The Hunter Doctrine – Leave Europe to the Soviets

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Guest Commentary
by Jason Jackson

This week Congressman Duncan Hunter’s office announced a foreign policy vision that should be of deep concern to conservatives. In his own words, Mr. Hunter believes that America’s foreign policy should be “you go in, you kick a–, you leave.” Mr. Hunter goes so far as to refer to this as the “Hunter Doctrine.” Fortunate for us we had the Marshall Plan after WWII – If Mr. Hunter had been in charge we would have kicked Germany’s a– and then left Europe to the Soviets.

While the Mr. Hunter’s “doctrine” is certainly full of bravado, it lacks any of the characteristics that we would normally associate with a foreign policy doctrine. Most glaringly absent is a sense of what America’s strategic objectives should be. While the Monroe Doctrine sought to keep European imperial powers off America’s shores, and the Truman Doctrine sought to contain communism, the Hunter Doctrine doesn’t reach such lofty heights. Rather, Mr. Hunter suggests that our foreign policy should be “Were going to kill the people that are disrupting the world order and then leave, and you’re going to be stuck with the aftermath.” According to Hunter, this will be achieved by sending about 20,000 marines to global hotspots for a few months to kill the bad guys. It seems Hunter is advocating for the fulfillment of the Clinton/Obama view of the U.S. military as the world’s police force. Mr. Hunter decides which of the world’s bad guys are sufficiently “disruptive” to merit the death penalty, and then he sends in the marines to carry out the sentence.

To be charitable, if we sift through Mr. Hunter’s machismo we might find that his objective is to avoid the U.S. military being bogged down in prolonged nation building exercises with uncertain victory conditions. While this is a worthy objective, Mr. Hunter overshoots his target. The Hunter doctrine is a Frankenstein monster that combines some of the worst foreign policy blunders of the past 20 years. Rumsfeld like limits on force structure? Check. President Bush’s disregard for local ethnic and sectarian differences? Check. President Obama’s eagerness to quit the battlefield before sustained victory is assured? Check.

It has been well documented that Mr. Hunter’s voting record has been drifting to the left since he arrived in Washington (Club for Growth ’14 Score: 70; Heritage Action Score: 67). While this trend has disappointed conservatives, Mr. Hunter has always enjoyed a presumption that he is a leader on foreign policy. If the Hunter Doctrine is emblematic of Mr. Hunter’s foreign policy however, that presumption, like the presumption of his conservatism more generally, will increasingly be rebuttable.


Jason Jackson (pictured above) graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2002. After graduation, he deployed as a naval officer in support of the War on Terrorism, earning the Navy Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, and numerous campaign and unit citations for his service in the conflict. He has a master’s degree in Political Science from San Diego State University, and a law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, CA.


Comments 12

  1. Duncan Hunter strikes shrewd balance between interventionism and non-interventionism and takes heat from hawks and doves alike. News at 11.

  2. I don’t know that I hate the “Hunter Doctrine”, provided that it is accompanied by specific authorization from Congress (Declaration of War or Letter of Marque and Reprisal)

    If we pull out of the Middle East, with an admonition of “Don’t make us come back cuz it ain’t gonna be pretty”, we’d only have to make good on that promise once a generation or two

  3. Hunter votes with Pelosi 30% of the time.
    Now that’s a RINO
    East county needs to vote him out.

  4. Before you all get your panties in a bunch, understand that what Duncan said was just an off the cuff casual comment. He probably didn’t even know it would be picked up and printed.
    He’s actually quite knowledgeable about military strategy, having served three tours among other reasons.

  5. Red I would accept that it was a casual comment but for the fact that the original rostra article was provided by Hunter’s office. Hunter’s subsequent promotion of the piece implies his endorsement of its substance.

  6. Many observers confuse operational experience with tactics as a license for understanding strategy. There are plenty of examples of very good athletes you would not want as coach or general manager. There are those that have tactical experience that cannot and should not be expected to understand the complexities and issues with a greater national strategy (just because one has been deployed as an infantryman or a seaman doesn’t qualify him solely to work at the National Security Council).

