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Jon Huntsman, eager for Kadafi's fall, opposed U.S. intervention [updated]

August 22, 2011|By Paul West | Washington Bureau
  • Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. speaks at a town hall meeting in Exeter, N.H.
Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. speaks at a town hall… (Jim Cole/Associated Press )

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr., one of the sharpest critics of President Obama’s Libya policy, quickly joined other politicians Monday in praising the dramatic progress made by rebel units against Moammar Kadafi’s regime.

FOR THE RECORD: The headline on an earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Moammar Kadafi's regime has been defeated. Kadafi has not given up power.

Huntsman, in a statement, called the Libyan dictator’s “impending fall” one “chapter in the developing story of a nation in turmoil. Kadafi has been a longtime opponent of freedom, and I am hopeful — as the whole world should be — that his defeat is a step toward openness, democracy and human rights for a people who greatly deserve it."

The upbeat reaction by Huntsman, a former Obama administration diplomat, was in sharp contrast to his earlier, repeated attacks on the president’s Libya policy.

Huntsman, whose foreign policy experience sets him apart from his GOP rivals, has said he would not have intervened in Libya in the first place because the mission was not an important national security interest for the U.S.

Huntsman also described the military and humanitarian operation to oust Kadafi as too expensive at a time of financial pressure in the U.S.

Finally, he was critical of Obama’s decision to act unilaterally, without seeking congressional permission, in dispatching American military forces as part of the NATO operation.

This month when asked at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire whether that was an impeachable offense, Huntsman refused to answer directly, saying he would let Congress make the decision.

A campaign spokesman said the impending collapse of the Kadafi regime does not change Huntsman’s criticism of Obama’s policy.

“Governor Huntsman’s view remains that intervention in Libya was a mistake and not core to our national security interest, “ said spokesman Tim Miller, who also took issue with the characterization that Huntsman’s latest comment was in sharp contrast to his earlier attacks.  “It’s not.  His criticism of the president’s Libya policy remains.”

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