense cuts of $487 bil­lion over 10 years. Then, adding in­sult to in­jury, the sav­ings found in the de­fense budget were re­dir­ec­ted to already bloated do­mest­ic pro­grams.”

“The Army is set to be re­duced to pre-World War II levels. The Navy is at pre-WWI levels. And our Air Force has the smal­lest and old­est com­bat force in its his­tory.”

“Some ar­gue our equip­ment is more cap­able, so our force doesn’t need to be as large. But the world is still the same size. Even the most ad­vanced com­bat air­craft, ship, or sol­dier can only be in one place at a time.”

On in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions:

“When our in­tel­li­gence com­munity is fully re­sourced, it is bet­ter po­si­tioned to identi­fy po­ten­tial threats be­fore a single one of our troops or cit­izens is put at risk. Un­for­tu­nately, our in­tel­li­gence cap­ab­il­it­ies have been badly dam­aged un­der this pres­id­ent, and are go­ing to have to be re­built.”

“When our cap­ab­il­it­ies are ex­posed by leaks from with­in the ad­min­is­tra­tion and from trait­ors like Ed­ward Snowden, we are en­dangered. When we cease col­lect­ing on le­git­im­ate tar­gets, we re­duce our aware­ness.”

On draw­ing down ground troops in Afgh­anistan:

“Re­cent re­duc­tions to our Army and Mar­ine Corps have ris­en from the dan­ger­ous il­lu­sion that Amer­ica will nev­er again have sig­ni­fic­ant ground forces in com­bat. But as we’ve learned in Ir­aq, de­clar­ing wars over does not end them. Even as we con­tin­ue to draw down in Afgh­anistan, for in­stance, we need a siz­able force if we want to avoid re­peat­ing the mis­takes of Ir­aq.”

On cy­ber­se­cur­ity:

“The FBI has warned that cy­ber­at­tacks are fast be­com­ing the primary do­mest­ic threat to the United States. Our cy­ber su­peri­or­ity has been dwind­ling for the last dec­ade, and now the U.S. needs to make up for lost time. En­emies should be just as afraid to hack our serv­ers as they are to lob bombs at our cit­ies.”

Rebecca Nelson contributed to this article.
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