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The economy has been the focus of both President Obama and Mitt Romney’s campaigns, but the continued unrest in the middle east makes it clear that their positions on national defense and the military are also vital to consider.
Though many Republicans have tried to portray Obama as anti-military, he has more of a mixed record concerning his support of the military.
Military spending has remained high under Obama. He inherited a defense budget of roughly $700 billion. As the chart from the Center for American Progress shows, his first three budgets have spent $717, $700 and $676 billion. When inflation is factored into past military spending, Obama’s most recent budget is higher than every other president except George W. Bush. The U.S. is currently spending more than it did with Reagan during the height of the Cold War. According to the Heritage Foundation, Obama’s defense spending would drop to $600 billion by 2016 if he was elected to a second term.
Obama has also overseen a dramatic increase in drone strikes toward militants in Pakistan.
“In the first 11-and-a-half months of 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration authorized more than twice as many drone strikes, 113, in northwest Pakistan as it did in 2009 — itself a year in which there were more drone strikes than during George W. Bush’s entire time in office,” Perter Bergen and Katherin Tiedemann of the New America Foundation said.
Obama’s support of the Libyan rebels in 2011, which lead to the overthrow of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and his ordering of the strike on Bin Laden are other examples of his willingness to use military force when necessary.
Although Romney obviously does not have a military record, he has clearly supported a strong U.S. military throughout his campaign.
According to Romney’s campaign website, some of his plans include reforming military spending to make it more efficient, modernizing “aging inventories,” committing to “a robust, multi-layered national ballistic-missile defense system,” and increasing the size of the navy.
Guy Taylor of the Washington Times reports that Romney’s budget for the military in 2016 would come to $800 billion, signifying a significant increase in spending.
Looking at Obama’s record and Romney’s campaign statements, it seems clear that neither candidate will shy away from the thought of using military force.
However, there remain a few significant differences between Obama and Romney concerning nuclear weapons and Iran.
Obama’s campaign websites calls for “progress toward a world without nuclear weapons.” Some of the steps that Obama has taken toward this goal include a 2010 agreement with Russia that will lower each nation’s level of strategic nuclear missiles to below 1,500, according to foxnews.com. The article estimates that before the treaty, the U.S. had 2,150 strategic nuclear weapons.
In an article Romney wrote for the Washington Post, he directly opposed Obama’s nuclear missile reductions deal with Russia.
On his campaign website, Romney argues that the U.S. must be clear to Iran that military force is not an option. Romney believes that one of the ways to do this is to “restore the regular presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region.”
Obama, however, has shown reluctance to use force against Iran. According to the Economist, Obama has strongly warned Israel’s prime minister against making any strike on Iran.
The question now is what path we as a nation are going to take. Romney supports keeping our nuclear arsonal, while Obama would rather work toward a world where there are no nuclear weapons.
Only one of these candidates can win, and only one of these diverging strategies can be taken. Let us hope that we, as a country, do not come to regret it.