December 16, 2007

Huckabee Foreign Policy, More Reagan Than Bush

The Chicago Tribune's Frank Rich has this to say about Huckabee's foreign policy:

Mike Huckabee, like his fellow Republican contenders for their party's presidential nomination, is doing his level best to channel the spirit of President Ronald Reagan into his campaign.

The hiring of Reagan's old campaign manager, Ed Rollins, to play the same role in his campaign is cleary one example.

Another can be found in the Huckabee essay in the January/February 2008 Foreign Affairs magazine.

Huckabee's essay starts thusly:

The United States, as the world's only superpower, is less vulnerable to military defeat. But it is more vulnerable to the animosity of other countries. Much like a top high school student, if it is modest about its abilities and achievements, if it is generous in helping others, it is loved. But if it attempts to dominate others, it is despised.

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. My administration will recognize that the United States' main fight today does not pit us against the world but pits the world against the terrorists. At the same time, my administration will never surrender any of our sovereignty, which is why I was the first presidential candidate to oppose ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty, which would endanger both our national security and our economic interests.

Huckabee actually sounds a lot like the Year 2000 version of George W. Bush. Remember, it was Bush, then styling himself as a compassionate conservative, who said during the 2000 presidential campaign that America needed a "humble" foreign policy.

Anyway, not long after that, Huckabee veers into what is assuredly Reagan territory, that he opposes the obscure Law of the Sea Treaty.

Reagan opposed the treaty many conservatives disparagingly refer to as LOST as a threat to U.S. self-determination. By saying he was the first Republican presidential candidate to come out against the treaty, Huckabee is telling conservatives he was the first to see what Reagan saw, hoping that makes him more Reaganesque in their eyes than the other candidates.

This position on LOST actually puts Huckabee to the right of Bush since the president supports the treaty.

Here's another example of Huckabee trying to assume Reagan's mantle. He wants to increase military spending to Reagan-era levels when they were six percent of the gross domestic product versus 3.9 percent today. Again, this goes far beyond anything Bush has tried to achieve, even during a period when he was leading the nation's fight in two wars simultaneously.

Huckabee goes on to take a very Reaganesque view of the use of the U.S. military. He's opposed to nation-building. Bush was too, of course, until he got caught up in the neocon vision to remake Iraq as part of a new domino theory in which the nations of the greater Middle East would tumble towards democracy.

Huckabee writes:

And we must stop using active-duty forces for nation building and return to our policy of using other government agencies to build schools, hospitals, roads, sewage treatment plants, water filtration systems, electrical facilities, and legal and banking systems. We must marshal the goodwill, ingenuity, and power of our governmental and nongovernmental organizations in coordinating and implementing these essential nonmilitary functions.

Not that Huckabee disagrees with Bush on every particular. There's no discernible light between Huckabee's position on Iraq and Bush's. Here's a passage from Huckabee's essay that could have just as easily been lifted from a Bush speech:

As president, I will not withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq any faster than General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander there, recommends. I will bring our troops home based on the conditions on the ground, not the calendar on the wall. It is still too soon to reduce the U.S. counterterrorism mission and pass the torch of security to the Iraqis. If we do not preserve and expand population security, by maintaining the significant number of forces required, we risk losing all our hard-won gains. These are significant but tenuous.

But if there's a two-term Republican president whose reflection Huckabee most wants conservatives to see mirrored in his own foreign-policy ideas, it's clearly Reagan, not Bush.

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