Jon Huntsman: The realist foreign-policy professional
There has been some reporting that Huntsman is being advised by a group of foreign-policy realists including former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass. But none of those advisors has committed to Huntsman publicly, and they are talking to other campaigns as well.
"Those aren't exclusive relationships. They are foreign-policy experts. If any candidate calls them up, they are going to take the call, and they are going to try to explain the world and what the issues are to the candidates. That's just part of being a public servant," said Lindsay. "To imply they are with Huntsman and are forsaking all others is misleading."
Huntsman keeps his own counsel on foreign-policy matters. After all, he has been an ambassador twice and served as a top official at the Office of the United States Trade Representative. His last two years spent as Obama's ambassador to China will be a major focus of his candidacy, but it could prove to be both an asset and a liability.
Huntsman has been criticizing the Chinese on human rights, but must largely stand by the Obama administration's China policy -- in which he played an integral role. That policy is sure to come under fire from the other campaigns, which plan to argue that the United States has lost influence relative to China under Obama and Huntsman's watch.
On Afghanistan, Huntsman's taking a realist position far to the left of Obama, calling for a steep reduction of U.S troops down to a standing presence of only 15,000. He told Esquire magazine, "Whether we like it or not, whenever we withdraw from Afghanistan, whether it's now or years from now, we'll have an incendiary situation.… Should we stay and play traffic cop? I don't think that serves our strategic interests."
Regardless of whether Huntsman has struck the right note on foreign-policy among conservatives across the country, most GOP foreign-policy hands doubt that he has enough popular support to propel him to the top tier of candidates anyway.
That leaves three main candidates who are all advocating increased military spending, an enduring presence in Afghanistan, and a more assertive U.S. role in the world than has been seen over the last four years.
"Romney gave one muddled answer in a debate about Afghanistan, and the press jumped to the conclusion that the whole Republican Party had gone soft," said a top GOP foreign-policy consultant. "Actually, it's still a hawkish field, and it's still well to the right of President Obama."
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