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Right Turn
Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 10/10/2011

Huntsman on foreign policy: Obamaism in a prom dress

Jon Huntsman is floundering at the bottom of the polls. Periodically he pops up with a policy pronouncement that deserves some attention, such as his no-deductions tax plan. Now he is delving into foreign policy. It turns out that President Obama’s former ambassador to China is not much better than his former boss when it comes to setting forth a coherent and viable foreign policy.

In excerpts from a speech today, we get a sense of the lack of intellectual clarity at work. For example:

Simply put, we are risking American blood and treasure in parts of the world where our strategy needs to be rethought.
Afghanistan was once the center of the terrorist threat to America. That is no longer the case. After 6,000 lives lost and more than $1 trillion spent, it is time to bring our brave troops home. We could go from 100,000 boots on the ground to a much smaller footprint in a year, while leaving behind an adequate number of counterterrorist and intelligence functions and a facile special forces presence. And I believe we should.
There is another advantage to a more judicious approach toward foreign entanglements. It helps prevent our military from being stretched too thin, and unable to effectively respond to a direct security threat — either to America, or one of our allies. This includes standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel as they manage a host of new challenges brought on by the Arab Spring, along with more familiar challenges, such as a hostile Iran, which will continue to be a transcendent challenge of the next decade. I cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. If you want an example of when I would use American force, it would be that.

This is Obamaism in a prom dress. He wants to bug out of Afghanistan, but what would be the consequences from a return to chaos and a victory for the Taliban and the assorted terrorist groups in that region? What information does Huntsman have that Gen. James N. Mattis, the leader of U.S. Central Command, does not that leads him to conclude we could go to a “smaller footprint in a year”? I suspect there is nothing. The analysis is lacking and indeed irrelevant to him. He, like the current president, simply wants to cut the debt at the expense of national security and on the backs of our fighting men and women. He should have the nerve to say that straight out, rather than couch it in a gloss of pseudo-sophisticated and largely made-up notions about how to achieve our aims in Afghanistan.

How do we withdraw troops, accept a humiliating defeat and simultaneously ”stand shoulder-to-shoulder” to “manage” (what does that even mean?) challenges from the Arab Spring, that include the potential scourge of Islamists who would only be encouraged by an American retreat? One idea is unconnected to the next, as if he can exit from messy conflicts with no ramifications and engage in vague demonstrations of “support” elsewhere without regard to the damage we have left in our wake.

It is great that Huntsman would be willing to use force to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but what about Iran’s actions in killing American troops in Iraq? What about Iran’s support for terrorist groups there and throughout the region?

This is warmed-over isolationism with some consultant-style buzz words thrown in. He doesn’t like spending the money, but America’s enemies are indifferent to his budget concerns. Moreover, there is zero recognition here that any savings he would garner would represent a drop in the bucket when it comes to reducing our debt. He seems all too eager to cut the defense budget with no regard for an examination of the purpose of our defense spending. He doesn’t want to build back the U.S. Navy, but is he willing to concede China’s hegemony in Asia?

Anyone can cut defense. You could eliminate 10 percent, or 50 percent, or the entire Pentagon, for that matter. But defense-spending-by-the-numbers is not going to solve our debt problems and it will leave the United States, as Ronald Reagan discovered when he took office, with a diminished, hollowed-out military, and therefore allies and enemies who perceive our lack of determination as provocative weakness.

I can understand why Obama thought enough of Huntsman to put him on his team. Huntsman is a presentable, articulate figure with no conception of the interplay between threats, military strategy and defense spending. In other words, he’s just like the president who hired him.

By  |  12:00 PM ET, 10/10/2011

Categories:  2012 campaign, foreign policy

 
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