Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Republicans divided on defense cuts

Republicans may want voters to forget about the legacy of George W. Bush, especially when it comes to foreign policy. But the ideological conflicts faced by the former president are resurfacing in Afghanistan as Republicans weigh military commitments abroad against spending cuts at home.

Bush warned during the 2000 campaign against “using our troops as nation-builders.” Criticizing Bill Clinton's military interventions in Kosovo and elsewhere, he said “the role of the military is to fight and win wars” and thus prevent future wars — not to help govern rural provinces and spend billions tutoring Third World nations into becoming 21st century democracies.

The Sept. 11 attacks changed all that, of course, but now, 11 years after Bush first voiced that skepticism, many Republicans have lost patience with nation-building. And it's happening against the backdrop of President Barack Obama's announcement of a drawdown timeline for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

On NBC's TODAY on Wednesday, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, the latest Republican to join the presidential race, said, "What we need now is a healthy dose of nation-building here at home."

Since the Vietnam War, the Republican Party — with a few exceptions — has defined itself as the one calling for bigger military budgets and making an unapologetic defense of American interests around the world.

But Afghanistan has put Republican deficit cutters at odds with the party’s advocates of a robust military.
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