12 July 2012


A Mitt Romney administration would likely seek to expand the US military and assume a more assertive posture abroad, whilst a second term Barack Obama presidency would continue to prioritize the targeted use of force, according to a new US Election Note.

The paper's author, Xenia Dormandy, explores how the next US president will use the military and development aid as tools of US foreign policy, and the broader international implications of the approaches of the two candidates. 

President Obama, in a second term, is likely to continue to focus on the targeted use of force, such as through cyber attacks, drones or special forces, rather than larger-scale conventional warfare. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has indicated a desire to expand the conventional military, in particular maritime forces, and take a more assertive American military posture. In the coming years, this could play out in particular in Iran or Syria. 

In terms of development spending, President Obama would probably continue to push for increases in foreign aid and the ‘civilian surge’, but will face difficulties in implementing this plan in the face of a likely Republican-controlled House, and perhaps Senate.

Romney’s personal convictions mean he is likely to want to expand development assistance. However, he would have to do so against the will of his party and, most probably, many in his cabinet. The implications of these positions are particularly important with regard to US assistance to the Middle East, not least Egypt, and to Afghanistan.

Notes to Editors

Read US Election Note: Military vs Development Aid.

The US Election Notes is a series of short analyses on the likely foreign policy imp lications of this year's presidential election. More information about the project, including the previous Election Note on 'International Trade Policy after 2012' can be found online.

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