Mississippi Governor and potential presidential aspirant Haley Barbour (R) made news Tuesday when he publicly expressed skepticism over the United States' continuing military intervention in Afghanistan. In a speech at a Scott County GOP event in Iowa, Barbour wondered aloud, "What is our mission? How many al Qaeda are in Afghanistan? ... Is that a 100,000-man Army mission?"
Let's add to that the fact that Barbour is urging a cautious approach to the conflict in Libya, as well. Here's Andy Kroll at Mother Jones:
In a Tuesday speech in which he ripped Obama's economic policies, Barbour also advocated for a more realistic, less reactionary response to the bloody crisis in Libya, where the military forces of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi are violently quelling a popular uprising: "I think we need to be cautious about being quick on the trigger." Barbour went on:
"The idea of nation-building, in my opinion, is something we need to be very, very, very careful about. I don't think it's our mission to make Libya look like Luxembourg...At the end of the day, we might have some role in Libya but it should not be to send American troops in there and knock heads and make Libya what we would like Libya to look like. Because it, no offense, is not ever going to look like what we'd like it."
Ben Smith noted yesterday that Barbour's comments on Afghanistan were "a major moment in the nascent Republican presidential primary." I can't endorse that observation enough: the past few months have mainly been paced by would-be candidates tacking around the edges of the primary -- staffing up, offering platitudes, dithering with their ultimate decisions -- and Barbour has just stepped to the fore and started the season's first substantive conversation. There was a moment earlier this week where Barbour looked like he might have only marked this week's news cycle with some terrible jokes that a campaign staffer made about the Japan tsunami. Not anymore.
Time's Joe Klein remarked Tuesday: "When Barbour decides that Afghanistan is a loser, you can bet that more than a few Republicans are heading that way--and that means interesting times for the trigger-happy neoconservatives who have dominated Republican foreign policy thinking in recent years." Barbour's lack of appetite for a hot approach to Libya definitively pushes him further from the madding neocon crowd, who've largely been a-bellow with their typical "Do something!" demands over Libya.
We'll wait and see if Barbour arrives at the realization that the war in Afghanistan is not, as many seem to believe, "deficit-neutral."
Does Haley Barbour Back Obama's Libya's Strategy? [Mother Jones]