Huntsman’s national security buzzword


(By Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

Jon Huntsman has a national security buzzword: the core.

It’s a term he has used repeatedly – long before he announced his candidacy for the presidency today – to define his national security and foreign policy vision.

“At this point in our nation’s history, where our economy and jobs need to be the sole and exclusive focus, we need to make sure that we focus on the core – our nation’s center,” Huntsman said in an interview with New Hampshire’s WMUR.

“We’re at a point in time where increasingly we need to call a timeout and focus on rebuilding our core right here at home, because if we don’t get this right, we don’t have a foreign policy,” he told the Associated Press.

“The world knows that our core is weak,” he says in one of the videos to be posted on his new Web site. “And as our core is weak, so goes our leverage and our ability to sit at the negotiating table.”

Huntsman’s prioritization on domestic priorities is incongruous with the background of a candidate seen as perhaps the only foreign policy heavyweight in the Republican field. But as a political calculation, his stances — even if out of line with the Republican orthodoxy — may very well be golden.

At a time when Americans are growing ever-more frustrated on Afghanistan, the former Utah governor has said he would initiate a major drawdown that would leave only 15,000 or so troops to focus on anti-terrorism operations. And with the NATO mission in Libya seemingly stuck in a stalemate, Huntsman has said he never would have deployed U.S. forces in the first place.

In Huntsman’s view, it’s all about picking battles, and with the country expected to owe more than $10 trillion to outside investors by the end of the year, we can can ill-afford many battles.

There is, however, at least one place where U.S. forces might be deployed under a Jon Huntsman presidency, if the situation demands it: Iran.

As he told WMUR recently, if Iran weaponizes its nuclear program and Israel considers a preemptive strike, U.S. core interests are at stake.

“If ever there was a reason to consider using U.S. force, it would be in pursuit of situations like that.”

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