Huckabee Rebukes Bush and Rummy Doctrine

17 12 2007


Huckabee watchers are buzzing about the former Arkansas upcoming piece in Foreign Affairs, largely because of his unambiguous criticism of President Bush’s foreign policy. His pointed criticism includes such blunt jabs as

American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out. The Bush administration’s arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad.

Those are strong words. Arrogant and counterproductive in particular are words you would normally hear from one of the Democrats. But he does not stop there. He also offers a serious rebuke of the Rumsfeldian approach to war planning, specifically the overreliance on smaller and leaner forces that lead to many of the security problems plaguing the Bush Administration in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We did not send enough troops to Iraq initially. 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….

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.

This guy must have been reading Sen. Joe Biden’s floor speeches on Iraq.

Of course, once Foreign Affairs piece does not really place Huckabee firmly in the realist or liberal internationalist tradition of American foreign policy making. But it does demonstrate a willingness, nay, a real desire to draw a distinction between himself and President Bush, which is something that the other viable Republican candidates thus far have failed to do. (Rep. Ron Paul has been the only ant-war and isolationist from the very beginning, but he is unelectable.)

Mike Huckabee is making a wise move here of trying to find something that will at least keep him in the news while distinguishing himself from the other front runners. Plus, it also can potentially disguise a genuine weakness, which is his near complete ignorance of foreign policy issues. Please keep in mind that this is the same man who said he never heard of the National Intelligence Estimate just a few weeks ago, joked about his ignorance by stating that he was “not an expert… but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night,” and was disturbingly hawkish this fall on Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

But, politically speaking, taking positions that tell people his is not George W. Bush is indeed a smart move, considering the President’s approval ratings were 24 percent back in October and the persistent widespread unpopularity of the war in Iraq.

Of course, even doing something this sensible, and quite frankly, obvious, will still attract criticism from other Republicans. Mitt Romney chimed in on Huckabee’s criticism of the Bush administration by saying:

…we ought to be saying thank you to the president for keeping us safe these last six years,” Romney said. “And I’m the last person to say that this administration has suffered through an arrogant bunker mentality.

Former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer also added:

There is much to like about Mike Huckabee. But he will serve Republican primary voters, and our nation, better if he focused his criticisms on the Democrats who will run against our eventual nominee and not on the President who has kept us safe.

Hmm…. I am sure the surging Mike Huckbee will take his chances by going his own way.

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