    There are those that wallow in the hollowed spaces of academia that may have a book sense of “strategy” but have no practical application of it or seen (or comprehend or care about) the ramifications in an operational or tactical setting (Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes come to mind, not to mention the current C-in-C). Rarely do you have the Pol who can and has grasped the detailed experience and journeyman’s understanding of “tactics” in an operational setting and then been able to bridge the gap to absorb and expound upon issues related to geo-strategic concern and impact.

    Tom Cotton is one who has done this well. Marco Rubio is one, while not having served in uniform, understands and can convey the salient aspects of larger foreign policy and national security issues with authority and gravitas. How often do those without military experience try to embellish or flat out lie about such experience? Because we all innately understand that it implies a certain courage, poise under fire, raw leadership amidst crisis, etc… (e.g. Hillary’s “sniper” tale, or Blumenthal’s “combat tours” in Vietnam…both untrue yet trying to convey “military” prowess and understanding)

    I have met and observed smart capable people that exude competence and natural leadership traits with a broad and detailed understand of NS and FP that have never served a day in the military. I have served with many combat” meat-eaters” that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with them running a lemonade stand, let alone weighing in on our foreign policy or national security.

    I’m leery of any politicians coining “doctrine” whether in or out of uniform, unless they have a longtime, deep and broad understanding at the myriad of complex issues and actually contributed to the nation’s security in a measurable and meaningful way (again, Ms. Clinton accomplished neither in her tenure as SECSTATE) . Most of the time it is google/staff deep and often out of naivety and misunderstood.

  7. Bravo Jason. This is nice coming from an Academy Grad. Let’s hear from a West Point Grad – Elliot?

    “He’s actually quite knowledgeable about military strategy” – Red Grant

    Red – No one is questioning the congressman’s knowledge of strategy. What some of us are beginning to question is his knowledge of the principles that framed the foreign policy of our Framers. Constitutionally limited government, self-determinition, property rights.

  8. hmmm. Where to begin. First off the Hunter Doctrine seems to be a watered down version of the Wienberger Doctrine WITHOUT the key assessment of the situation and clearly defined definitions of success to know if its worth it. Hunter cited the Gulf War as how he would fight – but the strategy there wasn’t to kick a-, it was to liberate a country from a foreign occupier, not regime change like we saw in Afghanistan and Iraq. Different situations from those he is picking.

    It also ignores why nation building and insurgencies pop up. Its usually because the “strike” that he advocates hasn’t achieved objectives and neighboring powers either try to fill the vaccuum we are created with insurgencies or we have destabilized the area so much with our strike that we try to (nation) build a partner that can manage the area without requiring additional expenditures or strikes on our part to shape the area to our benefit/interests.

    Also, the Hunter Doctrine suffers from the same dilemma that the US had after Vietnam. Rather than learning about Insurgencies and conflicts like Vietnam or why we got into them. DoD embarked on rebuilding itself in the 70s and focused specifically on fighting an enemy that would adhere to Soviet Doctrine. Saddam foolishly showed up and gave us the fight we were looking for. No one else did. The point being a “doctrine” like this says what kind of fights we want but it is no way tailored to address the issues we might face. This is where his doctrine slides into Bush-Rumsfeld Doctrine mode. It believes every foreign situation invites a military response and even the narrower strike response. This actually becomes more destabilizing as powers try to anticipate what and where the US will strike. It also invites an asymmetric response from our opponents. Insurgencies and people’s war are preferred today because conventional conflict with the US is suicidal. A hard conventional strike or the threat of it only invites more creativity and more non-state actors with no discernible ties to states that we can punish. We will face attacks and only have this strike doctrine designed to punish states that we can’t find responsible. We’d be looking around to see where we can throw a punch (Rumsfeld’s “but there are no good targets in Afghanistan” comes to mind). In the end we’d (still) have no doctrine on how to address these non-state actors which is the problem of the day.

    That’s my short answer on the strategy side. I’m sure comments will draw out more.

