I like Mike Huckabee.
I think of all the potential 2012 Republican challengers for the office of President, I like this former Governor of Arkansas the most.
He seems a kind, thoughtful, and ethical man. He has the folksy charm typical of most southern politicians. The down-home congeniality and the seeming complete lack of guile engender a certain sense of well-being reminiscent of the feeling one gets from an indulgent uncle or even father figure.
But there lies the rub……
If Gov. Huckabee runs for President, he will face many complex challenges. The stagnate world economy, the burgeoning federal budget deficit, Islamofascism and terrorism, not to mention the rise of multi-national threats from places like Russia , North Korea, the emerging leftist powers in Central and South America, and the growing angst over the debt, jobs and the economy here in America. These and the multitude of other issues old and new will task any President as no previous President has ever been tasked before. He will have to show clarity of purpose, strength of character and a near maniacal attention to the details as none of his predecessors have ever had to demonstrate. As unfair as it seems, he will have to be all things to all people. All this begs the question: Does he have the gravitas for the job?
This week we have seen our most important ally in North Africa, Egypt, come apart at the seams. The regime of President Hosni Mubarak seems to be coming to an ignominious and violent end just as the regime of Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s did two weeks ago in the wake of riots over food prices and availability, and lack of economic opportunity.
President Mubarak was successor to Anwar Sadat, whose exit from power thirty years ago was precipitated by his own military who gunned him down during a military parade. Since the assassination of Sadat, peace has reigned between Israel, Egypt and the Kingdom of Jordan. Mubarak has honored the Camp David Treaty and has been helpful in other areas of Mideast security and cooperation. As consequence Egypt receives massive quantities of American foreign aid as a premium. That aid, in the form of out-rights cash grants and loan guarantees, has amounted to tens of billions of taxpayer dollars over the last three decades.
Foreign policy isn’t without its challenges and like family; we have very little choice as to who we can entreat. Many of the players are not the most savory of characters, but we must deal with them none the less, like them or not. Occasionally, we get lucky and have a meeting of the minds (and souls) like the relationship between Britain and America and pairings like Churchill and Roosevelt or Thatcher and Reagan. Other times, it’s much the opposite. Countries like North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran present great challenges and their leadership offers little in the way of cooperation or dialog. Then there are those who may be somewhat cooperative and capable of working in common cause, but their internal politics are diametrically different from our own. This is the dynamic we find in most of the world and in particular, what we find in the Islamic world. Most nations there are, to be blunt, dictatorships that may don the façade of “democracy” but fail to practice its precepts to any great degree. Some are hereditary monarchies who treat their countries as a “family business” and their people as vassals or if they are lucky, as dependents with little or no say in the affairs of state.
In an article published in the Jerusalem Post on February 2. 2011, Gov. Huckabee, when questioned on the events in Egypt and of the position President Mubarak found himself in, said “…it is going to be incumbent upon the US to reassure its allies that there is not going to be a consistency of abandonment when it comes to difficulty and troubles that a nation might face.” While a laudable position, one has to question its wisdom, or just how far the Governor would go in “reassuring"’ allies
The U.S. has relationships with many countries around the world and it would be safe to say, the internal politics and legal standards in most of them fall far short of what we in the U.S. would consider just or fair. Many nations are ruled by juntas, cabals, Presidents-for-life, or single party dictatorships. While we espouse freedom, democratic values, and the rule of law, we end up doing business with those who care little for such lofty principles. Egypt is one such country.
President Mubarak has not played by the rules. He has violated the Egyptian Constitution and held office far longer than the law allows. He has ruled by edict at times and has banned any opposition political parties within Egypt. We in America do business with him because it serves our purposes to do so and peace is kept in a place where peace is scarce. It allowed a valued ally, Israel, to live without fear of invasion from its southern flank for over 30 years.
Unfortunately, this situation has come at a significant cost.
America made the calculation that we had to support an autocrat in order to maintain the peace.
America can’t and should not make a practice of pledging to “stand by” such regimes if their internal politics are such that they create the seeds or their own destruction. If we are to be true to ourselves and to the principles we so vociferously espouse to the world, we have to be more vocal and more insistent on certain standards of behavior from those we ally ourselves. We have to be up front with the world and with the people of those nations we do business with. We must tell them that while we may sympathize with their plight, we can’t and won’t interfere in the internal politics of any nation. Far too often America has intervened and far too often we have been left in a worse position in the wake of that intervention. Iran is one such country. In the 1950’s America instigated a coup (Operation Ajax) against the lawfully elected government and backed the autocratic rule of Shah Reza Pahlavi for three decades that followed until he himself was deposed by an even more autocratic and decidedly unfriendly regime to American interests. The people of Iran have long memories. They will more likely than not eschew re-establishment of anything resembling normal diplomatic or commercial relations with us again, at least for the foreseeable future This is one of many examples of just how badly this nation has calculated consequences for our actions.
Gov. Huckabee’s statement that we should stand by our allies is a laudable sentiment, but it should be tempered with a very strong, public equivocation that while we will honor agreements made and stand by the concept of peace between nations and the precept of defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations, no particular promise of fidelity or fraternity can or should be made to individual leaders or their governments, especially those who violate the very precepts freedom, liberty and self-determination that we in America hold dear. We should not place the honor of our nation at risk by giving more than the most cursory amount of consideration necessary to do business with any country that abuses the rights of its people. To do so marks us hypocrites. It opens us up to internal and external ridicule over “human rights”. It also creates situations like what we face with Iran who has now become a major military and foreign policy concern.
Gov. Huckabee needs to show less “Dutch uncle” and more adamance; a more pronounced line of reasoning in regard to relations with other counties. He also needs to craft his statements to reflect that reasoning, especially when it concerns leaders and governments whose practices and internal dynamics are so decidedly different from our own. Egypt may be an ally as far as regional security is concerned, but America needs to take a more hands-off approach to the internal situation there. We have to let the people of Egypt know that we in America will do nothing to stifle their desires to force reform within their country and that while we look on with concern at the violence and pray for the safety and well being of the people of Egypt, it is a situation that only they themselves can solve. They must chart a path that is in their best interests and that when they are ready and if they are willing, we here in America will honor the agreements we have made with their country and work with whatever government they choose. We can’t afford more Iran’s……