Mike Huckabee on War & Peace
Former Republican AR Governor; possible draft candidate
We had a military strategy in place to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein, but we did not have a realistic political strategy of how to turn the culture of a totalitarian nation like Iraq into a democracy overnight. Our original armed forces weren't large enough, and we have worn out our National Guard and our reserves
Q: Oh, I don’t have any evidence. But he was the one who announced openly that he did have weapons of mass destruction. My point was that, no, we didn’t find them. Did they get into Syria? Did they get into some remote area of Jordan? Did they go to some other place? We don’t know. They may not have existed. But simply saying, “We didn’t find them, so therefore they didn’t exist,” is a bit of an overreach.
A: That question is impossible to answer because you are saying, is it worth it in light of what we know but what we didn’t know then. And that’s the whole issue of making tough decisions. As a governor, I often made tough decisions based on the information that I had. Later, when the information was clearer, you know, maybe you would have made a different decision. If we had it to do all over again, would we do it differently? We probably would. But you’re never going to elect somebody to make perfect decisions. But to second guess the president now, I think, is really not a very prudent thing to do. It doesn’t mak us feel any better. And what we’ve got to do is to say, let’s make the best of what we have in Iraq. Let’s make sure that we don’t make a bigger mistake by a premature pullout that does leave Iraq vulnerable to an Al Qaida long-term training facility.
A: I supported Bush when he led us into this. We owe him our thanks that he had the courage to recognize a potential of weapons of mass destruction, and whether than wait until we had another attack, he went and made sure that it wasn’t going to happen from Saddam Hussein. Everybody can say we didn’t find the weapons. It doesn’t mean they weren’t there. Just because you didn’t find every Easter egg didn’t mean that it wasn’t planted.
A: I’m not sure that there’s a big difference on what we would do going into the future. There is a big difference on how we looked at it in the past. I supported the surge. He had questions about it. There were times when he believed that there should be a timed withdrawal. He denied that last night [in the televised debate] and said that he had never taken that position.
Q: Here’s a clip of what he said:
ROMNEY: My policy is, I have never talked about a timed withdrawal with a date certain for us to leave. That’s not the case. Simply wrong.
Q: So he’s flatly denying what you and other news organizations are now insisting is true.
A: Well, I’m just reporting what two different credible news sources, ABC News and The Hill, clearly reported and quoting him. And I will let him try to explain why what he is saying now isn’t what he said then.
Q: Do you believe that there should be a, a timetable in withdrawing the troops?
ROMNEY: Well, there’s no question but that the president and Prime Minister al Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about. But those shouldn’t be for public pronouncement. You don’t want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you’re gonna be gone.
The first rule of war is “know your enemy,” and most Americans do not know theirs. To grasp the magnitude of the threat, we first have to understand what makes Islamic terrorists tick. [Jihadists] see nothing decadent or sinful in murdering in order to achieve their ends. America’s culture of life stands in stark contrast to the jihadists’ culture of death.
Whereas there can be no rational dealings with al Qaeda, Iran is a nation-state seeking regional clout and playing the game of power politics we understand and can skillfully pursue. We cannot live with al Qaeda, but we might be able to live with a contained Iran. Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons on my watch. But I want to do everything possible to avoid conflict.
Rather than wait for the next strike, I prefer to cut to the chase by going after al Qaeda’s safe havens in Pakistan. As commander in chief, the U.S. president must balance threats and risks in calculating how best to protect the American people. We are living on borrowed time. The threat of an attack on us is far graver than the risk that a quick and limited strike against al Qaeda would bring extremists to power in Pakistan.
A: Because we are winning. Civilians deaths are down 76% since the surge. Even the military deaths are down over 60%. And that’s not the only way we know we’re winning. We’re winning because we see in the spirit of our own soldiers a sense of duty and honor that they are being able to carry out a mission that they were sent there to do. To take them out of it not only means we lose, but it means we totally destroy their sense of morale, and it may take a generation to get it back. But there’s more at stake than just their morale. It’s the safety and the security of the Middle East and the rest of the world. This is about every one of us being able to be free, to have a future, and to be able to know that we’re not going to allow a vacuum there, which happens if we lose--and we lose when we walk away--to create an opening so that terrorists can build even greater cells of training there. That’s why we have to stay. And it’s why we have to win.
A: We need to put American troops not to do military action but to train and arm the Kurds. They are capable of taking care of those terrorist cells along the Kurdish territory. They’ve proven that. And we should provide some assistance both in arming them & training them, to try to resolve this crisis. It’s not an exciting thing to see Turkey move across that border, but the more we can do to bolster the Kurds, that’s our best strategy
: A president has to do whatever is necessary to protect the American people. If we think Iran is building nuclear capacity that could be used against us in any way, including selling some of the nuclear capacity to some other terrorist group, then yes, we have a right to do it. And I would do it in a heartbeat.
Q: Without going to Congress?
A: Well, if it’s necessary to get it done because it’s actionable right now, yes. If you have the time and the luxury of going to Congress, that’s always better.
Q: And if Congress says no, what do you do?
A: You do what’s best for the American people, and you suffer the consequences. What you never do is let the American people one day get hit with a nuclear device because you had politics going on in Washington instead of the protection of the American people first.
