Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., took a bipartisan stance on foreign policy in a speech today at the Brookings Institute, burnishing his credentials as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney as he called for greater U.S. engagement in international affairs.
"For while there are few global problems we can solve by ourselves, there are virtually no global problems that can be solved without us. In confronting the challenges of our time, there are more nations than ever capable of contributing, but there is still only one nation that is capable of leading," Rubio said of the United States.
"Who will lead if we do not?" Rubio asked. "The answer, at least today, is that no other nation or organization is willing or able to do so."
Rubio said that he disagrees with not only President Obama's administration's handling of certain foreign policy matters but also certain members of the Republican Party who call for a scaling back in U.S. engagement abroad.
"I disagree with voices in my own party who argue we should not engage at all. Who warn we should heed the words of John Quincy Adams not to go 'abroad, in search of monsters to destroy'," Rubio said.
Rubio hit foreign policy hot topics, from Iran developing its nuclear capabilities to the secrecy surrounding China.
"We hold out hope for a new China of tomorrow, but for now we must deal with the China of today. A China which enjoys its closest relationships with countries such as North Korea and Iran. So, at least for now, it would be foolish to be confident in the idea that China can be counted on to defend and support global economic and political freedom or take up the cause of human rights. And by the way, the rest of the world, especially their neighbors have already figured that out, and they prefer not to take that risk."
Rubio expressed his willingness to use military force as a last resort in dealing with Iran, warning that "the prospect of a nuclear-capable Iran is so unacceptable that we must be prepared to act with or without" other countries joining the effort.
"Preferably, we can succeed through coercive means short of military force. We should be open to negotiations with Iran. But always remember that they should not be deemed a success when they only lead to further negotiations. Stronger pressure shouldn't be postponed in the expectation our forbearance will encourage Iran to act in good faith. Nothing in our experience with Iran suggests it considers such gestures as anything other than a lack of resolve on our part," Rubio said. "Unfortunately, if all else fails, preventing a nuclear Iran may tragically require a military solution."
Rubio called for a more active role in taking down the government of Bashar Assad in Syria, which he believes would be "a significant blow to Iran's ambitions."
Rubio relayed his disapproval of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's handling of his country, saying he "might talk tough, but he knows he is weak. Everywhere he looks, he sees threats to his rule, real and imagined."
"I know some here might disagree, and certainly the president would, but I feel like we have gotten precious little from Russia in return for concessions on nuclear weapons. The reason is because Russia's domestic politics shape its foreign policies. An autocratic Russia tends to be more anti-Western, and to act in ways that make it harder to integrate Russia into the global economy and free international political order," Rubio said.
Rubio touted American ingenuity, which he says has allowed democracy to spread across the world, specifically citing the power of Twitter and YouTube.
During a question and answer session, Rubio discussed the need for foreign policy to operate in a bi-partisan zone.
"I always try to keep foreign policy non-partisan as much as possible. I think it weakens our hand in the world, and maybe it's because I'm new here," Rubio said during a question and answer session following his speech.
Rubio, a 40-year-old freshman who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, is at the top of many vice presidential pick lists, and his speech Wednesday displayed his knowledge of and involvement in foreign policy, a factor that could help him if Mitt Romney's team vets him for the number two spot on the Republican ticket.
Rubio campaigned with Romney, who many consider to lack foreign policy experience, on Monday for the first time at a stop in Aston, Pa. and endorsed him last month.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, Ind.-Conn., who traveled with Rubio to Libya last year and co-authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for greater involvement in the country, introduced Rubio as a "rising star" in the next generation of foreign policy, saying that Rubio holds a "steadfast belief in the importance of American leadership in the world and his understanding of how much that leadership determines our security and well being here at home."
Earlier in the month, Rubio traveled to the Summit of the Americas in Colombia, where he met with a number of Latin American presidents and Cuban exile leaders.