Adm. William McRaven: He is not the military’s highest-ranking official, but McRaven earned Obama’s respect by overseeing the bin Laden raid and several other successful strikes. The head of the Special Operations Command sat with first lady Michelle Obama at last year’s State of the Union address.
NATIONAL SECURITY: ROMNEY
SPECIFIC POLICY POSITIONS
Romney has promised a muscular foreign policy that envisions an America with the strength—and willingness—to act unilaterally, even at the risk of being pulled into a drawn-out conflict. He blasted Obama for deferring to allies before intervening in Libya and refusing to consider using force in Syria without U.N. approval. Romney wants the United States to arm the Syrian opposition, and he suggests he would use force against Iran if it doesn’t abandon its nuclear program. Romney’s approach to the world is on clear display in his defense-spending plan, which would keep the Pentagon’s budget on a steady uphill climb despite the end of the Iraq and Afghan wars. It is also evident in his promise to station warships off Iran’s coast—a clear, if potentially dangerous, statement of U.S. resolve.
The former Massachusetts governor has vowed to reverse what he describes as Obama’s massive defense cuts by adding 100,000 more ground troops; purchasing 15 Navy vessels per year rather than the current nine; and maintaining the current number of carrier groups. The proposals please the Republican base but run counter to the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which supports Obama’s budget-trimming proposals. Romney hasn’t said how he would pay for the new military expenditures. He also wants to pour money into missile defense, including systems designed to counter long-range, intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Romney has tried hard to draw a sharp contrast with Obama about the future of the long and unpopular war, but he has struggled to articulate a detailed policy. He promises to defer to military commanders about the size and pace of the drawdown, and he has pointedly jabbed Obama for angering many in the Pentagon by setting an 18-month deadline for beginning to remove surge troops from Afghanistan without first consulting his generals. Romney opposes peace talks with the Taliban, a central part of the White House’s exit strategy, because he says that such negotiations would demonstrate a lack of resolve. He has also promised to take a harsher line with Pakistan but offers few specifics about how far he would be willing to go.
DETAINEES AND COUNTERTERRORISM
The ex-governor has long called for keeping the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay open and for holding virtually all terrorism trials there. He has praised the administration’s willingness to use drones to hunt militants in countries such as Pakistan and Somalia but argues that the White House has erred by relying so heavily on killing militants rather than capturing them for questioning. Although Romney has been vague about how he would treat captured militants, he says he doesn’t think waterboarding is torture and would consider approving its use. Like Obama, Romney has said he would order the killing of U.S. citizens overseas if it was clear they were plotting attacks against the United States.
Romney blasted Obama for fully withdrawing from Iraq instead of persuading its leaders to allow some U.S. troops to remain behind as insurance against a civil war.
He initially praised Obama for the bin Laden raid but has spent months complaining that the president has received too much credit. Romney’s campaign contends thatany president would have made the same decision.
“DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL”
Romney opposed repealing the ban on openly gay troops but has said he wouldn’t reinstate it.
The Republican wants to funnel U.S. arms to the country’s rebels, who are currently outgunned by Bashar al-Assad’s forces, and to help train them into a more capable force. But, breaking with key Senate Republicans, Romney has refused to advocate military intervention there.
Dan Senor: A onetime spokesman for the U.S. occupation in Iraq, he is a special adviser to Romney and his primary national-security surrogate. Senor cofounded the Foreign Policy Initiative, a hawkish think tank that calls for a harsher line toward Iran and Syria.
John Lehman: The secretary of the Navy during the Reagan years, Lehman cochairs Romney’s defense working group. The highly trusted aide has raised eyebrows by still referring to Russia as the Soviet Union.
Michael Hayden: A former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA, Hayden is one of Romney’s highest-profile and most-experienced advisers. He helped design and oversee the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless-wiretapping program.
Michael Chertoff: He ran the Homeland Security Department in the Bush administration, and he now advises Romney on counterterrorism and intelligence issues. Chertoff, like Hayden, has a high profile and a solid reputation among lawmakers of both parties.