Jon Huntsman Goes Obamaesque

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on June 13, 2011

I like Jon Huntsman a lot, and he’s the frontrunner for my support in the Republican nomination fight. But I simply cannot support his views on Afghanistan as expressed here:

Potential GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman is suggesting a faster timetable for pulling U.S. troops from Afghanistan than the one laid out by President Barack Obama.

Obama plans to bring home next month the first batch of about 100,000 American servicemen currently in Afghanistan, with all combat troops leaving by 2014.

Huntsman, a former Utah governor who was Obama’s ambassador to China, thinks that may not be fast enough because of the financial cost of the war and because of waning public support.

“When you look at Afghanistan, can we hang out until 2014 and beyond?” Huntsman asked. “You can, if you’re willing to pay another quarter of a trillion dollars to do so.”

In an interview aired Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” he questioned whether the battle against the Taliban and other anti-government insurgents served U.S. national interests any longer.

Well, it does serve American interests to ensure that Afghanistan does not backslide into becoming a haven for terrorists yet again. And that means that the fight against the Taliban–the people who invited al Qaeda into Afghanistan in the first place–has to be prosecuted until the Taliban are in no position to shape Afghanistan’s future. They had the chance to govern, made a mess of things, and engaged in policies that led to the terrorist attacks of September 11th. They can’t be allowed to govern anew.

It is worth emphasizing once more that despite the fact that things are going much better in Afghanistan, there are people who are willing to give advice that if implemented, would serve to undermine all of the progress we have made in the country. I am sure that those people act in good faith, and I include Huntsman amongst them, but it will not do to declare that our job in Afghanistan is done simply because Osama bin Laden is dead, or because the American people are war-weary. I know that bin Laden is dead, and I am glad. I know that the American people are war-weary, and I count myself in the number of the weary. But bin Laden’s death is not necessarily checkmate, and it is best to finish this war successfully, than to leave the job half-done so that we may have to fight it out again in the future. We have an Administration in place that makes noises indicating that it is willing to engage in a precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan. We don’t need a Republican Presidential candidate endorsing such a deeply flawed policy.

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