Huckabee Critiques Bush in Foreign Affairs Piece
GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is out with his most extensive discussion of foreign policy, and it includes one of the bluntest critiques of the Bush administration heard from the current crop of GOP candidates.
"American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out," the former Arkansas governor writes in the forthcoming issue of Foreign Affairs. "The Bush administration's arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad."
Huckabee also hammered the Bush administration for sending too few troops to Iraq to keep the peace after the invasion in 2003. "Unlike President George W. Bush, who marginalized General Eric Shinseki, the former army chief of staff, when he recommended sending several hundred thousand troops to Iraq, I would have met with Shinseki privately and carefully weighed his advice," he writes. "Our generals must be independent advisers, always free to speak without fear of retribution or dismissal."
Huckabee accuses the administration of being "distracted" by Iraq in failing to aggressively go after al-Qaeda in Pakistan. He said that Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf agreed to sever his relationship with the Taliban and assist U.S. efforts to go after the terrorist group after the September 11 attacks, but he has gone "back on his word."
Huckabee says: "Iraq may be the hot war, but Pakistan is where the cold, calculating planning is going on. If al Qaeda strikes us tomorrow, the attack will be postmarked 'Pakistan.' And the American people, not understanding why a supposed U.S. ally refused to help and our government put up with it, will justifiably be outraged that bin Laden and his top people got away."
Huckabee has surprisingly sailed to the top of the polls in Iowa thanks to his close ties and affinity among Christian conservatives, as well as his sunny and upbeat demeanor on the campaign trail. The Foreign Affairs article provides many more details than heard to date about his views on foreign policy, especially on the situation in the broader Middle East, which is the focus of the article; Huckabee offers no discussion of some of other obvious foreign policy challenges, such as the U.S. relations with China, long a focus of conservatives in the Republican party.
Huckabee starts by saying that a more successful American foreign policy must do a better job of explaining Islamic jihadism to the American people. "The Bush administration has never adequately explained the theology and ideology behind Islamic terrorism or convinced us of its ruthless fanaticism," he writes. "The first rule of war is 'know your enemy,' and most Americans do not know theirs."
Sounding more like Bush, Huckabee went on to say his goal in the Middle East would be to calibrate a course between maintaining stability and encouraging democracy.
"It is self-defeating to attempt too much too soon: doing so could mean holding elections that the extremists would win," Huckabee writes. "But it is also self-defeating to do nothing. We must first destroy existing terrorist groups and then attack the underlying conditions that breed them: the lack of basic sanitation, health care, education, jobs, a free press, fair courts -- which all translates into a lack of opportunity and hope. The United States' strategic interests as the world's most powerful country coincide with its moral obligations as the richest. If we do not do the right thing to improve life in the Muslim world, the terrorists will step in and do the wrong thing."
Huckabee writes that as president he would pay close attention to the recommendations of General David Petraeus in deciding how quickly to withdraw troops from Iraq. He says that it is too soon to "reduce the US counterterrorism mission and pass the torch of security to the Iraqis."
On Iran, Huckabee writes of the need for a more vigorous diplomacy and sounds interested in more interaction with the Iranians, though he is vague about the conditions under which he would negotiate with the regime there. He says he would not take the option of military action for dealing with Iran off the table.
"We cannot live with al Qaeda, but we might be able to live with a contained Iran. Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons on my watch," Huckabee writes. "But before I look parents in the eye to explain why I put their son's or daughter's life at risk, I want to do everything possible to avoid conflict. We have substantive issues to discuss with Tehran. Recent direct negotiations about Iraq have not been productive because they have not explored the full range of issues. We have valuable incentives to offer Iran: trade and economic assistance, full diplomatic relations, and security guarantees."
-- Michael Abramowitz
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