NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) delivered a foreign policy focused speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday, arguing that America's economic strength is related to her ability to exert influence globally.
"Only one nation on earth is capable of rallying the free people of this world to stand up to totalitarianism," Rubio argued before the nation's premier gathering of conservatives.
This would not be the first time that Rubio spoke about foreign policy concerns. While Rubio could have given a speech that all those in the conservative movement could rally behind, such as economic opportunity, he chose instead to focus on an issue that currently divides the conservative movement.
Rubio's emphasis on global leadership puts him at odds with some segments of the conservative movement who have argued for a retreat from involvement in global affairs, at least militarily. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has emerged as one of the primary spokespersons for this faction of the conservative movement. Paul argues that he is not an isolationist. He wants greater economic engagement around the world, but less use of the U.S. military in global conflicts.
In a line that could have been directed at Rand's position, Rubio argued that American military leadership is necessary for a strong economy.
"Global instability is bad for the economy," Rubio said. "Foreign policy issues of our time have deep economic ramifications."
Rubio and Paul are considered two of the leading Republican presidential contenders for the 2016 race.
Rubio's foreign policy focus also comes at a time of deep uncertainty about global affairs after Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to place Russian troops in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.
The editors of The Washington Post recently criticized President Barack Obama's response to Putin as based upon an unrealistic view of the world. "For five years, President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality," they wrote.
Rubio echoed this criticism in his speech. Obama believes he can shape the world "by the sheer force of his personality," he said. Instead of this naive view, Americans "have to see the world the way it is," Rubio argued.
Rubio listed all the challenges that, he said, derive from totalitarianism, including Iran, Al Qaeda, Putin, China and North Korea. America cannot "solve every conflict," he clarified, but issues should be addressed "before they become unmanageable."
Americans should recognize their position as a global leader in the world, Rubio encouraged. "We cannot ignore the reality of who we are."