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Huntsman to Lay Out Foreign Policy Divide With Romney

Huntsman to Lay Out Foreign Policy Divide With Romney

By Erin McPike - October 10, 2011


Sandwiched between the foreign policy address Mitt Romney gave in South Carolina on Friday and the next Republican presidential debate at Dartmouth College on Tuesday, Jon Huntsman will lay out his own foreign policy vision Monday at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester.

Among the most important points the onetime ambassador to China under President Obama will make is this: His former boss’s policies have weakened the country "and thus diminished America's presence on the global stage."

And according to excerpts of the speech provided to RealClearPolitics, Huntsman will set up a deep contrast with GOP front-runner Mitt Romney that could create a serious sticking point at Tuesday’s Washington Post/Bloomberg debate.

In his speech, Romney used stark terms in detailing the many threats America faces around the world, and made it clear he’s ready to get tough. Huntsman, by contrast, will take a far more diplomatic tone, calling for greater economic engagement with other countries.

Huntsman even plans to take a veiled swipe at Romney, who said on Friday, “I will reverse the hollowing of our Navy and announce an initiative to increase the shipbuilding rate from nine per year to 15.” Huntsman will say: “Simply advocating more ships, more troops, and more weapons is not a viable path forward. We need more agility, more intelligence, and more economic engagement with the world.”

Huntsman will call for a foreign policy based on expansion rather than containment. He’ll urge congressional passage of stalled trade agreements and press for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multilateral free-trade agreement being negotiated by the United States and eight other nations.

And he’ll repeat what he’s been saying for months about reviewing the “entanglements” America has abroad.

“Afghanistan was once the center of the terrorist threat to America. That is no longer the case,” he will say. “After 6,000 lives lost and more than $1 trillion spent, it is time to bring our brave troops home. We could go from 100,000 boots on the ground to a much smaller footprint in a year, while leaving behind an adequate number of counterterrorist and intelligence functions and a facile special forces presence. And I believe we should.”

Huntsman, unlike Romney, is open and eager to find cuts in the defense budget. The difference could create a powerful point of debate between the two given the economic focus of the election and the interest in cutting waste from government spending. When they were considering presidential runs, both Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels unapologetically favored thorough reviews of the defense budget and wanted to see cuts. Without the pair of fiscally conservative governors in the race, the primary has lacked much discussion of the issue. But with Huntsman’s and Romney’s differing visions, it could crop up on Tuesday.

One area of agreement between the two former governors: Iran. “I cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. If you want an example of when I would use American force, it would be that,” Huntsman plans to say. 

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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