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Huckabee the Would-Be Conqueror

If Huckabee backed up his rhetoric, he would be committing the U.S. to pursuing an impossible goal through unending war.

As expected, Huckabee offered nothing new on foreign policy in his announcement speech earlier today, but he did make a few absurd statements that jumped out at me. At one point during that section of the speech, he said:

As president, I promise you that we will no longer merely try to contain jihadism. We will conquer it!

This is in keeping with Republican hawks’ allergy to the concept of containment in any contemporary context, but it is more dangerous than that. If the U.S. is actively opposing and combating a threat overseas, hawks are always going to find a way to portray the current effort as inadequate and insufficiently aggressive. This leads them to embrace fanatical and/or unworkable alternatives to the “weak” policy that they are deriding. So Huckabee is not content to contain “jihadism,” which he refers to as if it were a unified and monolithic movement, but promises that the U.S. will “conquer” something that cannot, in fact, be conquered. Indeed, the more that one tries to “conquer” an ideology like this through military means, the easier it is for the ideology to gain new adherents.

If Huckabee were somehow elected and were unhinged enough to try to follow through on this promise, he would be committing the U.S. to pursuing an impossible goal through unending war. The rhetoric of “conquering” an ideology with adherents scattered across many countries also suggests a level of permanent U.S. military involvement overseas that might embarrass even our own self-styled neo-imperialists. It’s possible to dismiss Huckabee’s statement as the sort of nonsense that a retreat candidate with no foreign policy experience feels obliged to say to get attention, but it’s such a ridiculous, ill-informed, and fanatical thing to say that it ought to prove that he is unsuited for the presidency.