When President Obama left Istanbul on Tuesday, he hosted a town hall meeting with Turkish students. He was asked a lot questions about the U.S.’s relationship with the world. One student asked the President how he was different than his predecessor, George W. Bush.
That is a question a lot of folks in the United States are asking these days with Obama as Commander in Chief.
Since the President entered the Oval Office, we have seen him taking a firmer stand on Afghanistan. He has committed to an increase of 51,000 American troops as well as 5,000 NATO troops to the region. We have also seen several bombings of Al Qeada camps in Pakistan, with more scheduled soon. This should not come to any one as a surprise as the President campaigned with a platform that was tough on Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The President also issued a 19 month plan to bring an end to the war in Iraq. But the plan includes 50,000 troops to stay in the region as peacekeepers for an additional two years. For many who want to see an immediate end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, these plans have us stay in these lands for far too long.
But the President told the Turkish student that he is looking to the long term on military policy and people of the United States and the world should do the same.
While in Prague, in the Czech Republic, the President pledged the United States to be the moral example in ridding the world from nuclear weapons. He promised the United States and Russia would enter negotiations by the end of the year to reduce their nuclear arsenals.
Many people note that the President has increased the military spending budget by over $20 billion compared to last year’s Bush Administration budget (from $513 billion in FY09 to $534 billion in FY10). I would agree this is a disturbing trend that should be reversed. But I take pause and rethink this when I find this spending increase would help give benefits to soldiers and vets and would include improvements in the lagging Veteran’s Affairs and hospitals.
In fact, the President has told Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to cut out costly and unnecessary weapons systems. Secretary Gates passed the message to the Pentagon and told Congress to resist the urge to increase military spending in the budget. Many Republican Congress Members, including Saxby Chamblis (R-GA) expressed their dismay that the Pentagon would no longer be buying F-22 stealth jets (a plane never used in combat).
In January of this year, Secretary Gates said, “…the spigot of defense spending opened after 9/11 is closing.”
In the short run, I am extremely disappointed by the President’s military policy. I think the troops should come home and a surge of diplomats, engineers, and educators should help secure Afghanistan and Iraq. But in the long term, I am thrilled.
I hate knowing that my tax dollars are wasted on useless missles systems, jets and nuclear warheads. I think these changes are crucial steps to reversing the out of control spiraling military budgets.