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 Obama's positions on national security.


  • Obama argues that the Bush Administration, because of its fixation on Iraq, has neglected the real central front in the war on terrorism.
  • He would deploy two additional brigades (approximately 10,000 troops) to Afghanistan, made available by his planned 16-month drawdown from Iraq, once the units had rested and retrained.


  • Obama is a strong supporter of proposals by Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) to tie military aid more closely to Pakistan's actions against terrorists and to triple nonmilitary aid to Islamabad for education, health and infrastructure to $1.5 billion a year.
  • He has been strongly criticized for reserving the right to strike unilaterally at Qaeda targets on Pakistani territory, but has countered that any president would do the same.
  • He supports the ongoing addition of 92,000 troops to the Army and Marine Corps.

Nuclear weapons:

  • Obama supports the eventual abolition of all nuclear weapons, and opposes development of new types of such weapons.
  • He supports stronger international measures for nuclear arms control and nonproliferation.
  • He criticizes Bush's "rushed deployments" of missile defense systems.


  • As a first-generation African-American, with several Africa specialists among his key advisers, Obama would make U.S. policy toward Africa a higher priority.
  • Along with McCain and Sen. Hilary Clinton, he issued a joint statement, endorsed by the Save Darfur Coalition, denouncing "more than five years of genocide" by the Sudanese government and promising that the next president would pressure Sudan "with unstinting resolve."

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


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