NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 22, 2008

How do Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) differ on national security?  The National Journal compared and contrasted the two presidential candidates.  Below is a summary of McCain's positions on national security.


  • McCain advocates an "Afghan surge" by doubling the size of the Afghan national army, soliciting large NATO contingents, and "sending U.S. troops as they become available" -- but keeping adequate forces in Iraq remains his top priority.
  • He pledges to appoint an "Afghanistan czar" to coordinate military and civilian efforts and a special presidential envoy to address Afghan-Pakistan disputes.


  • McCain has praised President Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in 1999, as "honest" and "legitimately elected."
  • He denounced Obama for openly stating he would conduct unilateral strikes on Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan's territory if its government would not act.


  • McCain strongly denounced Vladimir Putin's government for dismantling democracy, even calling for Russia to be expelled from the G-8 group of industrialized democracies.
  • He supports the Bush administration's plan to build missile defense sites in Eastern Europe and calls Russian objections an unwarranted interference in NATO affairs.
  • He would work with the Russians on new arms control agreements, including a global ban on intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Nuclear weapons:

  • McCain supports the eventual abolition of all nuclear weapons.
  • He promises increased funding for Cooperative Threat Reduction programs to secure weapons and weapons materials.
  • He would work to strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, negotiate a fissile materials cutoff treaty to reduce production of uranium and plutonium and increase the authority and funding of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
  • He says he is willing to reconsider his 1999 vote against the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
  • He would cancel research on a nuclear "bunker-buster" weapon.

Source: "McCain on National Security," in "Where They Stand," National Journal, August 30, 2008.


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