Barack Obama was the first president elected on a platform of withdrawing American troops from an ongoing war. Now, though political pundits and the reporters rarely mention it, Obama’s re-election depends on winning back the peace vote in November. This week the wars will receive a brief “cameo” role, according to the Los Angeles Times, because Mitt Romney is taking his campaign to London, Israel and Poland. The Hollywood analogy is apt: it’s as if the trillion-dollar wars can be cut and pasted from a choreographed script.
Based on what little is known, a Romney presidency would return America to the Bush-era foreign and military policies. Romney’s key advisers include the neoconservatives who championed the Iraq War, resumed hostilities with Russia and at least rhetorical support for an Israeli strike against Iran. The hawks in the Republican wings include John Bolton, Randy Scheunemann and, in the background, the deep-pocketed Sheldon Adelson. Obama’s campaign team has tried for weeks to frame Romney as too willing to go to war, an argument, according to theNew York Times, “that could be damaging if it manages to stick, since Americans have grown war-weary after a decade of combat.”
While the election will turn on economic conditions, those have been defined through too narrow a lens. It is dishonest to compartmentalize the economy without totaling the trillions in unfunded war spending that has ballooned the deficit. The same arguments Obama uses against Romney on Bush-era Republican economics — that he promises a return to failed policies — can be made about Romney’s foreign policy; that his administration will recycle the failed policies of the neocons. Obama can link the wars to his economic crisis by noting that taxpayers will save $150 billion per year by winding down two quagmires (the combined direct costs of Iraq and Afghanistan since FY 2008 is in the range of $760 billion). He can accuse the deficit hawks of hypocrisy due to their profligate spending on unfunded wars.
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