The Chase 2012

Santorum, Huntsman and Paul Represent Three Foreign Policy Paths for GOP

In a presidential foreign policy debate, hosted by the Heritage Foundation, AEI and aired on CNN, three candidates staked out the foreign policy paths that the Republican nominee may eventually rally around in the future. 

Former Pennsylvannia Senator Rick Santorum represented the hawkish and interventionist path that includes a healthy dose of Wilsonian language about making the world safe for democracy. He wanted America to commit especially to the war on radical Islam but also the great power politicking with the rapidly growing China.

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman tended to focus on a more moderate or “realist” path, scaling back U.S. military presence abroad and focusing on strengthening America’s economic core. He advocated for a stronger U.S. military focus on the Asia-Pacific theater, away from the Middle Eastern theater and the combating of radical Islamists in Muslim countries.

Texas Representative Ron Paul held the last position, which is a decidedly non-interventionist policy that focuses on dramatic reductions in both the military budget and U.S. troop presence around the globe. Paul is pushing for ideas that he believes will put the U.S. more in line with the Founding Father’s intentions, focusing mostly on liberty at home.

A telling question that showed the difference between the views of Paul, Huntsman and Santorum was when the moderator, Wolf Blitzer, asked what they all thought of the Patriot Act, which was designed to monitor domestic terrorist activity.

After former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spoke positively of the Patriot Act, even saying that he would bolster it, Paul denounced it as a violation of American liberties.

Paul said flatly, “I think the Patriot Act is unpatriotic because it undermines our liberty,” he continued, “Today it seems too easy that our government and our congresses are so willing to give up our liberties for our security. I have a personal belief that you never have to give up liberty for security. You can still provide security without sacrificing our Bill of Rights.”

Hunstsman didn’t go either in the direction of eliminating the Patriot Act or in bolstering it. He took the middle path and urged more caution.

“We are a nation of values. And forever, like what we’re trying to do in this debate tonight, we’ll try to find that balancing act between our individual liberties and security,” Huntsman said.

Santorum made it quite clear where he stood in the matter, saying that “we are at war” and that he believes suspension of some civil liberties is necessary in those circumstance.

“Of course, Abraham Lincoln ran right over civil rights. Why? Because we had a present domestic threat. In the previous wars that we’ve had, we haven’t had this type of threat that we have here in the homeland,” Santorum said.

Each candidates relative position shone with the answers they gave to the other question.

When Huntsman was asked by AEI scholar Fred Kagan about whether or not to extend the drone campaign on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, he clearly was advocating for a rapid drawdown but with a light force intact. He didn’t question the authority and legitimacy of the military actions there, just the strategic use of them. Huntsman wanted to step up the drone and Special Forces use, while drawing down the ground troops.

Of the increased drone campaign Huntsman said, “I think it must be done. And I think it must be consistent with recognizing the reality on the ground of what we need out of Afghanistan — we don’t need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.”

Santorum viewed Huntsman’s Afghanistan policy as doing exactly what the Islamists wanted America to do.

“So the answer to you, Jon, is that you’re doing exactly — Governor Huntsman, is that you’re doing exactly what all of the radical leaders are saying that America will do, that we are not in this to win, we are going to play politics with this, and then we will find this problem in Afghanistan on our shores in a very short order,” Santorum said.

Whether it be combating the Taliban in Afghanistan or countering the Chinese, Paul made his intention clear that he wants an across the board spending reduction for the military.

“But this whole idea of — of talking about the endless wars and the endless foreign aid, it seems like nobody cares about the budget. I mean, we — we’re in big trouble and — and — and nobody wants to cut anything.
 So if you’re gonna keep sending foreign aid overseas and these endless wars that you don’t have to declare and — and go into Libya without even consulting with the Congress, the biggest threat — the biggest threat to our national security is our financial condition,” Paul said.

The answers of the three candidates demonstrate three positions that the Republican Party must consider. Either double down on aggressive international interventionism and added security at home, make an about face to ensure that more liberty is preserved at home, or take some position in between with a focus on something perhaps a bit in-between. 

 


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