On the Issues: National Security

Experts weigh in about the candidates’ stances on national security

invite massive U.S. retaliation and a proposal to create a NATO-like security shield for the Middle East. “The implication of that type shield is that the U.S. could be drawn into conflict in that region for years. It would make getting out of Iraq pointless because if there is such a shield, we would have to go to war on a fairly regular basis.”

Obama has been criticized by his opponents for saying that he would engage in discussions with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which both Zunes and Walters believe to be a more realistic approach. “Negotiating doesn’t mean you’re going to give in,” Zunes says. “Iran’s given an indication they’re willing to end their nuclear program and stop supporting Hezbollah and Hamas and do all sorts of things in return for ending U.S. threats against them and normal diplomatic relations. That might make sense and be to our advantage, but if you have a president who won’t discuss these things, we won’t get very far. If Iran was still totally uncooperative, Obama’s made it clear he’s willing to take tougher action, but at least he’s willing to explore the diplomatic route first which would have greater chances of finding solutions to common difficulties. Like it or not, Iran’s a major player in the region and we have to deal with them, just like we had to deal with other governments we don’t like over the years.”

The Patriot Act has caused concern among some Americans because of its potential to violate the civil liberties of citizens. As a state senator for Illinois, Obama sponsored and fought for legislation that included mandatory recording of interrogations and confessions in capital cases. He also co-sponsored legislation in the Senate that would tighten standards for warrantless surveillance. Both Obama and McCain have pledged to shut down Abu Ghraib.

“McCain has raised concerns about issues like torture but generally has supported [the Patriot Act],” Zunes says. “Clinton voted for it initially but has since backed off a little bit and has called for various reforms. Obama, in large part because he’s a former constitutional law professor, has been the most skeptical of the three and has raised some concerns about not just how this particular administration has abused it but how there are certain traditions that may be unconstitutional and are threats to civil liberties in a broader sense,”

Americans, and black people in particular, have paid a high price since the Iraq war first began. In addition to the billions of dollars it costs each month to keep it going, many millions more will be required on an ongoing basis to provide benefits for wounded veterans. Where does the money come from?

“We’re paying a tremendous price for the war, and black Americans are sensitive because of the needs of their community. The budget for housing has been cut, community development block grants in the HUD budget have been substantially cut, and government is unable to fund things like inadequate healthcare and fixing up dilapidated school buildings,

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