The World Is Waiting for President Huntsman

The former ambassador to China is uniquely qualified to lead America into a Pacific century.

Former Utah governor and Republican Party presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman listens to a question from a voter in New Hampshire, November 12, 2011
Former Utah governor and Republican Party presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman listens to a question from a voter in New Hampshire, November 12, 2011 (Luke N. Vargas)

Among the Republicans contesting their party’s presidential nomination this year, there is only one man whom the world would definitely prefer over Barack Obama.

The world may be a bystander in America’s presidential election, but it watches carefully. Americans in November elect the most powerful man on the planet and conservative primary voters, starting this January, may be choosing that man.

Although we recognize that their economic predicament takes precedence over questions of foreign and trade policy, in today’s global society, where the collapse of a single American investment bank can bring down the whole of the developed world’s economy, the three are in fact intertwined.

So we have a stake in the matter. Especially at a time of economic calamity, Americans need a president who recognizes that access and openness to investment and trade is of paramount importance. There can be no recovery, in America or elsewhere, if nations slide into protectionism; if “Made in America” is not an emblem of pride and of quality but a harbinger of nationalist revival and an attempt to reverse the trend of globalization.

One nation’s growth cannot come at the expense of another. Nor can there be an industrial renaissance in the United States if it cannot afford anymore to champion freedom and opportunity abroad.

Specter of disengagement

The specter of American disengagement looms largest in the Pacific, where China’s economic success could engender a mentality of expansionism on the part of the country’s next generation of leadership. The United States have to act as a balancer, not to invite a cold war or wage a currency war with China but to ensure that other peoples in East Asia can rise peacefully as well.

Whom better to user in America’s “Pacific century” than the man who served as its ambassador in Beijing for one and a half years before running for president?

Jon Huntsman should be uniquely qualified to combine accommodation and pressure in his China policy as president. He wisely rejects the notion of imposing punitive tariffs on China because the country manipulates the value of its currency and would seek to engage throughout East and South Asia with trade agreements. Huntsman favors a closer relationship with India, which can act as a check on Chinese ambitions in the Indian Ocean region.

Alliance for growth

As America’s military campaign in Afghanistan draws to a close, Huntsman won’t be religious about reining in his country’s mammoth defense apparatus. “Simply advocating more ships, more troops and more weapons is not a viable path forward,” he has said.

The possibility of deploying overwhelming force remains the best possible deterrent to potential national challengers, but wars in this century won’t be waged by conventional means alone.

Maintaining America’s status as a superpower doesn’t require an arsenal of freedom as much as an alliance for growth. The Western model loses credibility when it is enforced and imposed. It has to be welcomed and it should be because it is the most powerful model for prosperity the world has ever known.

To this end, restoring America’s core is an economic and a moral imperative. Its endemic joblessness is a human tragedy. Americans deserve a domestic energy industry that isn’t restrained by empty promises of a green future that isn’t and a business climate that is relieved of the developed world’s second-highest corporate tax rate.

Reform plan

Huntsman’s is quite probably the boldest of economic reform plans put out by any of this year’s presidential hopefuls.

Steeped in supply-side orthodoxy, the man who successfully governed in one of the most conservative states in the country would significantly lower overall tax rates, clear obstacles to investment and eliminate deductions and exemptions that disproportionately affect small businessowners and struggling middle-class families who cannot afford to hire an account to file their tax returns.

Freeing up capital for investment and ending an extremely detrimental form of double taxation on it would nourish ideas and opportunities waiting to lift off to expand employment and American exports. Especially in domestic energy production, traditional and renewable, there is a boom waiting to happen. Huntsman would unchain this industry from a regulatory regime that demands the impossible and destroys sustainable, American jobs every year.

An American economy that is free and prosperous and again the envy of the world, less dependent on foreign production but fully engaged with other nations, is the engine and enabler of an assertive foreign policy that aims not to fundamentally transform the world system into a multilateral and pacifist kingdom come, rather one that recognizes national interests and self-preservation as the appropriate and valid aims of strategy.

Not often do Americans have the opportunity to elect a president who has a policy for economic revival and an international outlook that is consonant with their interests. They do now.

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