Huckabee’s Foreign Affairs essay appears to be a rehash of the speech he gave at CSIS several months ago. The people who hated that speech because it talked about containing Iran (one of Huckabee’s better ideas) will probably also hate this essay. As I said about that speech, there are a few things that interventionists will reject (but they will reject them fiercely), a few things realists might find acceptable and virtually nothing that a non-interventionist would like. The entire essay is something of a grab-bag and reads very unevenly. It has its moments, and it remains the case that his foreign policy views are much more substantive than conservative media outlets have acknowledged, but it still needs some work. (The sections on Russia are not nearly detailed enough, and there is no attention paid to China, India or Latin America.)
Once again, he supports the Powell Doctrine. He also mentions Shinseki by name, which is one of those things that Republican loyalists hate.
The first thing I will do as president is send Congress my comprehensive plan for achieving energy independence within ten years of my inauguration. We will explore, we will conserve, and we will pursue all types of alternative energy: nuclear, wind, solar, ethanol, hydrogen, clean coal, biomass, and biodiesel.
I am reminded of Brownback’s pledge to cure cancer in ten years. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this proposal, but you have to know that it’s going to take longer than ten years to develop our own sources to replace all foreign sources of energy. That said, this is a big step up from his “no more valuable than their sand” line that he always uses about the Saudis, which is probably a great crowd-pleaser but which confirms in the minds of an informed audience that he is trivial. Like Romney, he wants to expand the intelligence services and the armed forces.
He admits the obvious about the strain on the military:
We still do not have enough troops in Afghanistan and are losing hard-won gains there as foreign fighters pour in and the number of Iraq-style suicide attacks increases. Our current active armed forces simply are not large enough. We have relied far too heavily on the National Guard and the Reserves and worn them out.
He then promises a huge increase in government spending:
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 [bold mine-DL]. And we must stop using active-duty forces for nation building and return to our policy of using other government agencies to build schools, hospitals, roads, sewage treatment plants, water filtration systems, electrical facilities, and legal and banking systems. We must marshal the goodwill, ingenuity, and power of our governmental and nongovernmental organizations in coordinating and implementing these essential nonmilitary functions.
His views on Iraq are standard, party-line stuff:
Seeing Iraqi Sunnis in Anbar, Diyala, and parts of Baghdad reject al Qaeda and join our forces, often at tremendous risk to themselves, has been a truly extraordinary shift. Those who once embraced al Qaeda members as liberators now see them for what these radicals are: brutal oppressors who want to take Iraq back to the seventh century. And this development is serving as a model for turning Shiite tribes against their militants. Despite what the gloomy Democrats in the United States profess, reconciliation is happening in Iraq, only it is bottom up rather than top down, and since it comes directly from the people, it can end the violence faster. Benchmarks are being reached in fact, if not in law. As Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told Congress last September, oil revenues are being distributed, de-Baathification is being reversed, and the Shiite-dominated government is giving financial resources to the provinces, including Sunni areas.
Not surprisingly, he is against withdrawal. His remarks on Iran are, once again, unusually sane, and then he says this:
I support going forward with the current plan to set up ten missile interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic to protect Europe from Iranian missiles.
This is a pointless proposal, and one that has been nothing other than a provocation to the Russians.
Huckabee does seem to show some understanding of the situation in Russia:
But I see him [Putin] for what he is: a staunch nationalist in a country that has no democratic tradition. He will do everything he can to reassert Russia’s power — militarily, economically, diplomatically.
His fears of Russian imperialist ambitions (outside of its near-abroad at least) are unfounded, and I would have been interested to hear him say more about his views on what our policy towards former Soviet republics should be and whether he supports continued NATO expansion. Finally, his views on Pakistan are some of the best and most informed I have heard from a candidate. That may not be saying much, but it’s something. Except, that is, when he borrows a line from Obama:
Rather than wait for the next strike, I prefer to cut to the chase by going after al Qaeda’s safe havens in Pakistan.
This is a very dangerous proposal. His rationalisation is worrisome:
The threat of an attack on us is far graver than the risk that a quick and limited strike against al Qaeda would bring extremists to power in Pakistan.
Actually, no. If an American attack inside Pakistan brought about that result, it would be far, far worse than almost any attack.
Those who have been spreading the idea that Huckabee’s foreign policy is that we “be nice” to everyone have basically been lying to the public. There are sections where he talks about using American power in a less arrogant and self-defeating way, and he does want to engage Iran, but his foreign policy has much more to it than his establishment foes are allowing. Arguably, Huckabee is starting to appear as the closest thing the Republicans have to a realist. He is still locked into supporting the war in Iraq, but unlike his major rivals he occasionally displays some understanding. In many other places, though, he is also just pulling together ideas that have no logical relationship.