But I also read Mike Huckabee’s big foreign policy speech, delivered before anyone was paying much attention. While it’s easy to be annoyed by his folksy style and somewhat inane analogies, and the focus on the minutiae smacks of someone who feels compelled to display his new-found learning, there’s nonetheless evidence that he’s not the Jimmy Carter retread that some fear he is. There is, for example, this evidence of what I’d call (and have called) Kantian realism:
My goal in the Muslim world would be to correctly calibrate a course between maintaining stability and promoting democracy. It’s self-defeating to try and accomplish too much, too soon – you’d just have elections where extremists end up winning – but it’s equally self-defeating to do nothing.
Even a Kantian commitment to principle does not require "premature" action. The prudence Kant encourages includes waiting for the moment.
Then there’s the context of a passage that our friends at NRO don’t like:
It’s an enemy that’s conducive to being tracked down and eliminated using the CIA and Special Forces and special operations. We can accomplish a great deal. We can achieve tremendous bang for the buck with swift, surgical air strikes and commando raids by our elite units, as we’ve recently done with the Ethiopians in Somalia. These operations are impossible without first-rate intelligence.
When the Cold War ended, we cut back on our intelligence, just as we cut back on our armed forces, and both have come back to haunt us. As president, I’d like to beef up our human intelligence capacity, both the operatives who gather the information as well as the analysts who figure out what it means. I’d rather have more people in Langley so we can fewer in Baghdad.
Taken out of context, the last sentence does indeed lend itself to the conclusion that Governor Huckabee "seems to think intelligence analysis from afar can be a substitute for combat power on the ground." But note that his point is for the intelligence to be good enough to be actionable, using military force. Robert D. Kaplan might have said it better, but the point is the intelligent use of military force.
Reading what the NRO editors said about Huckabee’s views of Iran, you’d never know he’d said this:
The administration has quite properly said that it will not take the military option for Iran off the table. Neither would I.
Both al Qaeda and Iran seek not just to dominate Israel, but to destroy her and to control the Palestinians. The Huckabee administration would not waver nor flinch in standing by our ally, Israel. The difference in America’s mission is that al Qaeda must be destroyed as a movement, while Iran just has to be contained as a nation.
So how do we achieve that? Well, to contain Iran, it’s essential that we actually win in Iraq.
And while there can be no rational dealings with al Qaeda, Iran is a nation-state looking for regional power. It plays the normal power politics that we do understand, and can skillfully and rightfully pursue.
Yes, he’s unfair to the Bush Administration (is there a candidate other than McCain who isn’t?), but this isn’t Dailykos verbiage. Huckabee may lean a little too much in the neo-realist soft power direction, and his unguarded responses may be a better indication than a prepared speech, but he knows who our friends and enemies are, and the passage that NRO quotes to criticize him is prefaced by a remark that isn’t quoted:
The wisdom of Sun-Tzu, from nearly 2,500 years ago, is relevant today: Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer. We haven’t had diplomatic relationships with Iran in almost 30 years, most of my entire adult life, and a lot of good it’s done. Putting this in human terms, all of us know that when we stop talking to a parent, or a sibling, or even a friend, it’s impossible to resolve the differences to move that relationship forward. Well, the same is true for countries. Our experience in Iraq should prove a valuable lesson for Iran.
Adding the italicized sentence makes him seem a little less naive. Leaving it out makes it easier to make the charge of naivete stick.
I’ll end where Governor Huckabee ends:
Our history has always been one of perseverance from the snows of Valley Forge to the flames of 9/11. Our way of life, our economic and moral strength, our civilization, is at stake. I’m determined to look this evil in the eye, to confront it, to defeat it, and to emerge stronger than ever. All of us, I think, would like to be known as peace lovers, but I would remind you, from the words of Jesus, that it’s not “blessed are the peace lovers,” it’s “blessed are the peace makers.” And that’s what we should commit to being.
This comes perilously close to what might be called genuine Christian realism, not the ersatz variety peddled by Jimmy Carter. Huckabee knows that we have enemies, knows that they can’t or won’t become friends anytime soon, knows that there is a military option, and knows that a military option isn’t plausible without a healthy (and expanded) military.
This isn’t a perfect speech. As I said above, it wears its new-found wonkery a little too heavily. And even then, contrasts are drawn without adequate nuance. But Governor Huckabee says many of the right things. If I go by what he says, I can’t yet rule him out.