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Huckabee’s foreign policy thoughts

Here’s the Huckabee Foreign Affairs article, which sounds many of the same themes as his foreign policy speech, about which I blogged here.

Such changes as I can discern on the basis of a quick side-by-side reading of the two are mostly condensations and updatings.

Huckabee did add the adjective "arrogant" to the phrase "bunker mentality," which has evoked a response from Mitt Romney. But just as that is a caricature of the Bush Administration, so are these responses (predictably) a caricature of Huckabee’s essay.

Once again, I don’t think Democrats would say this:

[M]y administration will never surrender any of our sovereignty, which is why I was the first presidential candidate to oppose ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty, which would endanger both our national security and our economic interests.


The Bush administration plans to increase the size of the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps by about 92,000 troops over the next five years. We can and must do this in two to three years. I recognize the challenges of increasing our enlistments without lowering standards and of expanding training facilities and personnel, and that is one of the reasons why we must increase our military budget. Right now, we spend about 3.9 percent of our GDP on defense, compared with about six percent in 1986, under President Ronald Reagan. We need to return to that six percent level.


As president, I will not withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq any faster than General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander there, recommends. I will bring our troops home based on the conditions on the ground, not the calendar on the wall. It is still too soon to reduce the U.S. counterterrorism mission and pass the torch of security to the Iraqis. If we do not preserve and expand population security, by maintaining the significant number of forces required, we risk losing all our hard-won gains. These are significant but tenuous.


Withdrawing from Iraq before the country is stable and secure would have serious strategic consequences for us and horrific humanitarian consequences for the Iraqis. Iraq’s neighbors on all sides would be drawn into the war and face refugee crises as a result of fleeing Iraqis. Iraq is the crossroads where Arabs meet Persians and Kurds, and Sunnis meet Shiites. When we deposed Saddam Hussein, we emphasized the potentially dramatic upside of Iraq’s centrality in the region: the country could be a prime place to establish democracy and have it spread from. Today, we face the dramatic downside: Iraq’s centrality makes the country the perfect place for terrorists to create anarchy and have it spread. Those who say that we do not owe the Iraqis anything more are ignoring what we owe our own children and grandchildren in terms of security.


The Bush administration has properly said that it will not take the military option for dealing with Iran off the table. Neither will I.


In order to contain Iran, it is essential to win in Iraq. When we overthrew Saddam, whose regime was a bulwark against Iran, we upset the regional balance of power. Now, we must stabilize and strengthen Iraq not just for its own security but for the security of its neighbors, the region, and ourselves. We cannot allow Iran to push its theocracy into Iraq and then expand it further west.


I welcome the Bush administration’s new sanctions against Iran and its decision to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and its al Quds force as a supporter of terrorism. (The Democrats who claim that such measures are a step toward war are deluded: these moves are an attempt to use economic power instead of, not as a prelude to, using military power.)


"The process will not be quick," Ambassador Crocker told Congress of the progress in Iraq last fall. "It will be uneven, punctuated by setbacks as well as achievements, and it will require substantial U.S. resolve and commitment." Does this sound familiar? To me, the statement could also have applied to the American Revolution, the American Civil War, World War I, or World War II. We paid a heavy price in each of those conflicts, but we prevailed. And we will prevail now. Our history, from the snows of Valley Forge to the flames of 9/11, has been one of perseverance. I understand the threats we face today. When I am president, America will look this evil in the eye, confront it, defeat it, and emerge stronger than ever. It is easy to be a peace lover; the challenging part is being a peacemaker.

There are surely things to dislike in this approach (as I noted in my previous post), and I too object to the gratuitous slam at the Bush Administration (and appreciate Romney’s defense, even though it was motivated by something other than an effort to identify himself closely with the legacy of the man he hopes to succeed). But no Democrat, with the exception of Joe Lieberman, could have written this article. Of course, Lieberman wouldn’t have omitted in the article this passage from the speech:

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.

