On Foreign Policy, Romney Struggles to Distinguish Himself
Live debate coverage from Truman Fellow Laicie Olson:
All eyes were on President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney as they went head to head in their third, and final, debate. Bob Schieffer moderated the debate, which was supposed to focus solely on foreign policy, although domestic issues played a significant role as well. Schieffer asked the candidates about the ongoing war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, changes in the Middle East, and future threats facing the nation.
Schieffer also asked the candidates to expand on their plans to increase Pentagon spending. Romney has stated that, if elected, he would raise Pentagon spending to approximately 4% of GDP. This increase would equal $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years. The Republican nominee should expect to explain his plans to rectify this increase with the national debt.
Obama’s defense budget would increase more slowly, but either candidate will have to deal with the immediate issue of sequestration, approximately $500 billion in automatic cuts put in place as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act. The cuts will come into effect if Congress does not produce a $1.2 trillion package of budget cuts, revenue increases or both by the end of the year.
The candidates were also asked to expand on their policies regarding the authorization of military force. During his first term in office, President Obama chose to enter Libya on humanitarian grounds without congressional approval, and Governor Romney has stated in the past that he does not believe, “at this stage … if I’m president, that we need to have war powers approval or a special authorization for military force. The president has that capacity now.”
This is a contentious issue that any president going forward will have to take into consideration, particularly with regard to the potential for conflict in Iran. In what promises to be an extensive discussion on Iran’s nuclear program, the next president will likely be asked to comment on recent reports that the country has agreed to one on one negotiations with the U.S.
While the candidates have disagreed strongly on many subjects, their policy prescriptions have been close on Iran. (Or, to put it differently, Romney’s plan isn’t — from a policy standpoint — much different than the President’s).
Laicie Olson is a Truman Security Fellow. This article originally appeared in PolicyMic