Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington last week, Florida Senator Marco Rubio articulated a foreign policy more centrist than many of his peers would agree with.
Among the Republican Party are interventionist hawks and libertarian isolationists. But Senator Rubio is seeking new ground—contending that diplomacy and foreign aid ought to eclipse the country’s use of military force.
Senator Rubio claims that the United States would be most rewarded through “the decisive use of diplomacy, foreign assistance and economic power.” The strategic use of these three principles of American foreign policy can effectively stop crises before they spiral into bloody conflict.
Similarly, President Nixon was a leader who comparatively saw neither military intervention nor isolationism as a means toward achieving peace in the modern world. As early as 1947, when RN was a young Congressman, post-war circumstances molded his prevailing view on administering foreign aid.
He was chosen as a member of the Herter Committee, an entourage of 19 members headed by Congressman Christian Herter tasked with preparing a report on the Marshall Plan. The group would travel to post-war Europe and analyze the situation first-hand.
Contrary to the opinions of his political support base in California—those who did not support a foreign aid agenda, then Congressman Nixon, upon landing in Europe, witnessed a continent “tottering on the brink of starvation and chaos.”
He saw a continent that without American aid would have ultimately fallen to the Communist sphere of influence. Despite the initial overwhelming opposition to the Marshall Plan among his district’s constituents, he felt that he had no choice but to vote in favor of economic aid. Thus, RN crusaded throughout his district to describe what he had seen on the trip and tried his hardest to convince his constituents to realize its merits.
His appearances in his district proved successful and even enhanced his popularity as a Congressman.
More than 25 years later, President Nixon famously ordered a massive airlift to supply Israel with emergency military supplies on the seventh day of the Arab invasion in the October 1973 War. His order effectively turned the tides of that conflict in Israel’s favor, which eventually progressed into President Nixon’s masterful execution of turning Egypt into an American ally. RN’s rapprochement with Egypt’s president, Anwar Sadat, culminated in a $250 million foreign aid package administered by the U.S. It also motivated Sadat to excommunicate all Soviet military advisors from Egyptian lands.
Perhaps most representative was the diplomatic maneuver with China in 1972. His overtures with China opened the door to an entirely new era of Sino-American relations and indirectly assuaged the Soviet Union into accepting terms in an historic nuclear arms reduction treaty and the relaxation of tensions between the two nations. Whereas the war in Vietnam weakened America’s credibility as guardian of the free world, diplomacy with China and the Soviet Union strengthened its standing.
Senator Rubio faces the same difficult decisions then Congressman Nixon once had to make, albeit in a different light. He also emulates RN as President, by advocating strategy over tactics. In order to appease his constituents of any concern over his vision for American foreign policy, Senator Rubio must convince them that taking the middle ground in foreign affairs, that instigating peace through strategic and balanced negotiations, is in the best interest of America. There can be no room for either of the extremes. He explains why:
Our standing as a world power depends on our ability to engage globally, anywhere and at any time our interests are at stake.
In similar fashion 40 years ago, President Nixon once proclaimed that the United States maintain superiority not for the purpose of threatening anybody or waging war, but for the purpose of perpetuating a defensive goal to win and keep the peace.