Jon Huntsman’s Time to Shine

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on November 27, 2011

I have praised Newt Gingrich’s discussion of immigration issues at the most recent Republican Presidential debate. I am late to praising Jon Huntsman’s performance in the same debate, but that performance is worthy of plaudits, especially when considering the following:

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, let me bring you into this conversation.

We just got a question from Twitter. I’ll read it to you.

“So many people view the Arab spring as a good thing. Given the recent violence in Egypt, do you worry this can go bad?”

And we’ve got some live pictures we’re going to show our viewers out there of Tahrir Square in Cairo right now. Thousands of people are protesting the military regime in Egypt right now.

What do you say to this person who sent this — this — this Twitter message to us?

HUNTSMAN: His — history will tell. We missed the Persian spring. The president failed on that front. We go into Libya, where, to my mind, we don’t have any definable American interests. We’ve got Syria now on the horizon, where we do have American interests. It’s called Israel. We’re a friend and ally. They’re a friend and ally. And we need to remind the world what it means to be a friend and ally of the United States.

And we have nuclearization in Iran. Centrifuges spinning. At some point, they’re going to have enough in the way of fissile material out of which to make a weapon. That’s a certainty.

We had a discussion earlier tonight about sanctions. Everybody commented on sanctions. Sanctions aren’t going to work, I hate to break it to you. They’re not going to work because the Chinese aren’t going to play ball and the Russians aren’t going to play ball.

And I believe Iran has already — the mullahs have already decided they want to go nuclear.

Why?

They have looked at North Korea. They’ve got a weapon. Nobody touches them. They like at Libya. Libya gave up their weapon in exchange for friendship with the world. Look where they are.

So I say let’s let history be our guide. We saw the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1919. We saw the region transform and make itself into something different. We saw changes in 1947.

I think we do our national interests a disservice by jumping in too soon and taking up sides with people we don’t fully understand, Islamist groups, pan-Arab groups.

Our interest in the Middle East is Israel. And our interest is to ensure that Israel — that Iran does not go nuclear.

This is a good answer on multiple levels. It points out that sanctions are generally a weak tool with which to coerce other countries, because of the fact that many times, powerful countries are not willing to join in an effort to promote and enforce sanctions. It points out the reasons why some countries want to go nuclear–they don’t want to be threatened by other countries, and they want a deterrent against any threats, or any outside military action. It reminds us that the Obama Administration has done a terrible job of promoting political liberalization in Iran. It cautions us against allying ourselves with groups and forces whose intentions remain largely mysterious to us. And finally, it reaffirms our ties with Israel–which I know that various anti-Semites, quasi-anti-Semites, and people who swear that they have a whole bunch of Jewish friends don’t like, but who needs to listen to them anyway?

Mitt Romney’s strong debate performances are the subject of much discussion in the world of punditry, as are Newt Gingrich’s. The two candidates deserve the plaudits that they get. But Huntsman has been quite impressive recently in his debate performances. He merits a serious look by GOP voters.

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