Update: Peter Wehner notes and defends the aspects of the Bush Administration’s record that Huckabee gets wrong. Above all, he’s right that "ungenerous" is not an adjective that should be applied to this Administration. A balanced and extended appraisal of its foreign policy would take note of its AIDS initiative (partly the fruit of evangelical influence) and its efforts in tsunami and earthquake relief, to name just a couple of examples. And Wehner is right to stress the Bush Administration’s efforts at, and successes in, diplomatically waging the war on terror. Huckabee is too quick to draw contrast by caricature. He clearly needs a seasoned foreign policy hand or two on his team. Any volunteers, or is everyone just going to hope that he implodes sooner or later?

Update #2: Stephen F. Hayes goes over some of the same ground, with the same conclusion.

Discussions - 14 Comments

The problem with Huckabee isn't any particular speech or article, to my mind. He'd no doubt be much better than most any Democratic alternative - just imagine Madeline Albright "negotiating" with the Iranians. (At least their aversion to touching women would keep them off the dance floor, I suppose). The problem is that since Huckabee has no experience in national security or international relations matters, we're left with asking what sort of judgment he'll bring to bear and who will be informing that judgment. He hasn't shown particularly great judgment as a governor of a relatively small state and who's on his foreign policy team? I'll say at least this much for Giuliani - he's got a serious foreign policy team. What or who does Huckabee have?

Rick Warren????

Mike Huckabee has Chuck Norris! And buoyed by the greatest Texas Ranger of the all, he has taken command in Texas. Huckabee has as much foreign policy experience as Romney or Giuliani, or Thompson. If the GOP wants foreign policy, McCain is the logical and only choice. However, Americans are tired of foreign policy and we know and need a candidate who will fix America first. Huckabee happens to be just the guy.

Huckabee was one of the first to attack 'islamofacism' and he has a plenty tough plan for foreign policy. Commander-in-Chief Huckabee will be quite effective.

I admire what you are trying to do here, Joe. If Huck is the nominee (which I still doubt) then he will be ours to defend . . . and certainly preferable to Hillary or Obama. But I have to admit that I don't have it in me to try and find much salvageable in Huck after reading those words of his. I really like that he mentioned LOST as a big priority--but, apart from that, there is just something so unmeasured in his rhetoric and in his command of the subject that he makes me squirm. Why on earth would he say what he said about the Bush Administration's foreign policy if had any serious intention of defending a policy that is remotely aggressive on behalf of our interests? By calling Bush "arrogant" he opened himself up to the same charge if he doesn't give in to the defeatists . . . Any fine or serious point of disagreement between him and Bush is now forever lost to the conversation. "Arrogant" and "bunker mentality" are all that anyone will remember and whatever good this may do him in the primary will be erased in the general as he is called upon to defend and explain this remark. When that happens he will look hypocritical (because more aggressive than Hillary) or like he's running from Bush and the GOP . . . He is an amateur. My fear is that, like Bush, he only says these incredibly stupid and unmeasured things when he actually, truly and deeply believes them. And that's scary. I don't think he's capable of artifice or calculation in these matters (another worry). I don't think he's simply calculating or chasing votes here (though I don't entirely discount the vote getting motive--he knows this anti-arrogance talk appeals to his natural constituents)-- but I think he really scorns what he believes to be the "arrogance" of the Bush administration. That makes me think either he is not a serious person or he has no intention of carrying out a serious foreign policy. And isn't it telling that his greatest defender on this blog offers the weighty authority of Chuck Norris as his only defense of Huck's foreign policy bona fides? I'm sure he's a great guy Clint . . . but you've got to do better than that and a blanket statement about how Americans are "sick of" foreign policy. That may be, but it something that they are going to have to swallow in any event.


Good thoughts. I think Huckabee is very much a foreign policy amateur, and I think he shoots too often from the hip (and not just in foreign policy). That's partly a function of his personality and experience--he's apparently gotten away for so long with working without much of a script. I recall reading somewhere that he didn't really make much use of speechwriters when he was governor. Did he actually write his own speeches or just work from rough notes and ad lib very well? Might the unreleased sermons indicate a similar practice? Will we ever know? (Like you, I doubt he'll be the nominee, though I think the loyalty of his base will sustain him for quite some time.)

