Washington (CNN) - Sen. Marco Rubio pushed his vision for American foreign policy Wednesday at an event by the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
"American leadership has been a force for tremendous good in the world," Rubio said, wondering aloud what kind of world we'd have today if the United States hadn't taken a leading role on the world stage.
"A majority of the world's democracies may not even exist," were it not for the U.S., the first term Republican senator from Florida said.
The speech marks a series of foreign policy addresses for Rubio as the possible 2016 contender tries to reassert his role on the national stage. Rubio's support among the base of the Republican party took a hit over the summer with the Senate passage of an immigration reform bill he helped write.
Some conservatives blasted the bill's minimum 13-year pathway to citizenship for the undocumented to be amnesty for lawbreakers. The bill has gone nowhere in the Republican-controlled House.
Rubio favors House approach over immigration bill he helped author
Wednesday, Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, focused primarily on foreign policy issues. He did, however, save a few words to urge a fix for U.S. spending on entitlements while also arguing that on surveillance, the U.S. must distinguish between "reasonable concerns" and "conspiracy theories" propagated by NSA leaker Edward Snowden, whom Rubio called a traitor.
Rubio also took a hardline stance against what he perceived as ineffective international leadership by the Obama administration.
"This administration has shown more than just a reluctance to stand up to our enemies," Rubio warned, saying that the U.S. has also failed to support its friends.
Allies of the United States looking at American-led negotiations over heading off a nuclear Iran "see our foreign policy as a riddle," Rubio said, and they "feel that we are overly eager to negotiate a deal."
Iran's goal "has never been peace," Rubio warned, arguing that the regime wants nothing less than to be the dominant power of the Middle East. Rubio argued that negotiators should make clear to Iran that sanctions will continue to increase until the country gives up any ambitions for a nuclear weapon.
The highest priority, Rubio said for U.S. foreign policy, "is the safety of the American people," namely by stopping efforts by "rogue regimes and terrorist groups to acquire nuclear weapons."
Like many in the GOP, Rubio also worried about China, whom he says the U.S. has not taken a hard enough stance against.
"We cannot ignore their increasingly assertive and illegitimate territorial claims," Rubio said, arguing that China should not be contained but rather that the U.S. should make certain that China's intentions are peaceful.
Rubio continued to reiterate that diplomacy must always take precedence before military action. He also argued for a military not hobbled by what he characterized as funding cuts by the Obama administration made crippling when combined with the mandatory cuts known as sequestration. Those cuts, Rubio said, make the U.S. "vulnerable to attack."
Going forward, "America must not fail to recognize our vital role in the world," as a beacon of freedom, Rubio said, speaking of what might happen were the U.S. to create a "vacuum" on the world stage.