The Candidates and The World

Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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Debate Three: Candidates Take on Foreign Policy, Economy

by Newsteam Staff
October 23, 2012

GOP nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama during the final U.S. presidential debate October 22, 2012. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters) GOP nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama during the final U.S. presidential debate October 22, 2012. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters)

President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney debated foreign policy last night, agreeing with each other on several major issues (NPR) including the use of drones in Pakistan and how to deal with the conflict in Syria, as well as relating many of the topics back to domestic and economic themes.

On China

Obama:

Over the long term, in order for us to compete with China, we’ve also got to make sure, though, that we’re taking — taking care of business here at home. If we don’t have the best education system in the world, if we don’t continue to put money into research and technology that will allow us to — to create great businesses here in the United States, that’s how we lose the competition. And unfortunately, Governor Romney’s budget and his proposals would not allow us to make those investments.

Romney:

Let’s talk about China. China has an interest that’s very much like ours in one respect, and that is they want a stable world. They don’t want war. They don’t want to see protectionism. They don’t want to see the — the world break out into — into various forms of chaos, because they have to — they have to manufacture goods and put people to work. And they have about 20,000 — 20 million, rather, people coming out of the farms every year, coming into the cities, needing jobs. So they want the economy to work and the world to be free and open.

And so we can be a partner with China. We don’t have to be an adversary in any way, shape or form. We can work with them. We can collaborate with them if they’re willing to be responsible.

This CFR Issue Tracker details both candidates’ stances on U.S.-China policy.

On Defense Spending

Obama:

But when it comes to our military, what we have to think about is not, you know, just budgets, we got to think about capabilities. We need to be thinking about cybersecurity. We need to be thinking about space. That’s exactly what our budget does, but it’s driven by strategy. It’s not driven by politics. It’s not driven by members of Congress and what they would like to see. It’s driven by what are we going to need to keep the American people safe?

That’s exactly what our budget does. And it also then allows us to reduce our deficit, which is a significant national security concern because we’ve got to make sure that our economy is strong at home so that we can project military power overseas.

Romney:

And our military — we’ve got to strengthen our military long- term. We don’t know what the world is going to throw at us down the road. We — we make decisions today in a military that — that will confront challenges we can’t imagine.

In the 2000 debates there was no mention of terrorism, for instance. And a year later, 9/11 happened. So we have to make decisions based upon uncertainty. And that means a strong military. I will not cut our military budget.

Read more about the candidates’ positions on defense policy in this CFR Issue Tracker.

On Afghanistan

Obama:

Now, that transition’s — has to take place in a responsible fashion. We’ve been there a long time, and we’ve got to make sure that we and our coalition partners are pulling out responsibly and giving Afghans the capabilities that they need.

But what I think the American people recognize is after a decade of war, it’s time to do some nation-building here at home. And what we can now do is free up some resources to, for example, put Americans back to work, especially our veterans, rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our schools, making sure that, you know, our veterans are getting the care that they need when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, making sure that the certifications that they need for good jobs of the future are in place.

Romney:

Well, we’re going to be finished by 2014. And when I’m president, we’ll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014. The commanders and the generals there are on track to do so. We’ve seen progress over the past several years. The surge has been successful, and the training program is proceeding apace. There are now a large number of Afghan security forces, 350,000, that are — are ready to step in to provide security. And — and we’re going to be able to make that transition by the end of — of 2014. So our troops’ll come home at that point.

This CFR Issue Tracker details both candidates’ stances on Afghanistan.

Read the full transcript of the debate here.

Read what Obama and Romney are proposing for a number of major foreign policy topics in these CFR Issue Trackers.

–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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