    Constitutionally, it suffers from what our strategy always has – how are we empowered as a nation to strike nations we deem “bad guys” as we see fit. Sure, the founders wanted a declaration of war which now amounts to a funding of war so I guess this is met. But does a strike doctrine make us freer, safer, or more prosperous?

    At the expense, the acquired obligations, and tangled webs we weave in our forays as seen in the bigger budgets, the new invasive security requirements, and the new enemies want to harm us we are not doing any of the three. So the founders who wanted to keep America young would very much see us playing the foreign entanglement games that the European Monarchies loved to engage in back in the 1770s.

  9. Congressman Hunter’s remarks sound appealing, and would be widely popular – for a few months.

    The current state of American foreign policy is a function of the vacuum left by the defeat of a brutal Iraqi governenme we ourselves strongly supported to counter the VERY regime we see as such a destabizing force – Iran.

    Since the beginning of ‘the long twilight struggle’ (the Cold War) BOTH parties had a vested interest in uniting the free world together to defeat the worldwide scourge of communism.

    Speaking strictly from a realpolitik perspective, have American interests abroad really improved since Reagan told Gorbachev to ‘tear down this wall!’ in 1989?

    Be careful what you wish for.

    In the abstract most say ‘yes’ – the Soviet Union was an evil empire and the world is better off today because they’re no longer an ‘imminent’ threat.

    I’d argue in fact we were better off facing a rational ‘evil empire’ than any number of irrational smaller states and NGO’s (whether speaking of the Red Cross, Al Queda or ISIS, NGO’s have achieved a level of influence unheard of a generation ago).

    Is there any doubt we live in an NGO driven world?

    Think about it; 9/11 was an NGO operation.

    It led to a series of events hardly imaginable to major intelligence agencies worldwide.

    Now the balance of power in the Middle East has been dramatically shifted with the removal of ‘brutal’ states like Iraq and Libya among others too numerous to mention.

    The age of the ‘go in and break things and leave’ is long past.

    It didn’t work after WWI which is largely why WW2 was made possible.

    The lessons of WW2 were learned and the education was leveraged – the hard way – by every president since Truman.

    Then when the ‘unthinkable’ happened (fall of the Soviet Union) suddenly we had two great competing orchestras (the Democratic and Republican parties) – who lost their sheet music.

    And they still have not found it.

    Instead if presenting beautiful pieces of classical music – in their own style – now they have taken to a brutal ‘battle of the bands’ type of competition where the ‘winner’ is the group with the best pyrotechnics and light show.

    In 2015, we should demand more from those in Congress.

    If we are to retain our global preeminence at least long enough to have a ‘soft’ landing (of the American Empire) we need leaders who understand the ‘bigger picture’ who will work hard to preserve American values, who will work in earnest to pass them on elsewhere worldwide.

    Our country – the most successful former group of colonies in the British Empire – should look to other former colonies (India in particular) to carry on where we will be leaving off.

    We have two choices; delude ourselves that America will remain strong for centuries OR continue to spread our values (traditionally Western, Anglo-American) through surrogates like India and Brazil, etc.

    Very few people talking about world affairs talk about the fact the world we leave behind for our children is going to be vast different.

    Whose rules do we want our children and grandchildren playing by 50-100-150 years from now? Do we want the living in a world run by a confederation of democracies (largely including many former Britsh colonies) in an effort to maintain ‘our values’ or will we be content to declining influence and power all over the globe in a world run by the pseudo communist Chinese.

    These are broad and strategic questions, but the harsh facts of the matter are – history rolls past us – daily.

    Less than twenty five years ago, the Soviet Union became a thing if he last.

    Yet not in Mr. Putin’s mind. The rising threat of Iran may prove to be history’s opportunity for Putin to remake a large part of Stalin’s empire – paid for by oil exports.

    Do we see leadership – on either side of the aisle – addressing these realities?


    It’s too complicated to handle such circumstances with a quick and glib remark but I’d like to think SOMEONE in Congress is having these sorts of discussions.

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