Huckabee's Middle East Policy

Mike Huckabee's recently published foreign policy approach toward the Middle East is an advance to the past.

In an article entitled "America's Priorities in the War on Terror, Islamists, Iraq, Iran and Paskistan," published in the January/February 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs  Huckabee espouses a foreign policy that differs little from that generally practiced by the three administrations that preceded Bush 43. 

Huckabee separates himself from the current approach by writing:

American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out.  The Bush administration's arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad.
He compares current policy to an immodest "top high school student" who tries to dominate others, only to end up being despised.   This over-simplifies the complexities of dealing with the Middle East-as does much of the remainder of his piece.

Huckabee declares:

The Bush administration has never adequately explained the theology and ideology behind Islamic terrorism or convinced us of its ruthless fanaticism.
He laments how few Americans are familiar with the writings of the Egyptian radical Sayyid Qutb.  (Reading Qutb is like wading through a room waist-deep in peanut butter.)  In the late 1930's, it wasn't necessary to understand the writings of Dietrich Eckhart and the Thule Society to know what Adolf Hitler was about.  Perhaps this discussion is Huckabee's effort to display his depth of thought on the "jidahists' culture of death."  In any regard, he underestimates the intelligence of the American people.

In the clearest statement of advancing to the past, Huckabee writes

As president, my goal in the Arab and Muslim worlds will be to calibrate a course between maintaining stability and promoting democracy.  It is self-defeating to attempt too much too soon: doing so could mean holding elections that the extremists would win.  But it is also self-defeating to do nothing. We must first destroy existing terrorists groups and then attack the underlying conditions that breed them: the lack of basic sanitation, health care, education, jobs, a free press, fair courts - which all translates into a lack of opportunity and hope.
In a matter of just a few paragraphs, Governor Huckabee jumps from naming the underlying cause of terrorism as a radical theology/ideology to attributing it to poor civil and social engineering.   We have "a moral obligation as the richest" country, he writes, to "improve life in the Muslim world."   A few paragraphs later, he will point out how our aid to Pakistan has not helped improved the peoples' lives.  What he doesn't address is-Just how do we dictate the use of all our foreign aid dollars without being that despised dominant top high school student?  

His criticism of the conduct of the Iraq War is solidly aligned with groupthink hindsight.  We should have sent more troops and been prepared for the collapse that followed the fall of Saddam's government.   The occupation, he writes, "has destroyed the country politically, economically, and socially."  To make his case more convincingly, Huckabee needs to answer these questions:

  • 1. Had the U.S. sent in 450,000 troops, as he implies, how many more casualties might that have meant? And from where would those additional troops come?
  • 2. How do you economically destroy a country with an economy largely based on governmental graft and corruption?
  • 3. How do you politically destroy a country run by a ruthless dictator?
  • 4. And what were the elements of the Hussein regime's social structure that were worth maintaining?
In short, Huckabee joins the parade of second guessers, blessed with clarity of hindsight, in his effort to separate himself from the Bush administration and appeal to independent voters and religiously conservative Democrats.

In the context of criticizing the Bush administration for the way it has handled the tension between Turkey and the PKK who hide in Kurdish region of Iraq, Huckabee bemoans the recent resignation of retired Air Force General Joseph Ralston.  Ralston had been appointed a special envoy to the region.  Huckabee writes:

I regret that it took the deployment of 100,000 Turkish troops to the border with Iraq, and the PKK problem becoming a crisis, to the Bush administration to give the issue the attention it deserves...Our special envoy on the issue, retired General Joseph Ralston, quit his post last October out of frustration over the passivity of both the U.S. and the Iraqi governments.  Some crises cannot be averted; this one could and should have been.
Huckabee both beats a straw man here, and misses important elements of the Ralston story.  In a November 1, 2007 article in the Boston Globe, reporter Kevin McKieran noted that Ralston was on the Board of Directors of the Lockheed Martin, and that that company had, in November, finalized a nearly $3 billion deal to sell F-16's to Turkey.  McKieran asked

Most people would agree that it's bad ethics for government officials to invest in companies that they regulate. But what about a US special envoy to a Middle East trouble spot who happens to be a director of an arms company selling weapons to one of the parties in the conflict?
Point: Huckabee may not fully understand the circumstances of Ralston's resignation.  In any regard, the crisis he mentions has, to date, been avoided.   So the headline there is "Governor Beats Straw Man." 

Huckabee's one-word policy for Iran advances to the past-containment.   He needs to answer the question-How successfully has containment worked since the fall of the Shah?

He faults the overthrow of Saddam with having "upset the regional balance of power."  He needs to address the question-So does it serve our interests to advance a balance of power based on a balance of tyrannies?

He suggests that other major nations,

...must realize that if the United States does end up taking military action [against Iran], they will bear some responsibility for having failed to maximize peaceful options.
He needs to address the question: Did those countries react with acknowledged complicity in the wake of the takedown of Saddam?  (No) And, is there any reason to think they'd feel responsible if the U.S. executed the final option of a hostile act against on Iran?  (Huckabee is preaching responsibility to entities that have demonstrated no capacity or self-interest in assuming responsibility.)

Huckabee's approach to establishing diplomatic relations with Iran (he assumes they want that, too) and attacking terrorists that have safe havens inside the border of Pakistan generally mirrors the positions espoused by Barak Obama.  

Commenting on Russia, he writes that Russians have,

...always had both imperialist ambitions and an inferiority complex vis-à-vis the West.
That comment begs the question: What is the value of this collective, geo-political psychoanalysis? 

Finally, conspicuous by its absence in his article is any reference to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

All in all, the Foreign Affairs piece offers revealing insights into the foreign policy mind of former Arkansas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Michael D. Huckabee.   It also invites questions. 
Mike Huckabee's recently published foreign policy approach toward the Middle East is an advance to the past.

