But Lane offers up a case that undermines his central point: Iran. Calls for war with Iran echo from every GOP debate, with only Paul (and previously Huntsman [bold mine-DL]) expressing reticence.
I know I’m beating a dead horse (and dead campaign) here, but can’t we all acknowledge at this point that Iran was one issue where Huntsman was completely on board with the hawkish views and “pro-Israel” one-upmanship of the rest of the field? While it’s true Paul didn’t call for war with Iran, he wasn’t really reticent. He was quite vocal in his opposition to any policy that he thought might put the U.S. on a path to war with Iran. Huntsman arguably went farther than any other hawk in his agitation for war, but because of his less combative personal style and his exaggerated reputation for moderation this somehow went largely unnoticed by most of his admirers and detractors. His Iran policy was virtually indistinguishable from that of McCain, whose campaign he imitated in other ways besides electoral strategy.
Huntsman insisted that sanctions were mostly useless, declared that Iran had already decided to build a nuclear weapon (for which he didn’t have any evidence), treated military action as virtually inevitable, repeatedly claimed that the U.S. needs to “remind the world what it means” that Israel is a friend of America, and said that “all elements of national power” should be available for use against Iran. Acknowledging Huntsman’s hawkishness on Iran would have strengthened the editors’ argument that neoconservative assumptions continue to have great influence among most Republican candidates.
Lane’s article gets some things right, but he also misunderstands Huntsman, so much so that at one point he says, “Huntsman has sounded almost like George McGovern at times….” No, he hasn’t. Maybe he has sounded like Richard Haass, but that’s quite far removed from “come home, America”! Huntsman’s “nation-building at home” line is one that Obama has also used. It’s a dumb phrase, but it means something very different from what McGovern had in mind.
Lane misses some other things. For example, he writes:
What none of the Republican candidates quite does is fully embrace the Bush administration “freedom agenda,” with its risky push for greater democracy in the Arab and Muslim world.
The example he cites is Bachmann’s opposition to the Libyan war (which was informed by her anti-jihadism more than anything else), which overlooks that Perry, Santorum, Romney, and (eventually) Gingrich supported the war, and it doesn’t pay close enough attention to the rhetoric most of the candidates have used about supporting opposition movements, especially in Iran. Even Huntsman joined the chorus on that point. The Iranian opposition doesn’t want the kind of “help” they’re offering, but these candidates remain firmly convinced of the desirability of democracy promotion provided that it doesn’t undermine U.S. allies. Of course, that was always the major caveat of Bush’s “freedom agenda.”