NASHUA, N.H. – There’s little doubt that Mitt Romney will win the New Hampshire primary here, so the biggest questions involve the cluster of candidates competing for second through fifth place. One of the interesting side shows is that Jon Huntsman and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., are aggressively competing for the support of independents who are allowed to vote in the state’s open primary. These voters include those who want a more restrained foreign policy.
Though Paul offers a broad non-interventionist attack on the foreign policy consensus, Huntsman is making a more nuanced argument focusing on specific complaints, such as America’s presence in Afghanistan, while still asserting that America, in general, should have a forceful foreign policy.
“We’ve been at the War on Terror now for 10 years,” Huntsman said during a townhall meeting in Newport last night. “And I want to stand before the American people and tell them what we have to show for it.”
At this point, if it were a Paul speech, it would be typical for him to respond that we have little to show for it, and if anything, U.S actions overseas have inflamed the Arab and Muslim world, putting Americans at greater risk. Instead, Huntsman’s pitch is more positive.
“Some families have paid the ultimate sacrifice in this War on Terror, and it’s to them that we give deep and profound gratitude and thanks,” Huntsman continued. “But here’s what we have to show for it. We’ve run the Taliban from power. We’ve upended Al Qaeda from sanctuaries in Waziristan and beyond. We’ve had free elections. Osama bin Laden is no longer around. We’ve strengthened civil society. We’ve bolstered and strengthened the military and police.”
It’s only after rattling off these accomplishments, that Huntsman added: “We’ve done what we can do, folks. I say I want to bring our troops home.”
He continued, “We don’t need to be nation building in Southwest Asia when this nation so desperately needs our attention. We don’t have a foreign policy strategy that’s worth anything, or a national security strategy when we are weak at home…I want to stand up before the American people and say this: Ladies and gentlemen, Afghanistan is not our nation’s future. Iraq is not our nation’s future. Our nation’s future is how well-prepared we are as people to rise up and meet the competitive challenges of the 21st Century.”
Paul has said that while he would prefer Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon, it shouldn’t be America’s businesses whether or not they do, and the U.S. certainly shouldn’t take any action to prevent them from obtaining one. Huntsman has a different take.
Huntsman posed the question, “Can you live with a nuclear Iran, knowing full well that the implications will be a nuclear Saudi Arabia, a nuclear Turkey, and probably a nuclear Egypt…in which case the proliferation problems in the Middle East would become, I believe, completely irreversible? I can’t live in that kind of world.”
And while Paul warns against the dangers of entangling alliances, particularly with Israel, Huntsman parts ways. He said, “if it means anything to be a friend and ally of the United States…we ought to stand up and take a look at the vulnerability of Israel and make sure that we’re standing shoulder to shoulder with them through all of this.”
Huntsman resolved, “if your conclusion is that you cannot live with a nuclear Iran – and that’s mine – then you have to say all options are on the table. All options with respect to national power on the table.”
He also said that if Iran closes the Straits of Hormuz – which he predicted was unlikely – that it should be considered an “act of war” that would trigger maneuvers from U.S.S. John C. Stennis as well as B-2s in the region.
Yet it’s part of Paul’s standard stump speech to warn about such rumblings from U.S. politicians about a war with Iran.
As part of their skirmishes, Huntsman recently released a "Twilight Zone"-themed video using Paul's own statements to portray him as a wacky conspiracy theorist.
Thus, New Hampshire voters who want a purer form of non-interventionism have Paul and those who want a more restrained foreign policy, but one that still sees an active role for the U.S. in world affairs, have Huntsman.