Haley Barbour: Reduce troops in Afghanistan

Originally posted at AMERICAblog Elections: The Right’s Field

David Dayen finds something you won’t see every day: a conservative Republican expressing doubt about the US mission in Afghanistan. In this case, it’s Haley Barbour:

(Barbour) also said that the U.S. should consider reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan. “I think we need to look at that,” he said when asked if the U.S. should scale back its presence.

But he said his reasoning isn’t financial.

“What is our mission?” Barbour said. “How many Al Qaeda are in Afghanistan. … Is that a 100,000-man Army mission?”

“I don’t think our mission should be to think we’re going to make Afghanistan an Ireland or an Italy” or a Western-style democracy, he said.

Mike Huckabee recently said Haley Barbour was “possibly the most brilliant political mind in America.” I found that assessment of someone with a sketchy history of statements and positions on race to be laughable. But it’s hard not to respect what Barbour is doing now. Barbour is breaking with Republican orthodoxy and in so doing creating contrast between himself and his primary opponents. The break isn’t as dramatic as you’d think in an environment where despite two-thirds of America wanting to end the war, it’s been escalated by a Democratic President. Add in that Huckabee himself expressed doubts last month about how we get out of Afghanistan and Barbour’s position is slightly less remarkable. That said, calling for an exit from Afghanistan is a popular position in America that is not often stated by politicians who wear a “D” after their name. We’ll see how much Afghanistan becomes an issue in the 2012 Republican primary. I’d be somewhat surprised if either Barbour or Huckabee push their chips in on ending war their base has cheered for nearly a decade.

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