In an article entitled "America's Priorities in the War on Terror, Islamists, Iraq, Iran and Paskistan," published in the January/February 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs  Huckabee espouses a foreign policy that differs little from that generally practiced by the three administrations that preceded Bush 43. 

Huckabee separates himself from the current approach by writing:

American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out.  The Bush administration's arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad.
He compares current policy to an immodest "top high school student" who tries to dominate others, only to end up being despised.   This over-simplifies the complexities of dealing with the Middle East-as does much of the remainder of his piece.

Huckabee declares:

The Bush administration has never adequately explained the theology and ideology behind Islamic terrorism or convinced us of its ruthless fanaticism.
He laments how few Americans are familiar with the writings of the Egyptian radical Sayyid Qutb.  (Reading Qutb is like wading through a room waist-deep in peanut butter.)  In the late 1930's, it wasn't necessary to understand the writings of Dietrich Eckhart and the Thule Society to know what Adolf Hitler was about.  Perhaps this discussion is Huckabee's effort to display his depth of thought on the "jidahists' culture of death."  In any regard, he underestimates the intelligence of the American people.

In the clearest statement of advancing to the past, Huckabee writes

As president, my goal in the Arab and Muslim worlds will be to calibrate a course between maintaining stability and promoting democracy.  It is self-defeating to attempt too much too soon: doing so could mean holding elections that the extremists would win.  But it is also self-defeating to do nothing. We must first destroy existing terrorists groups and then attack the underlying conditions that breed them: the lack of basic sanitation, health care, education, jobs, a free press, fair courts - which all translates into a lack of opportunity and hope.
In a matter of just a few paragraphs, Governor Huckabee jumps from naming the underlying cause of terrorism as a radical theology/ideology to attributing it to poor civil and social engineering.   We have "a moral obligation as the richest" country, he writes, to "improve life in the Muslim world."   A few paragraphs later, he will point out how our aid to Pakistan has not helped improved the peoples' lives.  What he doesn't address is-Just how do we dictate the use of all our foreign aid dollars without being that despised dominant top high school student?  

His criticism of the conduct of the Iraq War is solidly aligned with groupthink hindsight.  We should have sent more troops and been prepared for the collapse that followed the fall of Saddam's government.   The occupation, he writes, "has destroyed the country politically, economically, and socially."  To make his case more convincingly, Huckabee needs to answer these questions:

  • 1. Had the U.S. sent in 450,000 troops, as he implies, how many more casualties might that have meant? And from where would those additional troops come?
  • 2. How do you economically destroy a country with an economy largely based on governmental graft and corruption?
  • 3. How do you politically destroy a country run by a ruthless dictator?
  • 4. And what were the elements of the Hussein regime's social structure that were worth maintaining?
In short, Huckabee joins the parade of second guessers, blessed with clarity of hindsight, in his effort to separate himself from the Bush administration and appeal to independent voters and religiously conservative Democrats.

In the context of criticizing the Bush administration for the way it has handled the tension between Turkey and the PKK who hide in Kurdish region of Iraq, Huckabee bemoans the recent resignation of retired Air Force General Joseph Ralston.  Ralston had been appointed a special envoy to the region.  Huckabee writes:

I regret that it took the deployment of 100,000 Turkish troops to the border with Iraq, and the PKK problem becoming a crisis, to the Bush administration to give the issue the attention it deserves...Our special envoy on the issue, retired General Joseph Ralston, quit his post last October out of frustration over the passivity of both the U.S. and the Iraqi governments.  Some crises cannot be averted; this one could and should have been.
Huckabee both beats a straw man here, and misses important elements of the Ralston story.  In a November 1, 2007 article in the Boston Globe, reporter Kevin McKieran noted that Ralston was on the Board of Directors of the Lockheed Martin, and that that company had, in November, finalized a nearly $3 billion deal to sell F-16's to Turkey.  McKieran asked

Most people would agree that it's bad ethics for government officials to invest in companies that they regulate. But what about a US special envoy to a Middle East trouble spot who happens to be a director of an arms company selling weapons to one of the parties in the conflict?
Point: Huckabee may not fully understand the circumstances of Ralston's resignation.  In any regard, the crisis he mentions has, to date, been avoided.   So the headline there is "Governor Beats Straw Man." 

Huckabee's one-word policy for Iran advances to the past-containment.   He needs to answer the question-How successfully has containment worked since the fall of the Shah?

He faults the overthrow of Saddam with having "upset the regional balance of power."  He needs to address the question-So does it serve our interests to advance a balance of power based on a balance of tyrannies?

He suggests that other major nations,

...must realize that if the United States does end up taking military action [against Iran], they will bear some responsibility for having failed to maximize peaceful options.
He needs to address the question: Did those countries react with acknowledged complicity in the wake of the takedown of Saddam?  (No) And, is there any reason to think they'd feel responsible if the U.S. executed the final option of a hostile act against on Iran?  (Huckabee is preaching responsibility to entities that have demonstrated no capacity or self-interest in assuming responsibility.)

Huckabee's approach to establishing diplomatic relations with Iran (he assumes they want that, too) and attacking terrorists that have safe havens inside the border of Pakistan generally mirrors the positions espoused by Barak Obama.  

Commenting on Russia, he writes that Russians have,

...always had both imperialist ambitions and an inferiority complex vis-à-vis the West.
That comment begs the question: What is the value of this collective, geo-political psychoanalysis? 

Finally, conspicuous by its absence in his article is any reference to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

All in all, the Foreign Affairs piece offers revealing insights into the foreign policy mind of former Arkansas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Michael D. Huckabee.   It also invites questions.