Huntsman on Afghanistan


This morning, Washington Post editors challenge Mitt Romney's foreign policy views in this morning's lead editorial and also give Jon Huntsman a working over. 

The editors applaud Romney's call for American leadership but call his approach to US foreign policy challenges unimaginative and devoid of key details -- particularly how he would wrangle the hundreds of billion dollars of new military spending he called for in his recent Citadel address.

But then the Washington Post challenges Jon Huntsman by slur rather than logic on his Afghanistan policy.  The Post writes:

In contrast, Mr. Huntsman is relatively bold but decidedly more misguided: His promise to "bring home" U.S. troops so as to rebuild an American "core" he views as "broken" sounds like an updated version of George McGovern's "Come Home America" campaign of 1972. Americans didn't buy it then; it would be surprising if GOP primary voters lined up for it now.

Jon Huntsman has offered a strategically coherent view on why American force deployments to Afghanistan undermine rather than enhance American interests.  He sees American power being trapped and tied down by the deployment -- and that higher tier problems, like Iran, are emboldened rather than constrained by the perception of an overstretched American military.

Huntsman also thinks it is irrational for the United States to spend upwards of $120 billion per year in a country with a $14 billion GDP.

What is the Washington Post's rational for labeling this logic "misguided"?  The Post offers no explanation at all as to why Afghanistan is strategically more significant to the US than other vital American challenges -- or why Afghanistan should stand as the "Moby Dick" of the US foreign policy portfolio. 

The Post should table counterpoints and alternatives that are themselves strategically coherent if they decide to challenge Huntsman.  All that the Post does in this attack on Jon Huntsman is to assert without explanation that withdrawal from Afghanistan will weaken the US, at least that is the implication.  It is equally possible to reasonably argue that a withdrawal or sizeable drawdown in Afghanistan will strengthen the United States -- free troops and other military resources to be available for other higher priority contingencies (i.e., Iran, Asia, etc.).

One hopes that the Post will pick up its game as its editors are the ones that are 'misguided' in setting such a low bar in the manner in which they challenge Jon Huntsman's efforts to explain the costs and benefits of various national security strategies to the American public.

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Steve Clemons is Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live. He writes frequently about politics and foreign affairs. More

Clemons is a senior fellow and the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., where he previously served as executive vice president. He writes and speaks frequently about the D.C. political scene, foreign policy, and national security issues, as well as domestic and global economic-policy challenges.

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