Less than five months out from the 2012 presidential election, it's of significant value to begin paying closer attention to the actual details behind both candidates’ respective approaches to the biggest issues facing our nation. Despite not being the most talked about issue of this election cycle, the positions taken by both on foreign policy, national security and defense spending should be highly scrutinized given the vast amounts of life and treasure spent defending and securing the nation since the 2001 launch of the War on Terror.
Eleven years after 9/11, the choice made by Americans at the polls this year will dictate whether there is a neo-conservative revival cloaked in a call for an “American Century," or whether a complete winding down of the ground wars and a heightened focus on coordinated special intelligence and targeted attacks on terrorist organizations around the world continues to take shape. This critical choice will determine whether our country pursues policies that appear to be adversarial, with a Cold War-era tone, or whether there is a continuing focus on strengthening alliances (such as the NATO effort that saw helped facilitate the overthrow of Gadhafi) through reasoned diplomacy and a common purpose of de-escalating tensions worldwide.
A dissection of the rhetoric and records of both Romney and Obama tells the story of two candidates, one who currently sits in the hot seat, has made the tough calls when the stakes were at their highest (Bin Laden raid), and seen the intelligence reports, while the other has surrounded himself with many of the same actors who drove the policies known as the “Bush Doctrine.” For example, Romney’s website lists as his special advisors the likes of, the former United States Secretary of Homeland Security under W. Bush, former NSA and CIA Director , and Walid Phares, former Director of the Task Force for Future Terrorism at the Department of Homeland Security again under W. Bush. Bottom line, a vote for Romney appears to be a vote to double down on the neo-conservative policies advocated from 2000-2008.
President Obama’s team offers a stark contrast to Romney’s, as well as a vastly different vision for the role of the United States security apparatus overseas and at home. Led by Secretary of Stateand Defense Secretary , Obama’s national security team has taken targeted anti-terrorism to a whole new level. At the time of this article, only one senior Al Qaeda official remains breathing, and his days look numbered. The Iraq War is over, and troops have begun coming home from Afghanistan. The President’s narrative offers goals such as “common security", "common humanity", and remaining "a beacon of freedom and justice for the world.” There is a focus on promoting peace and security in the Middle East and preserving America’s commitment to the security of Israel.
Romney’s campaign paints a dark portrayal of a world that harps on Cold War fears and a view that Obama seeks to “Hollow” out the United States Military. In reality, no matter what Romney says on his website, it’s simply misleading and disingenuous to say that re-electing the President means “a weak America, an America in decline, an America that retreats from its responsibilities, would usher in an era of uncertainty and danger.” To the contrary, it is likely that terrorist around the world have received the message that Obama will not hesitate to send a drone their way to eradicate the world from threats to our nation and our allies. An honest analysis of Romney’s national defense strategy reveals that he would really do nothing different than W. Bush, and that fear of a straw man version of Obama drives much of the rhetoric spouted by him and his campaign.
Lines such as “President Obama has repeatedly sought to slash funds for our fighting men and women” are simply misrepresentations that make our country less safe and do not reflect the reality of how powerful the United States Military truly is. Frankly, given the bloated defense budget (seven times that of China, and more than the next twenty largest military spenders combined), the argument that our military has weakened over the past three years is simply ludacris. (Defense budget was $530.1 billion in 2010, $549.1 billion in 2011, and estimated to be $553.0 billion for 2012). We should all agree that there are intelligent ways to maintain the greatest fighting force on earth while getting rid of excess spending that further exasperates concerns over the federal debt and balancing our budgets.
In addition, there is simply no need to expand the size of the military unless we plan on engaging in yet another ground war like we saw in Iraq. Any new war mongering at this point should be received with great skepticism and a dose of real concern for the sustainability of our troops both mentally and physically. Does anyone truly have the appetite for war with multiple nations in the name of ending an Iranian nuclear program that has no chance of succeeding to build bombs while under the intense scrutiny and surveillance of the United States and its allies? The GOP seems to have that very vision in mind, in fact Romney’s national security platform reads like anovel that should concern even the biggest supporters of our military and intelligence endeavors. Do we really want to return to pre-emptive war and isolationism? Do we want to continue building alliances or return to bullying our way through disputes while giving our enemies more mental ammunition to build anti-American terror networks?
Thus, much is at stake this November in addition to jobs and recovering from the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. The foreign policy visions of the candidates tell the story of two different futures for America’s military, and before voting, it is advisable that each one of us educate ourselves and those around us so that we as a nation can understand the ramifications of our collective choice for President. We should each take a hard look at the promises made by the President in 2008, and take a look at the Romney’s plans to revert back to pre-Obama policies. We should look at the tone of the rhetoric from both sides, and compare that rhetoric to the actual facts, look at the defense budget, and also look at how large and capable our military already is. The time has come for us all to look deeper than the pundits on FOX News, CNN, or MSNBC and to begin vetting the candidates without the media filter and based on the real effects of the candidates’ respective positions. National security is a good place as any to begin this important process.
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