Recent polls show that more than 60 percent of Americans believe we should bring our troops home from Afghanistan -- now. They are right. We should bring our young men and women home -- and vow to never again fight an 11-year war when our mission was complete in six months.
Many who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 believed he would extract America from Iraq and Afghanistan, and perhaps be more hesitant to involve us in foreign intervention. I, too, hoped that he might at least get us out of wars we couldn't afford and for which there was no clear American interest.
We've seen how that worked out. It took him three years to bring our troops home from Iraq. And Afghanistan? We're still there, ten years, too many lives and hundreds of billions of dollars longer than necessary.
And while we were at it, we spent hundreds of millions launching missiles into Libya to topple the leader of a sovereign nation. Gaddafi was not a guy I would want running my country, but we took him out with no clear understanding of what -- or who -- might follow. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney backed the expensive Libya venture.
This election year, if our choices are the Democrat Obama and the Republican Romney, without Dr. Ron Paul, where is the non-intervention option? Most Americans are hard pressed to find a difference between Romney and Obama when it comes to intervention. Obama claims we will be out of Afghanistan by 2014. Romney seems to think that is about right, depending on who's asking. Fortunately, there is a third way for America.
Obama says he wants to cut military spending, but after accounting for the reduced costs of finally withdrawing from Iraq and winding down in Afghanistan, his budgets propose that we actually spend more. And Romney? He says he wants to "cap" military spending at some percentage of GDP, but doesn't really have a plan to get there. In fact, he wants to buy the Navy more ships. Apparently we don't have enough.
Americans are looking for a non-intervention choice, and there is one. I opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. There was no threat that required an invasion, and there are a host of unintended consequences -- from an empowered Iran to a loss of standing with long-time allies.
I supported going in to Afghanistan to uproot al Qaeda. We did that, quite successfully, in a matter of months. The Taliban was humbled and al Qaeda scattered to the winds -- all within a year. But us? We stayed, and stayed, and are still staying. Losing lives, spending hundreds of billions, trying to build a nation that doesn't want to be built, all while those who attacked us on 9/11 had the good sense to leave. A President Gary Johnson would have declared mission achieved in 2002 and brought our troops home. And I defy anyone to make a case that either the U.S. or Afghanistan would be any worse off today had we done just that.
I pledge to reduce military spending by 43 percent -- to the disbelief of those who refuse to let go of interventionist, nation-building foreign policies. As I have said many times, if we stop playing offense and focus on defense, a 43 percent cut in military spending is not only feasible, it will still leave us as the preeminent military power on the globe.
Do we need hundreds of thousands of American troops in Europe and Japan? Can we not get by with only enough nukes to eradicate mankind 8 or 10 times? Do we need to have a military base in every nook and cranny of the world? The answer to all these is no -- if we simply return to the constitutional notion that national defense actually means defense. Keeping America safe is government's most basic duty, and I support a strong national defense -- but one we can afford.
A policy of non-intervention, which Ron Paul has advocated, will allow us to return to an affordable level of defense spending, and will result in a safer America that is not constantly sowing seeds of hatred among those who would do us harm.
This is why I advocate the use of strategic alliances to allow military obligations and needs to be more equitably shared. We are bankrupt. We cannot continue to bear the burden of protecting the entire world. The only foreign aid we should offer is that which, in fact, produces savings and a positive cost-benefit for America.
Non-intervention is the constitutional and prudent policy America should adopt. That, however, is very different from isolationism. Our vast international economic interests and our imperative to remain vigilant in a dangerous world demand that the greatest nation on earth remain engaged beyond our borders. Relationships, however, do not require us to topple foreign leaders we don't like or build nations other than our own.
I am highly skeptical about the projection of military force abroad unless our immediate national interest is crystal clear. I do however recognize there may be extremely extraordinary circumstances where military action is required to stop a known attack on the United States. There are bad actors on the world stage, and we cannot be blind to the dangers they pose. I am not an Isolationist.
A principled policy of non-intervention does not require pledges to never ever send the military into conflict beyond our borders. I would like to think America would act to stop a Holocaust. If another Bin Laden strikes, I would order the military to kill him. But I would only do those things if absolutely justified, and only with constitutionally-required congressional authorization. And above all, I would level with the American people about the need and the price.
There is an alternative to the Obama-Romney foreign policy. America can be made safer without being the planet's police force or imposing our 'values' on the rest of the world.
There is a third option for voters in November.