CLEVELAND, OHIO — As the race for the Republican presidential candidate heats up following the first GOP national debate, Marco Rubio has emerged as one of the front-runners.
As a candidate with the ability to appeal to both moderates as well as the conservative base, Rubio’s stance on foreign aid may prove to be elemental in his campaign for candidacy, and, should he earn the nomination, eventually the White House.
As Sen. Rubio moves forward into 2016, he will continue to be assailed from all sides on the subject of foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. At 44, Sen. Rubio will be compelled to earn his stripes regarding hot-button issues like aid to Israel, the deteriorating situation in Egypt, and ISIS.
So far, the Senator has broken with many of his fellow GOP competitors (most notably Rand Paul) in his support of foreign aid as a tool of American diplomacy and national defense.
“In most cases, the decisive use of diplomacy, foreign assistance and economic power are the most effective ways to achieve our interests and stop problems before they spiral into crises,” said Rubio in a 2013 speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
While this claim does show that Rubio is a supporter of foreign aid, it is nothing particularly remarkable. When presented with clear humanitarian issues one is hard-pressed to find a candidate who is devoutly against sending mosquito nets or iodine pills to poverty-stricken nations.
Where Rubio breaks from the mold is his attitude toward foreign aid in countries that harbor parties both supportive and hostile to the United States — most prominently, Syria.
Rubio has stood by his defense of foreign aid, specifically in Syria even in the face of bipartisan backlash.
“On the Foreign Relations committee, I have noticed that some members are so concerned about the challenges of a post-Assad Syria that they have lost sight of the advantages of it,” he said to the Brookings Institution in 2012.
“Forming and leading a coalition with Turkey and the Arab League nations to assist the opposition, by creating a safe haven and equipping the opposition with food, medicine, communications tools and potentially weapons, will not only weaken Iran, it will ultimately increase our ability to influence the political environment of a post-Assad Syria.”
In the face of other conservative candidates who assert that “we should start [our diplomacy efforts in the Middle East]by eliminating foreign aid from countries that burn out flag and hate us,” Rubio has presented a bold defense of American aid in unfriendly environments.
As Rubio works toward a presidential nomination, the question remains as to whether he will stand by his defense of aid in places like Syria.
Especially as ISIS becomes an increasing issue regarding American policy in Syria as well as national defense, Rubio will be called on to support his claims that aid, even to nations that harbor terrorist groups will still serve to “strengthen our influence… our leadership and the service of our interest and ideals.”
– Emma Betuel
Sources: USA Today, Senate, NY Post, National Journal, CBS News, Senate, CNN, Washington Post, Republican Views, State