The Lincoln-Douglas style debate between Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman was held today in New Hampshire. Little actual debating occurred; it was primarily Gingrich and Huntsman answering the same question and happening to be at the same table.
Huntsman reiterated that it was time to leave Afghanistan, although he stressed that we need to be sure we could keep gathering intelligence and we should continue training the Afghan National Army as needed. On Pakistan, he spoke of how financial assistance should be “tied very specifically with outcomes and with careful cooperation.” Gingrich argued that bin Laden could only have been hiding in his house if “a substantial part” of the Pakistani intelligence was not willing to cooperate with the United States. He also blasted the Obama administration for being unwilling to talk about the threat of radical Islam, comparing it to “talking about the Cold War and not talking about communists.”
On Iran, Gingrich said, “I believe we cannot allow them to have a nuclear weapon,” and argued that could only be achieved by forcing a “regime change,” although he said he would ideally not use military forces to change the regime. He called the notion that Iran’s nuclear facilities could be targeted and bombed accurately and completely, without also killing a significant number of civilians, a “fantasy.” Huntsman called Iran the “transcendent challenge” the United States faces, and stressed that if Iran got a nuke, Saudia Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt would all be likely to follow. “I would have to agree all options need to be on the table, and the mullahs in Tehran need to know that all options are on the table,” Huntsman said.
When the topic shifted to the Arab Spring, Huntsman was cautious about intervention, although he did say that he saw Syria as different than Libya due to the countries’ differing relationship with Iran. Gingrich fretted about the long-term impact of the events in Egypt, saying that “unceremoniously” dumping Hosni Murabak rather than finding a way to allow “him to retire with dignity” could have made other allies of long standing distrust us.
Huntsman said he was open to cutting funding for the Department of Defense; Gingrich blasted the sequester’s automatic defense cuts, and said that he would concentrate on eliminating waste from DOD by implementing Lean Six Sigma.
In his closing remarks, Gingrich happily noted that no one had asked him to achieve the “nutty” feat of explaining his views on Libya in thirty seconds, and commented on how the primary was not a “reality show.”