Were he the nominee or the President, I assume that he would get handlers who tried to him more or less on script. He'd probably lose some of his charm, but gain some substance. He wouldn't say things like "arrogant bunker mentality," not necessarily because they didn't test well with a focus group, but because speechwriters and advisors would know better.

Why can't one put forth a more "democratic" face to the world and still be tough? Everybody knows that Bush II's public diplomacy has been terrible. I've read it here. I don't think a fair person can read all of Huck's article and say he does not intend to be tough in pursuing a national interest FP. For one thing, he'd be more willing to call a spade a spade with regard to our enemies. Note he is not an internationalist, but he is neither a bully boy TR, Mansfield's epitome of manly nihilism. Can Huck be a manly Christian? A manly Baptist?

Julie, for God's sake have a sense of humor-it'll do you good. I'm a little busy right now and don't have time to engage in a serious foreign policy discussion, which is wholly lacking on this blog anyway.

Three or four years ago this blog had more commenters and much livelier and more meaningful discussion. Now it has gone the way of the establishment. If I feel like it over break, I could show you why Huck is fully qualified to fight the war on terror, but I get the feeling that it wouldn't matter. Facts and truths never do to sophists. Sometimes I wonder if Lawler, Knippenberg, Ponzi, and Hayward are really just one person, then I remember that they are all beholden to the establishment and will say and do anything to defend it. Then it makes sense why they won't accept the many good arguments for Huck. A good roundhouse is the only thing to fix'em!

There's no pleasing some people.

I was going to say that I thought Clint was too smart to keep saying things that make him look like a simple Huckabee cheerleader . . . but then I read his last post and reconsidered.

Joe, I don't disagree with anything you said in your last. (Perhaps we are one person!)

Robert, I appreciate your thoughtful question and it requires more thought than I can fairly give it just now . . . but off the cuff (in a Huck sort of way?) might I say that part of what I'm not liking about Huck is precisely how much he reminds me of Bush. You say Bush's public diplomacy has been terrible and I agree. He has a great knack for putting his silver foot in his mouth . . . Ann Richards was right about that. He has improved some with age and experience and handlers. Still, the essential fact about his presidency has been his inability to persuade and move the majority of the American people. Huck looks to me like he is going to have the same problem. I think there is such a thing as a manly Christian . . . and it's not impossible that Huck is one (though I'm not prepared to make a judgment about that right now). But being a manly Christian as President still requires said manly Christian to persuade and marshal forces that may not share either his manliness or his Christianity. A guy who comes up with phrases like "arrogant bunker mentality" does not inspire me with confidence about his ability to do that. Given that, I cannot be impressed by his willingness to call a spade a spade. If he cannot persuade the people that a spade is a spade he will only be pissing in the wind (sorry to be so crude but I think it is apt). Worse, those who may have the ability to persuade people about the "spadeness of the spade" will be directly behind him in the line of fire. I don't fancy getting splashed.

Huckabee is much more eloquent than Bush will ever be. But, like some eloquent people (another man from Hope comes to mind), he might be more impressed by words than by the substance underlying them (see PWS's post).

Joe . . . you make what I'm trying to say even more clear. My concern is less that he can't turn a felicitous phrase and more that he won't be able back up and defend the things he says . . . and, like Bush, he will make it hard for those who can defend him to do it.

Joe, I think you are just as hard to please. A conservative governor from a southern state. A man with a successful and competent record of 10 1/2 years as the executive of a tough and democratic state. A man the is a flawless social conservative, a solid economic conservative, and a man with just as much foreign policy experience as any governor (unless you count Mitt's Mormon mission to France to avoid the Vietnam War as foreign policy experience) is now a potential leader for the GOP nomination. You respond to this good news with at best a 1/2 hearted defense of his foreign policy, a critique of his other areas, and complete silence to all of Huck's successes.

I'd say you're right-you are hard to please.

Julie, you're oh so suave on the backhand compliment...I'm proud to be a Huckabee "cheerleader" because I know that he has the best conservative record and he is the best candidate, and it can all be backed up with history, facts, and Huckabee himself.

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