Jon Huntsman denounced nation building in a foreign policy speech on Monday, putting a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan at the front of his agenda.
“After 6,000 lives lost and more than $1 trillion spent, it is time to bring our brave troops home,” Huntsman told an audience at Southern New Hampshire University. “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.”
Huntsman contrasted his style with Mitt Romney’s call last week for more defense spending and a larger Navy.
“Simply advocating more ships, more troops, and more weapons is not a viable path forward,” Huntsman said. “We need more agility, more intelligence, and more economic engagement with the world.”
Nonetheless, he isn’t running as pure anti-war candidate: he took a hardline stance on Iran, pledging to stop the former from acquiring a nuclear weapon with unusually aggressive rhetoric.
“I cannot live with a nuclear armed Iran,” he said. “If you want an example of when I would consider the use of American force, it would be that.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.