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The Candidates 2012

The Candidates and Foreign Policy 2012 - Page 2


In order to make a decision about what we should do about the current situation in Afghanistan, we have to look at what our goals were when we went in. As best as I can decipher, the goals were: (1) Remove the Taliban (and Al Qaeda) from power; (2) Track down and stop Osama bin Laden; (3) Help Afghanistan form an independent, democratic, and hopefully friendly new government; and (4) Help the new government secure itself against any extremist resurgence. The first three goals have been accomplished, and we need to make sure we finish the fourth before we leave, otherwise the entire war was a waste of life. My ideal candidate would acknowledge that the end is clearly in sight, but would also acknowledge that we have to be absolutely sure the mission is accomplished before we walk away.

Don't let it be for nothing

Mitt Romney's website promises: "Upon taking office, [Mitt Romney] will review our transition to the Afghan military by holding discussions with our commanders in the field. He will order a full interagency assessment of our military and assistance presence in Afghanistan to determine the level required to secure our gains and to train Afghan forces to the point where they can protect the sovereignty of Afghanistan from the tyranny of the Taliban. Withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan under a Romney administration will be based on conditions on the ground as assessed by our military commanders with the goal of completing the transition of combat operations to the Afghan Army by the end of 2014" [8].

The president's website states: "President Obama is drawing down our troops in Afghanistan as we transition security responsibility to the Afghan people, and is on track to responsibly end the war there in 2014" [9]. During last night's debate, Obama elaborated that what he means by "responsibly" is that he wants to make sure "that Afghans take responsibility for their own security."

If there's a difference between these two candidates on Afghanistan, I can't find it. You can argue that there's a difference in tonal approach--that Obama seems to put getting the troops home before securing Afghanistan while Romney does the opposite--but there is no tangible proof of this and it's hair-splitting at best. Both men want to make sure the Afghanistan government and people are secure and both men want to get out of the country by the end of 2014. As a result, both men would deserve my vote in regards to Afghanistan.

The NDAA and Executive Authority

I happen to believe that it is dangerous and downright un-American to let one man have the power to make war. Without getting too deep into a Constitutional debate, I don't think the president should have the unilateral right to commit any kind of military force in the absence of extremely exigent circumstances. Recent history is riddled with examples of presidents from both sides of the aisle who ignored Congress in order to make war--even though formal declarations appear to be a thing of the past--and there are even more examples of presidents using dubious executive authority to commit smaller violent acts in other nations. This is, in a word, wrong.

The Libertarian Perspective

thumbs up Gary Johnson wants to drastically cut defense spending, end foreign aid, completely ignore Iran, treat Israel with neutrality, bring the troops back from Afghanistan immediately, and re-evaluate every single military deployment throughout the world. He doesn't support the NDAA and wants to greatly reduce executive authority, but that's just the silver lining in what is an incredibly reckless and self-destructive cloud of isolationist foreign policy. Needless to say, Gary Johnson is the last man I'd vote for if foreign policy were the only relevant issue.

Congress, though, is not immune from blame for allowing the Executive Branch to wield this terrible power. Just last year, for example, Congress passed Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (better known as the NDAA), which affirms that the president has the power to indefinitely detain an American citizen without any kind of due process. How this can exist as law without an enormous outcry from the people is beyond me, and my ideal candidate would call for its immediate repeal (although I can't imagine a president who would willingly take away powers that Congress has so readily given him). My candidate would also promise to get Congressional approval for any kind of military action, including air strikes and drone attacks (which, let's face it, kill civilians).

I'm going to be quick about this one, because it is painfully obvious that Obama and Romney are on the same page here. Romney has admitted that he would have signed the NDAA [10], and of course, Obama did sign it. Obama committed troops to Libya without getting Congressional approval, and Romney never clearly argued against the action (indeed, he argued that Obama took too long to do it). I am deeply troubled by Obama's overreach of executive authority, especially where foreign policy is concerned, but I have no reason to believe that a President Romney would be any different.

My Choice if Foreign Policy Were the Only Relevant Issue

There are many other subjects that fall under the umbrella of foreign policy that I have neglected to talk about here, but the differences between these two candidates are minor, even in those. Granted, I didn't discuss the biggest elephant in the room--this administration's scandalous reaction to the Benghazi attacks on September 11--but that's something I'll let lawmakers sort out, if it becomes necessary (sufficed to say, I am outraged, but I don't think this is the appropriate blog for it). At the end of the day, the conclusion I've reached today is that, with foreign policy, it doesn't really matter much which man you vote for; their stated approaches are nearly identical.

Romney thumbs up
The Candidates and Foreign Policy
thumbs down Obama

Both men promise a careful withdrawal from Afghanistan in the next two years; both men are adamant in their defense of Israel; both men think sanctions are an appropriate way to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions; both men refuse to take military action off the table; and both men support the disturbing provisions of the NDAA. The only places where I found legitimate disagreement are on defense spending and foreign aid, and in those places, Romney eeks out a minor victory because he wants to re-evaluate the cost effectiveness of foreign aid and find ways to make defense spending more efficient (even though he opposes defense cuts).

With that in mind, I'm giving Romney the incredibly narrow victory on foreign policy. In my next and final installment, I will go over each of the issues I've covered--along with a few I haven't--and will announce which candidate (including the possibility of Gary Johnson) ultimately wins my vote in 2012.

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-e. magill 10/23/2012

  • The Candidates and Science 2012
  • The Candidates and Domestic Policy 2012
  • The Candidates and the Economy 2012
  • The Candidates and Civil Rights 2012
  • The Candidates and Energy 2012
  • The Candidates and My Vote 2012
  • The Pennsylvania Ballot 2012
  • The Candidates 2016 and My Vote
  • The Candidates and My Vote 2008