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Mike Huckabee, National Security/Foreign Policy: War On Terror

January 18, 2008 @ 2 Comments

I believe that we are currently engaged in a world war. Radical Islamic fascists have declared war on our country and our way of life. They have sworn to annihilate each of us who believe in a free society, all in the name of a perversion of religion and an impersonal god. We go to great extremes to save lives, they go to great extremes to take them. This war is not a conventional war, and these terrorists are not a conventional enemy. I will fight the war on terror with the intensity and single-mindedness that it deserves.

The top priority of the president as Commander in Chief is first and foremost protecting our own citizens. While we live in a neighborhood of nations and must strive to be good neighbors, as President, I will ensure the peace, safety, and well-being of American citizens at home and abroad.

While I prefer America to be safe and secure within her own borders rather than loved and appreciated abroad, I believe we can accomplish both goals. We can resurrect relationships with our allies and neighbors. With a focus on renewed diplomacy and inclusion, we can accomplish the goals of our nation without having to go it alone.

When the sun rose on September 11, we were the only superpower in the world; when the sun set that day, we were still the only superpower, but how different the world looked. During the Cold War, you were a hawk or a dove, but this new world requires us to be a phoenix, to rise from the ashes of the twin towers with a whole new game plan for this very different enemy. Being a phoenix means constantly reinventing ourselves, dying to mistakes and miscalculations, changing tactics and strategies, rising reborn to meet each new challenge and seize each new opportunity.

As president, I will fight this war hard, but I will also fight it smart, using all our political, economic, diplomatic, and intelligence weapons as well as our military might. The terrorists unfortunately have a great many sympathizers all over the world, folks who are happy to show up and be filmed shouting “Death to America,” but the actual number of those willing to blow themselves up is relatively few, and they train and plot in small, scattered groups.

It’s an enemy conducive to being tracked down and eliminated by using the CIA and the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command. We can accomplish a great deal, we can achieve tremendous bang for the buck, with swift, surgical air strikes and commando raids by our elite units, working with friendly governments, as we’ve done with the Ethiopians in Somalia. These operations are impossible without first-rate intelligence. When the Cold War ended, we cut back on our human intelligence, just as we cut back on our armed forces, and both have come back to haunt us. As President, I will beef up our human intelligence capacity, both the operatives who gather information and the analysts who figure out what it means.

Right after September 11, with wounds fresh and emotions running high, President Bush declared that all other countries were either for us or they were for the terrorists. Such a black-and-white stance doesn’t work in the Arab and Muslim worlds, where there are more shades of gray than you’ll find at Sherwin-Williams. Is President Musharraf of Pakistan for us 100%? No, since September 11, he’s been playing both ends in the middle to survive. At the moment he’s pulled too far away from us. While we have been focused on Iraq, Al Qaeda and the Taliban have expanded their training camps in the Waziristan region of Pakistan with impunity. This bodes ominously not just for Afghanistan, but also for Al Qaeda’s plotting and training for more attacks all over the world, including here in the United States. This is the direct result of an ill-conceived autonomy agreement President Musharraf made with Waziristan’s tribal leaders. In fact the tribal leader Musharaff has praised for fighting foreign terrorists, Mullah Nazir, recently said that he would protect Osama bin Laden! We have to get tough with Mursharraf and re-calibrate the carrots and sticks we use with him. Pakistan is the fifth largest recipient of American aid, and right now we’re not getting real good value. We’re in a game of chicken with this military dictator: he warns us not to pursue terrorists across the border with Afghanistan, not to strike their bases on his territory because it could cause his government to fall and an even less friendly figure to take his job. But we have to make clear to him that he is of no use to us if he allows the Taliban and Al Qaeda to use his territory with impunity. The current situation highlights that, despite our generous aid, both the Taliban and Al Qaeda enjoy a disturbing degree of popularity in Pakistan. Ultimately it is this popularity contest, this war of ideas, that we have to win. Creativity and flexibility are Musharraf’s keys to retaining power.

Creativity and flexibility are our keys to dealing with him and other Muslim leaders. Instead of asking if someone is for us, instead of demanding that every ally be at the level of Great Britain, I will ask if we should be for them, if they can be useful in any way, however limited, however temporary.

