A few weeks ago, I spoke at length with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour for an upcoming magazine profile. You’ll have to wait until the April issue comes out to read the whole thing, but given today’s news, I thought I’d excerpt the part of our interview where he spoke about foreign policy and Afghanistan.
Here’s what Barbour told me when asked for his foreign policy views:
“I’m an open market, free trade, Reagan internationalist who believes in peace through strength, but I also come from the political school that in foreign policy and national security, politics all stop at the waters’ edge. Always believed that. I’m not going to shoot at the Obama administration about who lost Egypt. But I do think this – we have place in the world and it’s a very important place in the world that we need to perform our role as the beacon of freedom, democracy, and republican form of government. I think that’s critically important I worry about nation building. It is one thing to go in for peacekeeping and restore order and stability and then leave, or leave a small force. I’m not comfortable with nation building. I wasn’t when it was in Somalia. When I was chairman of the party though, you will see I never criticized Clinton, because I don’t think party chairman in particular have any business talking about foreign policy. But, in this world of terrorism, which is a threat that was we’ve only really been dealing with now for 10 years in this big sense, might that require some exception to the prohibition of nation building — prohibition’s too strong a word – to the general policy against nation building? It could, but we need to be very, very, careful before we go down that path and look (to see) if there are not other ways to accomplish defeating terrorists and eliminating the threat of terrorists. Short of trying to make Afghanistan the equivalent of Italy, that’s mission creep beyond anything imaginable, yet our ambassador told the president in 2009 we shouldn’t send more troops in there because the government doesn’t control the country. If the that’s the test in Afghanistan, it’s the wrong test….There has hardly ever been any government in Afghanistan that controlled the whole country.”