After campaign, Rubio works to influence Mideast policy

by Evan Wilt
Posted 5/11/16, 10:50 am

WASHINGTON—After ending his White House campaign, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., trekked to the Middle East in search of steps the United States can take to improve the tumultuous region. On Tuesday, he asserted the U.S. needs to be an integral part of defeating Islamic State (ISIS) and mending the unstable region that fosters violent radicalism.

“A lot of people ask me, why don’t we just leave and let everybody kill each other off? Why is it our business, and why do we care?” Rubio said during a foreign policy discussion at the Hudson Institute. “I still think that the world without American engagement is a world that none of us wants to live in.”

According to the senator, the U.S. and its allies have more than enough military power to destroy terrorist groups like ISIS, but force will not stop extremists. Terror groups thrive on instability, and Rubio raised concerns that American foreign policy is not doing enough to destroy the fertile ground that propagates them.

He said foreign policy is the most important service the U.S. government provides by keeping American lives and economic interests safe. Rubio made it clear he thinks the Obama administration does not make foreign relations a priority and downplays the threat of terror groups.

In March, after ISIS attacked Brussels and killed 32 people, President Barack Obama said while the group has malicious killers, it is not a threat to the American way of life.

“Groups like [ISIS] can’t destroy us, they can’t defeat us. They don’t produce anything. They’re not an existential threat to us,” Obama said. He added later that they are vicious murderers who have perverted Islam to justify violence.

Rubio agreed ISIS is not going to overthrow the U.S., but said that is the wrong concern. He said it is not in anyone’s interest to have ungoverned, chaotic spaces in the world where terrorist organizations can train people, raise money, control territory, and plot external attacks.

The outgoing Florida senator made news Monday when he quashed any chance of teaming up with Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, to be his vice president.

Rubio has no aspirations of joining Trump, just as he had no interest in joining Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas while he was still in the race. Instead, he has said he will dedicate his remaining months in the Senate to fighting for international religious freedom and more robust U.S. foreign relations. 

Late last month, Trump outlined his foreign policy vision. Using broad strokes, the businessman said he wants an “America first” foreign policy and for the U.S. to stop being the police of the world.

Rubio was vocally critical of Trump’s policies on the campaign trail and was asked at the end of the discussion if there was anything he wanted to say to the future GOP presidential nominee.

“I’m not insisting he change anything. He needs to be true to whoever he is,” Rubio said. “I don’t view myself as a guy who’s going to sit here for the next six months taking shots at him. People know where I stand. … I’m going to focus on making the arguments I think are important for the country and right for our future.”

Evan Wilt

Evan is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Washington, D.C.

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