Jon Huntsman Reimagines the U.S. Military

The former Utah governor's latest gambit in his presidential campaign: a CNN op-ed that calls for drastically rethinking America's global strategy

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Writing today at op-ed length, Jon Huntsman has managed to lay out one of the most specific proposals for military reform in the Republican field. It includes both overall cuts to defense spending and rethinking the way that American bases and troops are spread around the world.

His recommendations include the following:

  • "By almost any objective measure -- population, economic power, military might, energy use -- the center of gravity of global human activity is moving toward the Asia-Pacific region. Embracing this reality may bring a dramatic change to the look of our military."
  • "Our active duty army could be reduced to around 450,000 troops, from the approximately 565,000 we now have. Our Department of Defense civilian work force can also be cut by 5% to 7% of its current size."
  • "We should conduct a global posture review with the goal of closing at least 50 overseas military installations. The U.S. military maintains more than 700 installations outside the United States, the vast majority of which were opened during the Cold War. With a more mobile and flexible force, we simply don't need as many facilities overseas."
  • "It is time for countries such as Japan and India to play a greater role in regional security matters. We must also throw out the old map and forge new security arrangements with regional partners such as Vietnam and Brazil."

The overall Republican Party messaging on defense can be summed up as follows: no cuts to the military and an implicit focus on Islamist terrorism/Israel/Middle Eastern autocracies. It is unsurprising that Huntsman, a former ambassador to China, focuses on the Pacific region instead. One more noteworthy line from his piece, and arguably the most objectionable: "The world may have seen its last heavy armor battle between two nation-states." I sure hope he is right, but it seems unlikely, and I wouldn't want a president to restructure the military around that presumption.

Image credit: Reuters

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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