In the Arena

Wingtips Vs. Boots

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Mike Huckabee, famously, has near-zilch foreign policy experience, but his gut reactions in a forthcoming piece in Foreign Affairs are refreshingly independent of the lockstep militarism deployed by the other Republicans running for President. This may be a consequence of conversations Huckabee’s been having recently with Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, which publishes Foreign Affairs. Haass is a moderate Republican middle east expert–Iran is his specialty–who left the Bush State Department, in large part because he opposed the war in Iraq.

The obvious headline is Huckabee’s willingness to criticize Bush:

“The Bush administration’s arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad. My administration will recognize that the United States’ main fight today does not pit us against the world but pits the world against the terrorists.”
In one specific criticism, Huckabee said Bush did not send enough troops to invade Iraq. And he accused the president of marginalizing Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, who said at the outset of the war that it might take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq after the invasion. “I would have met with Shinseki privately and carefully weighed his advice,” Huckabee said.

But I’m more impressed by his common sense, diplomacy-first attitude toward Iran–and remember this article was written before the NIE announced that Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons program:

Before we put boots on the ground elsewhere, we had better have wingtips there first.”
He adds that the U.S. can exploit the Iranian government’s hunger for regional clout, saying, “We cannot live with al-Qaida, but we might be able to live with a contained Iran.”

Huckabee remains impossible on a variety of issues–his “Fair Tax” is disastrously regressive; his refusal to acknowledge evolution is scary; his former desire to quatantine AIDs patience was ignorant and demagogic–but, in more than a few policy areas, his is the most interesting and unpredictable Republican campaign we’ve seen in quite some time.

Update: The Republican most hurt by Huckabee has been Mitt Romney–and he’s feeling it, and he had it coming. Romney had the brains and talent to give us a more intellectually stimulating version of the unexpected, creative campaign that Huckabee is running. He chose, instead, to run the most transparently dishonest race in recent memory. Romney hasn’t told the Republican base a single thing it didn’t want to hear; he has not been courageous on any issue. It’s still possible that he will win the nomination–he has the money, the business class backing (especially in a race against Huckabee) and who knows what skeletons have yet to leap from Huckabee’s closet–but Romney has embarrassed himself…and if he does win the nomination, his Democratic opponent will have a storehouse full of flip-flop ads to use against him.

And More: As if confirmation of what I wrote above were necessary, Romney has now attacked Huckabee for the Foreign Affairs piece.