Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman called for scaling back U.S. involvement in international military engagements -- including Afghanistan -- and cutting military spending in a foreign policy address today.
“We must right-size our current foreign entanglements,” he said. “Simply put, we are risking American blood and treasure in parts of the world where our strategy needs to be rethought.”
In the speech delivered at Southern New Hampshire University in Hooksett, the former U.S. ambassador to China under President Barack Obama framed his foreign policy doctrine as one focused on boosting the domestic economy. He called for expanding U.S. economic relationships across the globe, in part through finding areas of cooperation with China and congressional ratification of new trade deals.
“We need a foreign policy based on expansion -- the expansion of America’s competitiveness and engagement in the world through partnerships and trade agreements,” he said.
Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, is seeking to distinguish himself in his presidential bid on the strength of his foreign policy credentials, even as the focus of the campaign remains squarely on economic issues.
Contrast With Romney
Trying to make gains in the Republican field as polls show him with little backing, Huntsman in his speech today contrasted his views with those detailed last week by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who polls show leading the race for the party’s nomination next year.
Romney detailed his foreign policy outlook in an Oct. 7 speech at the Citadel, a military college in Charleston, South Carolina. He said that if elected, he would move to boost U.S. military strength, in part by expanding the Navy and missile defenses.
Huntsman criticized that approach today, saying the country needs to “reexamine” its defense spending. He advocated reducing the post-Cold War military infrastructure in favor of putting greater focus on counterterrorism and intelligence gathering.
“Simply advocating more ships, more troops and more weapons is not a viable path forward,” Huntsman said.
Romney, at a campaign stop today at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Milford, New Hampshire, criticized Huntsman’s foreign policy stance without naming him.
“This is not a time for America to pull back on our commitment to a strong military,” he said.
In response to a question from an attendee, Romney said strengthening the armed forces is the best way to prevent the United States from becoming embroiled in foreign conflicts.
“I hope we can avoid becoming the policeman of the world by instead becoming the example of the world,” Romney said.
Huntsman, 51, took aim at his former boss, saying Obama’s policies “have weakened America, and thus diminished America’s presence on the global stage.”
Much of his speech centered on developing economic ties with fast-growing Asian nations. Huntsman called for passage of pending trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, which Congress may vote on this week. He said he would pursue agreements with Japan and Taiwan and conclude negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord, which he said would open markets in Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The United States needs to find areas of cooperation with China, he said, suggesting that the countries could work together on developing clean-energy technology, combating global pandemics, and fighting ocean piracy. He voiced his opposition to congressional legislation that would punish China for keeping the value of its currency low.
China’s Foreign Ministry says that the bill violates World Trade Organization rules and that passage would severely damage the U.S.-China economic relationship.
Huntsman said the legislation could spark a trade war between the two nations.
“The last thing you need between the two top economies in the world is a trade war,” he said.
He also called for the U.S. to expand its relationships with Mexico, other Latin American nations and India, saying he backed the latter country’s bid to join the United Nations Security Council.
Huntsman reiterated that in Afghanistan, he would withdraw most U.S. forces while leaving a small core of troops on the ground in the country next year.
“It is cultural arrogance to think we can make tribal leaders into democratic leaders,” he said. “It is wishful thinking to believe that our troops, by staying for a couple more years, will prevent further instability or even civil war.”
One area where Huntsman said he doesn’t advocate a more “judicious approach” is in dealing with Israel and the threat it faces from Iran.
“I cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran,” he said. “If you want an example of when I would use American force, it would be that.”
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