Gov. Huckabee pens a lengthy, articulate, nuanced essay on foreign policy. The article discusses challenges such as Iraq, al Qaeda, Pakistan, Iran, and more with a high level of sophistication. Huckabee is critical of Bush’s handling of Iraq, but clearly supports the surge led by General David Petraeus (and which by all accounts is going very well). Excerpt:
“If I ever have to undertake a large invasion, I will follow the Powell Doctrine and use overwhelming force. The notion of an occupation with a “light footprint,” which was our model for Iraq, is a contradiction in terms. Liberating a country and occupying it are two different missions. Our invasion of Iraq went well militarily, but the occupation has destroyed the country politically, economically, and socially. In the former Yugoslavia, we sent 20 peacekeeping soldiers for every thousand civilians. In Iraq, an equivalent ratio would have meant sending a force of 450,000 U.S. troops. 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. Our generals must be independent advisers, always free to speak without fear of retribution or dismissal.”
Not surprisingly, Romney has criticized the essay, suggesting it “sounded like it was written by a Democrat.” The content of the article, however, belies Romney’s claim. Huckabee takes a very tough stance against al Qaeda and displays a determination to persevere militarily in Iraq. Huckabee wisely advocates for growing the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps by about 92,000 troop in 2-3 years (the Bush Administration plans to do this in 5 years). He also calls for increasing the military budget from its current level (3.9% of the GDP) closer to what it was in 1986 under President Reagan (about 6% of the GDP). On Iran, Huckabee (like President Bush) does not take military action off the table. In fact, Huckabee is tougher on Pakistan than Bush has proven. Perhaps Romney did not read the article, or somehow failed to catch any of these points.
But Romney’s charge is also suspect because he (not Huckabee) was calling for secret timetables for U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq as recently as April 2007. That drew this remark from ABC News at the time:
Gov. Mitt Romney’s, R-Mass., call this morning for a set of timetables for withdrawal from Iraq — private timetables unknown to the public — bears some striking similarities to an idea hatched and endorsed by Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas.
Pryor has been alone in his calls for a classified timetable and has drawn skepticism from the reporters who wrote about them, as well as his Democratic and Republican colleagues who would not support them.
Considering the size of Huckabee’s staff, I continue to be impressed at the level of output in terms of important statements on major policy issues. I think they need to keep doing that in the weeks to come, not only to answer (and preempt) negative attacks, but to positively establish the strength of Huckabee’s common-sense conservatism in the minds of more voters as we head into the primaries, where I expect Huckabee to do quite well.