How Clinton and Trump stack up as commander-in-chief

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With the election coming to a close on Nov. 8, not only will the nation choose the new president, but the new commander-in-chief as well. Donald Trump has made some clear numerical statements as to what his plans will be as the leader of the armed forces, while Hillary Clinton has made some more qualitative statements.

Trump has stated that he will increase the size of the U.S. Army to 540,000 active personnel from roughly 473,000. This surge of troops will restore the Army’s size to a level similar to its size back in 2008, the year directly following an armed forces “surge” in Iraq. In the same statement, Trump has also declared that he will increase the size of the U.S. Naval armada to 350 surface ships and number of fighter aircraft to 1,200.

Donald Trump does not state how long it will take to build up the Army. The projection is not based on a specific timescale.

by Chris Hung

Donald Trump does not state how long it will take to build up the Army. The projection is not based on a specific timescale.


“Asking for more personnel is a lot harder than asking for more equipment,” said Petty Officer Second Class Delta Whitman of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Whitman argued that Trump’s plans to increase personnel would require lowering recruitment standards. More equipment such as ships for the Navy or planes for the Air Force means even more personnel need to be added to service and crew them.

Clinton has not made direct numerical statements as to how she will oversee the military, but she has outlined how she will use the military in a qualitative way. Clinton’s focus is on diplomatic approaches to foreign relations, reiterating the importance of the country’s allies and building coalitions to address opposition and threats.

“Donald Trump is a hawk,” said Professor Adam Enders, a professor of campaign and elections at MSU. “But Hillary Clinton is basically the same, she’s ‘hawk-ish’ compared to other Democrats.”

The term “hawk” is used to describe politicians who advocate more aggressive military strategies in foreign policy, contrary to “doves” who advocate diplomacy without the threat of force. While Trump and Clinton disagree on many things, their “hawk-ish” stances have them in agreement on some issues.

Clinton and Trump have stated that the defense sequester should be ended. U.S. law caps the limit of the federal budget in a sequester. The sequester has caused a general budget cut, including the one for national defense.

Both candidates also advocate the advancement of military technology, including Trump’s missile defense plan and Clinton’s focus on improving “network-centric warfare.” While Clinton and Trump agree that the terror group ISIS should be defeated, their plans for tackling the issue begins their split in opinion.

“Our discussion of foreign policy is almost always tied to this threat of terrorism,” said Enders.

“Terrorism as an issue that parties deal with is about threat perception; they say things like, ‘Look, there’s this threat, I’m going to make us safe from this threat.’”

The way Clinton intends to keep the country safe from the ISIS threat is outlined in three steps. Essentially, her strategy is to eliminate ISIS in their home territory of Iraq and Syria, stop the spread of jihadi terrorists and increase security measures home.

Trump has fiercely criticized Clinton for making her strategy public knowledge, but offers similar information on his site. Trump stated that he will have U.S. military leadership deliver a plan to him in order to address ISIS within 30 days of taking office.

Another issue driving a wedge between the candidates is the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Clinton worked to ratify the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) between the U.S. and Russia to reduce nuclear armaments.

Trump stated that the U.S. has fallen behind Russia in terms of nuclear weapon capability, but has made several gray and sometimes contradictory statements about U.S. nuclear policy. He stated that the proliferation of nuclear weapons is an issue, but noted that it may be time for countries like Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia to have their own nuclear weapons.

Trump has also claimed to ruled out the first strike policy. First strike, or first use policy enables the U.S. to deploy its nuclear weapons as a preemptive strike to prevent nuclear war. However, Trump also stated that he “can’t take anything off the table” in regards to nuclear weapon usage.

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