A Mainstream Republican Isolationist?

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There’s plenty to chew over in Jon Huntsman’s first interviews as a proto-presidential candidate, but perhaps the most substantial position he staked out today is a foreign policy one. Earlier this year, when Haley Barbour was flirting with a run, he made quite the splash by breaking from mainstream GOP orthodoxy and espousing skepticism over the mission in Afghanistan. The war has become increasingly unpopular, even among Republican voters and especially in the fiscally focused Tea Party wing. But the candidates speaking to those concerns, like Ron Paul for one, aren’t really mainstream contenders for the nomination. With Barbour out, that space remains in the GOP field. Enter Huntsman, who told ABC News the following:

 I would have chosen from the beginning not to intervene in Libya. I would say that is not core to our national security interest.

I would tell you that we have to evaluate very carefully our presence in Afghanistan. And my inclination would be to say that it is a heavy and very expensive presence we have on the ground. That at a point in time where we need to be looking at our asymmetrical threats, what we have in Afghanistan today is not consistent with how we ought to be responding.

Update: A bit more from The New York Times, this time with a fiscal line of reasoning:

“It’s an affordability issue,” Mr. Huntsman said. “With all of our deployments and all of our engagements abroad, we need to ask a fundamental question: Can we afford to do this? That should be driven by the second point, which is whether or not it’s in our national security interest. I felt from the beginning that Libya was not in our core national security interest.”

It will be interesting to see what kind of response Huntsman draws from hawkish GOP foreign policy voices.