Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of "America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy." For more of his thoughts on Huntsman, visit James' blog.
By James M. Lindsay
Huntsman traces his interest in foreign policy and Asia in particular back to 1971, when he was an eleven-year-old visiting his father at the White House. He met Henry Kissinger, who was headed out of Washington on a trip. Huntsman helped Kissinger with his bags and asked the national security adviser where he was going. Kissinger answered:
Please don’t tell anyone. I’m going to China.
Huntsman used his last speech as ambassador to China to deliver some of the most direct criticisms of China’s human rights record seen by a U.S. official. Citing the detentions of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and Beijing artist Ali Weiwei, Huntsman said:
The United States will never stop supporting human rights because we believe in the fundamental struggle for human dignity and justice wherever it may occur.
Huntsman wants to rethink American foreign policy more broadly to realign U.S. spending and deployments abroad:
In terms of foreign policy, we have a generational opportunity…to reset our position in the world. And it must be done based upon our deployments in all corners of the world, wherever we find ourselves, how affordable those deployments are, whether it’s a good use of our young men and women. Whether it’s in our core national security and interest. We’re fighting an enemy that is far different than any we have got before. It’s a nontraditional kind of war, and I think we need to step back, recalibrate how we go about protecting our borders and protecting our people, and resetting our position in the world.”
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.
Just last week, Huntsman began outlining his view on how the United States might accomplish a drawdown in Afghanistan:
Huntsman is paying attention to the public’s mood on Afghanistan. Last week he pointed out:
My hunch is that the American people want to be out of there as quickly as we can get out.
Huntsman opposes U.S. involvement in Libya. He says he would have chosen a different path than the one his former boss chose:
I would have chosen from the beginning not to intervene in Libya. I would say that is not core to our national security interest…we probably don’t need to be in certain parts of the Middle East where there are domestic revolutions playing out. Where we probably just ought to let them play out.
What do you think of Huntsman's foreign policy?