Defense Debate

October 10, 1980

Report Outline
Defense Issues in 1980 Campaign
Past Debates and Their Impact
Changing Public Perceptions
Special Focus

Defense Issues in 1980 Campaign

Contrasting Positions of Major Candidates

Voters will have the privilege this November of choosing among three presidential candidates who have readily distinguishable positions on national defense. To be sure, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and John Anderson agree that U.S. military expenditure should be increased, a view that increasing numbers of Americans have come to support. But the candidates differ on the details of how U.S. forces should be strengthened and, more broadly, on the role that military power should play in overall security policy.

Carter has stressed the limitations as well as the uses of military power, and he has said that U.S. policy must be identified with “widespread human aspirations.” Both “principle and strength,” Carter explained in his statement to the Democratic Party platform committee, “are required to maintain a constructive and secure relationship between America and the rest of the world.” Accordingly, human rights, relations with Third World countries, peace in the Middle East and arms control negotiations receive as much attention in Carter's program as the military preparedness of the United States and its allies.

Reagan, in clear contrast, places the emphasis squarely on military preparedness, which he claims has fallen to “its lowest ebb in a generation” under the Democrats. In his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, Reagan rejected what he called the Democratic view that “the United States has had its day in the sun; that our nation has passed its zenith.” The Republican platform endorses “a national strategy of peace through strength,” to be based on achievement of “overall military and technological superiority over the Soviet Union.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Defense Spending
Nov. 03, 2017  Military Readiness
Sep. 07, 2001  Bush's Defense Policy
Jul. 30, 1999  Defense Priorities
Sep. 29, 1989  Can Defense Contractors Survive Peace?
May 17, 1985  The Defense Economy
Apr. 16, 1982  Defense Spending Debate
Oct. 10, 1980  Defense Debate
Apr. 12, 1974  Peacetime Defense Spending
Sep. 24, 1969  Future of U.S. Defense Economy
Oct. 26, 1966  Defense Spending Management
Feb. 19, 1964  Arms Cutbacks and Economic Dislocation
Jun. 10, 1953  Defense Spending and Reorganization
Jan. 18, 1950  Civil Defense
Nov. 03, 1948  Atlantic Security and American Defense
Campaigns and Elections
Campaigns and Elections
General Defense and National Security