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The hawkish bits of VP hopeful Marco Rubio's foreign policy speech

Senator Marco Rubio's foreign policy speech yesterday, taken by many as part of a campaign to be Mitt Romney's running mate, points to a politician who favors foreign interventions.

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Senator Rubio would also appear to favor military action against Iran, and perhaps in Syria. "The goal of preventing a dominant Iran is so important that every regional policy we adopt should be crafted with that overriding goal in mind," he said. "The current situation in Syria is an example of such an approach. The fall of Assad would be a significant blow to Iran’s ambitions. On those grounds alone, we should be seeking to help the people of Syria bring him down."

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Staff writer

Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.

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He continues: "But on the Foreign Relations Committee, I’ve noticed that some members are so concerned about the challenges of a post-Assad Syria that they’ve lost sight of the advantages of it. First, Iran would lose its ally and see its influence and ability to cause trouble in the region would be correspondingly reduced, but Hezbollah would lose its most important ally too along with its weapons supplier. And the prospects for a more stable, peaceful, and freer Lebanon would improve."

Well, that's one possibility. But skeptics of arming Syria's rebellion, or of direct US military involvement, are worried about unintended consequences. The sectarian powder in Syria is as dry and ripe for ignition as it was in Iraq. The country has been ruled by the minority Alawite sect (an offshoot of Shiism) for decades, and there's a history of militant Islamism amongst the country's Sunni Arab majority. Israel is worried about a flood of Alawite and Syrian Christian refugees if Assad falls, as is Lebanon. That country's own troubled sectarian history has been fed by refugee waves in the past, most notably of Palestinians, and Hezbollah remains Lebanon's most dominant military force.

So there's also the chance of a much less stable, peaceful Syria in the wake of Assad's fall. That's just one of the factors that gives many policy makers pause as they weigh the undoubted savagery of Syria's Baathist dictatorship against the question of what comes next.

He also said he's been "relying heavily" on Robert Kagan's book "The World America Made," in arguing "how good a strong and engaged America has been for the world." It's hard to argue that the US had a major, and generally positive influence on world affairs after WWII (the central point of Mr. Kagan's book). But Kagan is a militarist who favors extensive US direct intervention in global affairs. A full-throated supporter of the Iraq war, he continues to insist that war was a good idea. He told Salon in April that the Iraq war "probably" led to the Arab uprisings that began at the start of 2011. "There were repeated free elections in Iraq and that undoubtedly had some effect on how neighboring people views their government. I think Egyptians said. ‘If the Iraqis can have elections, why can’t we have elections?’”

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