Kasich, considering POTUS run, refuses to endorse Iraq war

John Kasich -- CROPPEDBy Bob Eschliman


Conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt has been creating more than his fair share of Campaign 2016 headlines in the past few days. His latest involved perhaps the newest member of the deepening Team GOP bench.

During what was supposed to be a friendly interview in which he helped introduce the idea of a presidential campaign by Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Hewitt asked about the current turmoil in the Middle East. During the exchange, Kasich occasionally got testy with the host, bristling at the suggestion the U.S. should return to a policy of nation building, or that it should blindly follow the advice of Washington think-tanks when it comes to defense spending.

Asked about the situation in Libya, Kasich said:

“Should we have been there nation building? I mean, should we have landed troops over there? I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, I think that you know, the problem has been that we have not been consistent in the Middle East and assertive. And that’s been a problem for us. And when we went out of Iraq and didn’t keep our base and didn’t mind the store and didn’t arm in the early stages the opposition to Assad, all these things have left us in a position of where see things falling apart. And you know, at this point in time, I can’t tell you what I think we should do in Libya. I wouldn’t tell you that I think we need to be putting troops in Libya. I wouldn’t be for that. But you know, it’s a result of some of the big miscalculations, and frankly, I guess you’ve got to start where you are. But I wouldn’t be telling you we should put troops there.”

Later, he said he supported war efforts in Kuwait during the first Gulf War, and also in Afghanistan, but refused to endorse the second Gulf War invasion of Iraq. At the same time, he said he didn’t wish to “go back and redo it,” or disparage anyone who served his or her country there.

“I support fundamentally the Weinberger doctrine,” Kasich said, referencing a Wall Street Journal article written by Bret Stephens. “Go places, mean business in your interest, take care of business and don’t hang around. That is a part of the Weinberger doctrine. You know the problem with civil wars? You know the problem with nation building? You go in and then when do you ever get out? And so I think it’s, you know, this shorthand kind of running through of Weinberger this, Schultz that and Bolton is this, that’s not sophisticated analysis of U.S. foreign policy, to be honest with you.”

Earlier in the interview, Hewitt asked about defense spending. He noted the Heritage Foundation thinks the U.S. Navy should have 13 carrier battle groups, but it currently has 10 and former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said it could go to eight.

He also asked Kasich about the Ohio Class ballistic missile submarine, which is due to begin aging out in the next 10 to 15 years. Hewitt asked Kasich how concerned he was about “the decline in American military preparedness” since his years in Congress.

“[W]e have to build a Pentagon that is based on the threat, not based on relics of the past that are connected to some parochial interest by a senator or a congressman,” Kasich said. “And that is extremely difficult to do. The procurement reform that’s needed inside the Pentagon, it’s been a constant, I mean, I’m now, you know, I served in Congress for 18 years. I’ve been out for, what is it, 15 years. That’s, what is that, 33 years, okay? They’ve been complaining about Pentagon reform. I was engaged in the reform of procurement, Hugh. I was one of the guys that was involved in finding the hammers and the screwdrivers and the toilet seats that cost all that money. Procurement reform is difficult. It should be ongoing. Secondly, the systems that we build and the systems that we need should fit the threat that America faces in the world. And if in fact we need to rebuild some of the vital activities that we have in the air, on the land and in the sea, to meet the threat, we have to do, because if we don’t have a strong military, we’re not taking care of one of the most important things of the federal government, which is the common defense. Because Heritage says X, so what? I mean, other people say, what, our former Secretary of Defense said 8. I mean, this is just not something you decide on the back of an envelope. You study it, you try to figure out how America can project power. And when it gets to where it needs to be, to project it power, it can project it in a lethal manner that in fact can accomplish our goals. And secondly, we should not be involved in trying to change, you know, try to convert everybody to our kind of way of life and democracy. Where it works, great. But we should not be engaged in all this nation building. It doesn’t work. We should be able to go places quickly, we should be able to deliver a lethal blow, accomplish our purposes, and then get out.”

The interview also focused on facing a more provocative Russia, domestic terrorism, and how the federal government should respond to state efforts to legalize recreational use of marijuana.


CLICK HERE to listen to the entire interview.