The President of the United States, also known as the commander-in-chief, commands and directs the military, and is responsible for military strategy, according to Federalist No. 69, an essay in the Federalist Papers.
The United States has about 700 military bases around the world, costing about $100 billion a year to maintaining them all. With the world’s strongest military, the United States has its hands in many different parts of the world for reasons ranging from combat, to peacekeeping, to patrolling, says Evan Fowler, the president of Western’s American Campaign Transparency. Of the roughly two million troops, there are one million abroad and one million at home.
In the November, whoever is elected president will be responsible for America’s troops home and abroad, and both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have different approaches to national security.
There are two main purposes for troops abroad: peacekeeping and patrolling the sea lanes, Fowler said.
“Generally speaking, we don’t just invade a country,” Fowler explained. “Iraq was kind of an exception, [but] normally we have compelling reasons to be involved. For example – Afghanistan – of the 100,000 NATO troops, around 68,000 are American and the remaining 32,000…are European, so in Afghanistan, we’re in that together.”
Afghanistan is the only place where America has active-duty forces, aside from covert matters, Fowler said.
The Middle East has a very long and very thick history, said Jered McCardle, associate director for the Associated Students’ Representation and Engagement Programs. That area is the only place in the world that connects three different continents and stands in the middle of so many trade routes. It is always where people have come either for resources or diplomatic reasons, thus The Middle East is always where conflict starts, McCardle said.
With that said, even with our presence in The Middle East, we are not at war, McCardle said. The only entity that can declare war is Congress; we have not been at war since 1945. What is happening in The Middle East is a conflict, McCardle said.
Under the Obama administration, the military has not been used as a primary tool of national and international matters. With past administrations like the George W. Bush administration, the president was much more “trigger happy,” Fowler said. With the primary difference between those administrations, it can be inferred that the military is not President Obama’s biggest fan; the military tends to like Republicans, Fowler said.
Romney’s believes we should more engaged in Syria, where there is a civil war going on with the death tolls being around for 30,000, Fowler said. He also wants to escalate America’s presence in Asia. One of the key points of Romney’s ideas for international relations and security is to increase military spending by $2 trillion over the next ten years – that is the equivalent of about two China military budgets.
“Over the last ten years, if you were to combine all of our military spending and then we just stop – completely stop – and if China were to maintain their current expenditures, but never go above that, it would take China 100 years to catch up with us,” Fowler noted.
But is all this spending necessary? The answer is complicated. There is a lot of weight on either side of the debate, Fowler said.
If one were to add up the rest of the world’s spending – combining them all – it would equal America’s; this ideal is what one side of the debate claims, asking “Is this all necessary?”
Then there is the other side proposing “What if we didn’t?” What would happen if our military budget was cut in half, and what would the geo-political scene look like now? The obvious answer is no, Fowler said. America would not have as much authority around the world if it were not for our military. All in all, the answer to this debate can be interpreted as creating a balancing act between fiscal responsibility and austerity. For example, instead of building another tank, maybe we could build a bridge, Fowler said.
Even though President Obama and Romney represent different parties and have different views on matters of the military, their traits as American president and presidential nominee hold a commonality.
“Between Obama and Romney, both of them, compared to European Parliamentary candidates, prime ministers or industrialized head-of-state, Obama and Romney are crazy war-hawks,” Fowler explained. “They’re ‘finger-on-the-trigger’ ready to go at anytime. That’s a characteristic of American politics for the last 60 years, ever since World War II.”