WINGATE, N.C. -- Sounding more like a candidate for national office than a freshman in the U.S. Congress, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio laid out his vision for America’s role in the 21st century, framing America as a model for all democracies and warning that it could lose that distinction under President Obama’s administration.
Speaking at Wingate University in North Carolina, Rubio said that while America should not intervene in every conflict around the world, it has an obligation to act as an example for other countries to follow, through diplomatic and financial and, when necessary, military means.
“Without our commitment to the rights of man, annunciated by our forefathers, what are we? Just another big rich country,” Rubio said.
At a time when Republican presidential candidates like Rick Perry are warning against “military adventurism,” Rubio struck a different town, saying that America should not back down from perceived threats.
“Some suggest that America should heed the famous words of John Quincy Adams and ‘go not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.’ The problem is when America turns inward, and ignores the monsters abroad, they are likely to come here.”
He listed several examples of such incursions, including German U-boat attacks on American merchant ships during World War I, the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, and the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attack, devised in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He cited the latter as reason for continued vigilance against possible attacks.
“If we do not have the luxury of ignoring developments in lands as remote as Afghanistan, then there is no corner of the world from which we can safely turn our backs,” Rubio said.
And, Rubio added, America’s responsibilities do not end within its own borders, but extend worldwide.
“If America refuses to lead, who will combat international outlaws? Who will stop terrorist weapons proliferators? Who will deal with Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs? The rising consortium of Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. The growing challenge from China, which seeks to dominate East Asia but won’t even let its people use Google.”
Rubio praised President Obama for supporting the popular uprisings around the Middle East, but said he waited too late to make an impact in the region as its governments undergo massive transitions.
“He has been slow and hesitant and we have missed some significant opportunities to alter the strategic landscape in America’s favor,” Rubio said.
Rubio also blamed Obama for not heeding the advice of generals in Iraq when he ordered a drawdown of troops there, turning his back on Israel by, early on, opening lines of communication with Iran, and delaying the passage of free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.
His criticism was not limited to Obama. He also targeted his colleagues in Congress for agreeing with the president to cutting billions of dollars in military spending and to further cuts if the Congressional deficit committee cannot reach an agreement – calling such a situation “the worst case scenario.”
“If the so-called debt super committee doesn’t reach any deal, the Pentagon could stand to be slashed by more than a trillion dollars over ten years,” Rubio said. “Our new secretary of defense, himself a well-known veteran, has warned that cutbacks of this scale would have a devastating effect on our national defense.”
Despite the sweeping scope of his speech, which did little to quell the perception that he might join a presidential nominee’s ticket, Rubio told reporters after the event, “I’m not going to be the Vice Presidential nominee.”