Regardless of presidential victor, there will be few immediate changes on major aspects of national defense and the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
Despite that only 18 of the about 255 detainees at Gitmo have had charges filed against them, the situation isn’t likely to shift drastically because the new president isn’t going to stop listening to the CIA about how the detainees are possibly dangerous terrorists. (1)
The bungled civil liberties at Gitmo have had a drastically negative affect on the U.S.’s standing in the world. There must be serious course corrections in Cuba with the tribunals and lack of charges against these men. If they are dangerous, have them passed to their country of origin. If no action is taken, the black eye will become more pronounced.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who will remain the secretary for at least a year to avoid lame duck status, according to D.C. parlor games (3), will lobby for an improvement to the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal. (3)
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven that counterterrorism is the preferred theory, not Cold-War-era arms races with unquantified deterrent effects as the goal.
One bright spot on defense spending, which takes up 50 percent of all U.S. discretionary spending, is that Pentagon officials expect to have their budgets cut. However, both presidential candidates have advocated for an increased number of army troops to more than the current 92,000. (4)
The major issue here is the similar foreign policy strategies set to be used by both parties if elected. Both candidates have an interventionist approach. Whether it is John McCain willing to commit the U.S. to Iraq for 100 years, or Barack Obama’s reallocation of troops to Afghanistan. (Obama’s goal of growing the Peace Corps. is a step in the right direction, if the U.S. can provide the man power for peaceful, humanitarian means, not for geo-political ulterior motives, such as “hearts and minds.”)
Robert Kagan said that the attributes of U.S. foreign policy are “moralism, idealism, exceptionalism, miliarism and global ambition.” (5)
David Rieff said the difference between the political parties is that liberals see America as the leader to establish international rules of law through soft power, while conservatives, especially neo-cons, see the U.S. as the last best hope on earth through military power. (6)
Hegemony is still hegemony, with the difference being means. The ends remain rule.
That, overall, doesn’t look like change, just empire restoration.
1 — New York Times; 2 — Politico; 3 — McClatchy Newspapers; 4 — New York Times; 5 and 6 — World Affairs.