Of the potential GOP 2012 candidates, Haley Barbour was the only serious contender who leaned toward isolationism on foreign policy. When he insinuated that the war in Afghanistan wasn’t worth the cost, the media immediately began speculating that a foreign policy “rift” was forming in the Republican Party.
“Barbour’s comments could ultimately result in a foreign policy debate between the presidential contenders that doesn’t position Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) as comic relief in the area,” predicted The Hill.
Joe Klein at Time’s Swampland was even more enthusiastic. “When Barbour decides that Afghanistan is a loser, you can bet that more than a few Republicans are heading that way,” he wrote. “[A]nd that means interesting times for the trigger-happy neoconservatives who have dominated Republican foreign policy thinking in recent years. It also means that the foreign policy debate in the Republican primaries may be a real eye-opener.”
Now that Barbour has decided not to run, it’s far less likely that Afghanistan will be a major point of disagreement during the Republican debates, since the current (serious) potential GOP candidates all fall within the mainstream of conservative foreign policy continuum.