The terrorists have succeeded in dividing us over how to fight them, but we are not taking full advantage of their divisions and of the broader divisions in the region. For example, Hamas, Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah are all terrorist groups, but Hamas and Al Qaeda are Sunni and hate Hezbollah, which is Shiite, as much as they hate us. We are worried about the Iranians extending their sphere of influence west, but so are the Sunni Arabs in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, who dislike the Iranians not just because they are Shiites, but because they are Persians. Fighting smart means learning the neighborhood, achieving a level of political, religious, and cultural sophistication about the Arab and Islamic worlds that will pay huge dividends for us. We have to know the cast of characters, not just the national political leaders and their leading opponents, but the clerics, the tribal and clan leaders. We get criticized for our arrogance, but it’s our ignorance that’s killing us.

As for the underlying dispute between Sunnis and Shiites that’s been going on for fourteen hundred years, we don’t have a dog in that fight. Our enemy is Islamic extremism in all its guises. The Saudis want us to support extremist Sunni groups to counter growing Iranian influence. The Saudis assure us that they can control these groups and keep them from turning against us. We saw how well that turned out with Al Qaeda. I will support moderates, not extremists, with no favoring of Sunnis or Shiites.

The long-term solution to terror is to empower moderates in the region. My goal in the Middle and Near East is to correctly calibrate a course between maintaining stability and promoting democracy. It’s self-defeating to try to accomplish too much too soon, you just have elections where extremists win, but it’s equally self-defeating to do nothing. First, we have to destroy the terrorists who already exist, then we have to attack the underlying conditions that breed terror, by creating schools that offer an alternative to the extremist madrassas that take impressionable children and turn them into killers, by creating jobs and opportunity and hope, by encouraging a free press and other institutions that promote democracy. The recent rising appeal of Al Qaeda across North Africa – Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia – shows why we have to do better in the war of ideas – and soon.

In the past, we’ve been constrained from helping some of the good guys because our dependence on oil has forced us to support repressive regimes, to conduct our foreign policy with one hand tied behind our back. It’s time, it’s past time, to untie that hand and reach out to the moderates with both hands. Oil has not just shaped our foreign policy, it has deformed it. When I make foreign policy, I want to be able to treat Saudi Arabia the same way I treat Sweden, and that requires us to be energy independent. These folks have had us over a barrel – literally – for way too long. The first thing I will do as President is send Congress my comprehensive plan for energy independence. We will achieve energy independence by the end of my second term. We will explore, we will conserve, and we will pursue all avenues of alternative energy – nuclear, wind, solar, hydrogen, clean coal, biodiesel, and biomass.

If I ever have to undertake a large invasion, I will follow the Powell Doctrine and use overwhelming force. The notion of an “occupation with a light footprint” that was our paradigm for Iraq always struck me as a contradiction in terms. Liberating a country and occupying it are two different missions. Occupation inevitably demands a lot of boots on the ground. Instead of marginalizing General Shinseki when he said we needed several hundred thousand troops for Iraq, I would have met privately with him and carefully weighed his advice and his underlying analysis.

Our current armed forces aren’t large enough – we have been relying far too heavily on our National Guard and our Reserves, we have worn them out. When our enemies know that we are spread thin, they’re more apt to test us by provoking a crisis. Having a sizeable standing army actually makes it less likely that we’ll have to use it. So I will increase the defense budget. We have to be ready to fight both conventional and unconventional wars against both state and non-state enemies. Right now we spend about 3.9% of our GDP on defense, while we spent about 6% in 1986 under President Reagan. I would return to that 6% level. I believe we can do this without raising taxes. I will limit increases in other discretionary spending and rely on the normal increase in federal tax revenue that is generated annually as Americans’ incomes rise.

Crises arise suddenly and unpredictably, and no one has the database for every possible scenario. What we have to evaluate is the strength of a leader’s operating system, because if that’s sound, he can always add the data. I’ll be an effective commander in chief because I have executive experience and crisis management experience. My record as Governor shows that I’m intellectually curious, a quick study, and have sound judgment. I will get advice from a broad circle with differing perspectives and portfolios; encourage dissent and stay out of the bubble; refuse to wilt under criticism, but also be flexible and ready to change course if a policy isn’t working. I will communicate my rationale for our foreign and defense policies clearly and frequently to Congress and to the American people.


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2 Comments → “Mike Huckabee, National Security/Foreign Policy: War On Terror”

  1. Novlangue

    9 years ago

    Radical Islamists to destroy America? What rot.

    Spending all that money against a weak enemy.

    America should be fighting family breakdown, pornography etc.

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  2. Lea

    8 years ago

    Thanks for writing this.

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