Jon Huntsman: It’s Time To Get Out Of Afghanistan, And Libya

With his official campaign announcement just under a week away former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is starting to talk issues, and when it comes to foreign policy he seems to be looking to distinguish himself from other Republicans:

On Tuesday, Jon Huntsman — the former governor of Utah and, more recently, the U.S. ambassador to China — will officially enter the race for the Republican presidential nomination. But he has already begun to distinguish himself in a crowded field by becoming the first to call for a rapid withdrawal of U.S troops from Afghanistan.

“If you can’t define a winning exit strategy for the American people, where we somehow come out ahead, then we’re wasting our money, and we’re wasting our strategic resources,” Huntsman told Esquire as part of a long profile in its August issue. “It’s a tribal state, and it always will be. Whether we like it or not, whenever we withdraw from Afghanistan, whether it’s now or years from now, we’ll have an incendiary situation… Should we stay and play traffic cop? I don’t think that serves our strategic interests.”

Huntsman also said that he wouldn’t have intervened in Libya — “We just can’t afford it” — and would seek to make serious cuts in the military’s budget. “If you can’t find anything there to cut, you’re not looking hard enough.”

In a week when the New York Times described Monday’s G.O.P. debate as “full of historical error, economic obfuscation, avoidance of hard truths and even outright bigotry,” Huntsman — despite being a former Obama appointee — may have found his opening. The fifty-one-year-old father of seven told Esquire that he plans on running a campaign built in part on the parallel platforms of debt reduction and ending the war in Afghanistan.

Is there an appetite for this kind of message in the GOP, or at least a sufficiently large one that a campaign could be built around it? I’m hopeful, but skeptical since it appears that much of the Republican opposition to actions like those in Libya has more to do with the political affiliation of the President ordering it than any real change of heart about the wisdom of interventionism. As I noted last Friday, there seems to be a political and fiscal opening for this kind of message with the broader public, though. Whether that will lead to success in the GOP is something that remains to be seen.

Nonetheless, put this on a list of Huntsman positives as far as I’m concerned.


FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Afghanistan War, Military Affairs, National Security, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. David M says:

    Definitely a positive message, even if he doesn’t become the nominee maybe it can force others to move towards his position.

    Honestly, withdrawing from Afghanistan and Iraq and scaling back our other military adventures is the one issue that would cause me to consider supporting a GOP candidate. (Unfortunately, healthcare reform is slightly more important to me, so I could only vote for a GOP presidential candidate if I was sure of Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.)

  2. TG Chicago says:

    Can’t see him winning the nomination, but if he does, he’ll have a fighting chance at getting my vote. It’s highly unlikely that any other Republican will.

  3. PJ says:

    “If you can’t define a winning exit strategy for the American people, where we somehow come out ahead, then we’re wasting our money, and we’re wasting our strategic resources,”

    I hope that in the full profile he’s not just focusing on money and strategic resources being wasted in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also about troops dying or having their lives destroyed.

  4. anjin-san says:

    He strikes me as intelligent & thoughtful, which is a nice change of page. It is absolutely time to think seriously about an exit from Afghanistan.