A: The threat we face is one a lot of Americans don’t fully comprehend or understand. This isn’t a typical geo-political war. It’s a war against an enemy tha has no national borders or boundaries. It’s a theological war. It’s not politically correct to say that. It’s just the truth. We are fighting people whose religious fanaticism will not be satisfied until every last one of us is dead, until our culture, our society, is completely obliterated from the face of the earth. It is the perfect marriage of religion & state, and that’s why it is so incredibly dangerous, more so than any enemy we face. And here’s the reality. War is about will. Whoever chooses to leave loses. We can’t afford to lose, because this is not a war about Iraq, it’s not a war about Afghanistan, it’s a war about our survival as a civilization and as a people, and every effort must be made to defend this great country against it.
A: We have to continue the surge, and let me explain why. When I was a little kid, if I went into a store with my mother, she had a simple rule for me: If I picked something off the shelf at the store and I broke it, I bought it. I learned I don’t pick something off the shelf I can’t afford to buy. Well, what we did in Iraq, we essentially broke it. It’s our responsibility to do the best we can to try to fix it before we just turn away. I 100% agree that we can’t leave until we’ve left with honor because, whether or not we should have gone to Iraq is a discussion the historians can have, but we’re there. We bought it because we broke it. We’ve got a responsibility to the honor of this country and to the honor of every man and woman who has served in Iraq and ever served in our military to not leave them with anything less than the honor that they deserve
A: Certainly. The middle ground is that we win this war & we do it with honor. We don’t just stay indefinitely. We put some pressure on the Saudis. Look, we’ve made them rich. Every time somebody in this room goes to the gas pump, you’ve helped make the Saudi royal family a little wealthier. And the money that has been used against us in terrorism has largely come from the Middle East. There’s two things we’ve got to do. Number one, we’ve got to insist that the people in that neighborhood take a far greater role militarily and financially in solving the problem. It’s their neighborhood. But the second thing we’d do, for our own national security, is end our dependence on foreign oil. And let’s not play around and say “30 years,” let’s get it done. Let’s get it done now. And let’s make sure that we don’t have to depend upon their oil for our future energy needs.
A: We’re all frustrated with the Iraqi government. I think that given the extraordinary sacrifices that Americans have made to help them be strong and to be free, their internal squabbles are a great disappointment.
But at the same time, it does not lessen the fact that if we just up and pull out and chaos breaks loose and refugees run to the borders by the millions and destabilize the region, the ultimate effect of that will come back to haunt the US.
So, have we made huge mistakes there? Oh my heavens, yes. We certainly have. But we can’t look backwards in the rearview That’s a tiny piece of glass. We’ve got to look forward in the windshield. That’s a much bigger piece of glass. We’d better be asking ourselves, “What happens if we ultimately fail here?” Those are the implications we’ve got to put on the table first.
A: It is a huge problem. But imagine if millions and millions more go to these countries, whose infrastructure simply can’t absorb them. Then you have a destabilized region. One of the things that the US must do is to more strongly insist to the Saudis, the Jordanians, the Turks, the Kuwaitis that their involvement militarily, their involvement financially, their involvement even theologically with the more radical wings of the Islamic faith are critical for us to solve this issue.
A: I would’ve done that before the election. I certainly wouldn’t have said that we are not going to do it and then, right after the election, done so. But that’s the president’s call. Clearly there was a real error in judgment, and that primarily had to do with listening to a lot of civilians in suits & silk ties and not listening enough to the generals with mud and blood on their boots. Those generals told us, early on, it would take 300,000 troops to successfully go in and stabilize Iraq. Instead we gave them a limited number of troops and a budget and said, you have to do it with this. I think that’s something, now, we understand was a mistake. But rather than simply walking away and leaving the Middle East in a complete disastrous chaos that will spread to the region and to the rest of the world, it’s important that we finish the job, that we do it right, rather than have to go back and some day do it over.
A: I think it’s too early to give them the grade. You don’t give a student a grade in the middle of the exam. We’re still in the middle of the exam. Let’s wait and see how it turns out, then we can give the president a grade.
Q: But a teacher will usually give you a heads-up, maybe midway through that semester.
A: In Arkansas, we didn’t get a grade until it was over.
A: I think he’s had a lot of struggles, particularly in managing the war in Iraq. We did a great job of going in and toppling Saddam Hussein. The tough part has been bringing some sense of stability there. I think the domestic agenda has also almost been ignored and overlooked because we have spent so much of a time on Iraq.
A: I think that’s a dangerous position to take, to oppose a sitting commander in chief while we’ve got people being shot at on the ground. I think it’s one thing to have a debate and a discussion about this strategy, but to openly oppose, in essence, the strategy, I think that can be a very risky thing for our troops.
It may well be that the intelligence on which the decision was made was incomplete or flawed, but had we failed to topple Saddam’s empire and he had utilized WMDs against us, there would have been an even greater anger that we failed to act.
Now that we have gone to Iraq, one thing is certain--we need to make sure that we finish the job and finish it right. If we were to pull out prematurely and allow tyranny to be restored to that nation, the ripple effect throughout the Middle East and the world would be profound.
I would never want to sacrifice one particle of America’s power. Ronald Reagan had it right when he led this country to unprecedented military strength. Our best defense is a military so well equipped and so well trained that no one wants to challenge it. Strength is a far more effective deterrent to war than is weakness, and the US should never be apologetic for the development of the strongest military forces on the face of the earth. But with the development of strength and unprecedented power there must also be unprecedented restraint.
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George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)