Jon Huntsman’s recent comments about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and the need to reduce our military footprint have drawn a good amount of media coverage this week. Huntsman, who will announce his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination next week, is the latest among the field to call for rethinking our strategy in Afghanistan. Huntsman is advocating a reduced presence in the country, in the area of 10 to 15,000 troops, to fight a narrowly focused counterterrorism mission. Coincidentally, a just‐released Cato paper makes a similar recommendation.
Today, ForeignPolicy.com examines Huntsman’s comments and the “Drawdown Debate” in a round table of opinion pieces. My contribution: “Huntsman’s Right: Bring ‘em Home:
Jon Huntsman is on the right track with his call for a much smaller U.S. military presence and a more focused mission in Afghanistan. His suggestion makes sense for at least three reasons. First, the current nation‐building mission is far too costly relative to realistic alternatives, particularly at a time when Americans are looking for ways to shrink the size of government. Second, nation‐building in Afghanistan is unnecessary. We can advance our national security interests without crafting a functioning nation‐state in the Hindu Kush. And third, the current mission is deeply unconservative, succumbing to the same errors that trip up other ambitious government‐run projects that conservatives routinely reject here at home.
Alas, although many rank and file Republicans agree with Huntsman, many GOP leaders do not. Perhaps that will change when they realize that, at least in this instance, good policy and good politics go hand in hand. We should bring most of our troops home, and focus the attention of the few thousand who remain on hunting al Qaeda. The United States does not need to transform a deeply divided, poverty‐stricken, tribal‐based society into a self‐sufficient, cohesive, and stable electoral democracy, and we should stop pretending that we can.