Presidential Candidates on Foreign Policy—Military

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What will U.S. foreign affairs look like if John McCain prevails? What if President Obama sets the agenda? Erik Leaver looks behind the hype to the records, advisors, and promises of the presidential candidates.

Click on the topics to see the candidates' statements on different aspects of foreign policy.


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Hillary Rodham Clinton spacer Barack Obama spacer John McCain
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Hillary Clinton
Democratic Senator from New York
spacer Barack Obama
Democratic Senator from Illinois
spacer John McCain
Republican Senator from Arizona
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U.S. military budget
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Clinton has pledged to increase the size of the military but has not specified a figure. She leads the candidates in campaign contributions from military contractors: over $336,225. Clinton's advisors have been strong supporters of increased resources for the military. [1, 2] spacer Some of Obama's key advisors, like Larry Korb, have expressed concern at the enormous waste from excess military spending. But Obama will increase the size of ground forces, adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines. He has received over $250,671 in contributions from military contractors. [1, 2, 3] spacer McCain has pledged the largest increase in the military, 150,000 troops. He also wants to beef up “star wars” missile defense. He has raised over $261,929 in campaign contributions from defense contractors. He has pledged to fund the war by the regular appropriations process, not by “emergency” supplementals that allow defense to be funded with borrowed dollars. [1, 4]
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What the outliers said:
Bill Richardson:

“I have a plan that includes $57 billion in specific cuts to unnecessary Pentagon spending. We will stop wasting billions of dollars on Cold War weapons systems designed to fight a long extinct Soviet empire. We will save tens of billions of dollars more by stopping the construction of unnecessary new nuclear weapons.” [5]
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U.S. bases around the world
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Clinton opposes the establishment of permanent military bases in Iraq. [6] spacer Obama opposes building any permanent bases in Iraq. [7] spacer McCain has called for permanent U.S. military bases in Afghanistan and supports permanent bases in Iraq. [8, 9]
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Long-term care for veterans
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“I will make a long-term commitment to the VA system to ensure it is adequately funded and has the capacity to avoid backlogs and to handle greater enrollments. And I will provide coverage through my American Health Choices Plan to all veterans who choose not to use the VA system.” [10] spacer A member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Obama has pledged to improve the quality of health care for veterans, rebuild the VA's broken benefits system, and combat homelessness among veterans. “The VA will be at the cutting edge of my plan for universal health care.” [10] spacer He is committed to ensuring that veterans' health care programs receive the funding necessary to provide the quality health care our veterans need and deserve. He has worked to ensure that the Veterans' Affairs provides care for all eligible veterans, no matter where they live. [11]


Erik Leaver wrote this article as part of A Just Foreign Policy, the Summer 2008 issue of YES! Magazine. Erik Leaver is the policy outreach director for Foreign Policy In Focus and a research fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Photo of Eric Leaver

1. . OpenSecrets.org
2. . Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy In Focus, February 4, 2008
3. . BarackObama.com
4. . John McCain, JohnMcCain.com
5. . RichardsonForPresident.com
6. . Council on Foreign Relations
7. . BarackObama.com
8. . Associated Press, February 22, 2005
9. , January 6th, 2008
10. . Houston Chronicle, February 29, 2008
11. . JohnMcCain.com
12. . American Society of International Law, 2008
13. . John McCain, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2007
14. . RonPaul2008.com
15. . PrioritiesNH.org, April 3rd, 2007
16. . BarackObama.com, Chicago, October 02, 2007
17. . Council on Foreign Relations, Published August 5, 2007
18. , John McCain, JohnMcCain.com
19.. Bill Richardson, Council for a Livable World
20. . Hillary Rodham Clinton, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2007
21. . Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007
22. . Philip Sherwell in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Telegraph.co.uk, March 19, 2007
23. Interview with Rudy Giuliani, The Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2007
24. . Glenn Thrush, Washington Bureau, January 19, 2006
25. , New York Times, June 3rd, 2007
26. . Michael Gordon and Jeff Zelen, New York Times, November 1, 2007
27. . Council on Foreign Relations, July 17, 2007
28. Paths and Priorities in the War on Terror. Mike Huckabee, The Center for Strategic and International Studies, September 28, 2007
29. . Remarks of Senator Clinton at Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, January 19, 2006
30. . Justin Elliot, Mother Jones, February 1st, 2008
31. . Thomas Beaumont, Des Moines Register, March 13, 2007
32. The Rolling Stone Interview: John McCain. Paul Alexander, The Rolling Stone, September 27, 2001
33. . Council on Foreign Relations, April 23, 2008
34. Obama: Pluses, minuses on Latin America issues. Andres Oppenheimer, Miami Herald, February 17, 2008
35. . YouTube, February 10, 2008
36. Statement of Senator Obama on Latin America. March 8, 2007
37. . JohnMcCain.com, June 20, 2007
38.
39. . MSNBC, April 27, 2007
40. . Hindustan Times, April 11, 2005
41. , Washington, D.C. Council on Foreign Relations, June 28, 2007
42. . Council on Foreign Relations
43. . John McCain and Bob Dole, Washington Post, September 10, 2006
44. . Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy In Focus , December 10, 2007
45. , HilaryClinton.com. March 6, 2008
46. . Sam Youngman, The Hill, March 1, 2008
47. . BarackObama.com, Washington, DC, August 1st, 2007
48. . Gravel2008.us
49. . The Brookings Institution, February 25, 2004
50.. Council on Foreign Relations, August 1, 2007
51. . August 30, 2004
52. . John Edwards, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2007
53. . February, 2008
54. . Michael Brendan Dougherty, The American Conservative, January 28, 2008
55. . Council on Foreign Relations, January 10, 2008
56. . April 23, 2007
57. . Ron Paul, Associated Press, December 23, 2007