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Daniels Vague, Self-Deprecating on National Security

2:53 PM, May 4, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Mitch Daniels, the Republican governor of Indiana and a possible presidential candidate in 2012, still hasn't fleshed out his ideas on foreign policy in general or the war in Afghanistan in particular.

Mitch Daniels

During his appearance yesterday on Fox and Friends, Daniels praised the U.S. military and the government for killing Osama bin Laden, but he cautioned that “the struggle’s not over and won’t be for long.” Following a speech by Daniels on education policy at the American Enterprise Institute this afternoon, I asked the governor if he could expand on that comment as it pertains to the war in Afghanistan and our efforts to fight terrorism in general.

“What did I say?” Daniels asked. I repeated his quote, clarifying that he had been discussing the struggle against al Qaeda.

“Well, I don’t think that’s all that deep a thought,” Daniels responded. The audience laughed.

“I don’t know how much deeper I can go.” The laughter grew louder.

“I simply affirmed what I think common sense tells you,” Daniels continued. “This was a very significant achievement, tremendously powerful from a symbolic standpoint. Operationally, I assume of some importance too. But with everyone else, I think we all accept that it’s just one real important moment in what will be a continuing conflict and continuing responsibility to the government.

“But well done, well handled,” Daniels concluded. “Let’s just hope it presages more such successes.”

Daniels did not say anything about Afghanistan, and didn't have anything more to say about foreign policy in general. This dovetails with what Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review Online reported yesterday:

His foreign-policy details are TBD. Daniels said that “it cannot be illegitimate to ask” if some of the country’s military commitments should be unwound, but he has not yet reached any conclusions about which should be—or, at least, any he is willing to share. On Afghanistan he refuses to second-guess the decisions of the president, to whose greater access to information he defers. On Libya he says only that he has not seen the case for intervention made. One gets the impression of someone who is much more cautious about foreign intervention than Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, but also cautious about saying so. He was asked if he were ready to debate President Obama on foreign policy. “Probably not.” (He is candid.)

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