How the GOP Candidates Stack Up on National Security

This is an updated version of the positions of the GOP Candidates to include comments made during the first GOP debate.


The Iran Deal

Fiorina – “When America does not lead, the world is a dangerous and a tragic place. This is a bad deal. Obama broke every rule of negotiation. Yes, our allies are not perfect, but Iran is at the heart of most of the evil that is going on in the Middle East through their proxy.”

Graham – “And this deal is giving [the Ayatollah] a pathway to a bomb, a missile to deliver it, and money to pay for it all.”

Huckabee – “We got nothing, and Iran gets everything they want. The president can’t tell you what we got. I’ll tell you what the world got. The world has a burgeoning nuclear power that didn’t, as the Soviets, say ‘we might defend ourselves in a war’.”

Paul – “I oppose the Iranian deal, and will vote against it. I don’t think that the president negotiated from a position of strength, but I don’t immediately discount negotiations. I’m a Reagan conservative. Reagan did negotiate with the Soviets. But you have to negotiate from a position of strength, and I think President Obama gave away too much, too early.”

Perry – “Maybe we would’ve gotten a deal where we didn’t give everything away. But the issue for us is to have a Congress that stands up and says not only no, but hell no, to this money going to a regime that is going to use it for terror…whoever the next president of the United States is going to be, and I’ll promise you, if it’s me, the first thing that I will do is tear up that agreement with Iran.”

Walker – “To me, you terminate the deal on day one, you reinstate the sanctions authorized by Congress, you go to Congress and put in place even more crippling sanctions in place, and then you convince our allies to do the same.


Bush – “Barack Obama became president, and he abandoned Iraq. He left, and when he left Al Qaida was done for. ISIS was created because of the void that we left, and that void now exists as a caliphate the size of Indiana. To honor the people that died, we need to — we need to — stop the — Iran agreement, for sure, because the Iranian mullahs have their blood on their hands, and we need to take out ISIS with every tool at our disposal.”

Cruz – “We will not defeat radical Islamic terrorism so long as we have a president unwilling to utter the words, ‘radical Islamic terrorism’. When I asked General Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs, what would be required militarily to destroy ISIS, he said there is no military solution. We need to change the conditions on the ground so that young men are not in poverty and susceptible to radicalization. That, with all due respect, is nonsense. It’s the same answer the State Department gave that we need to give them jobs. What we need is a commander in chief that makes — clear, if you join ISIS, if you wage jihad on America, then you are signing your death warrant.”

Paul – “But, we do have to examine, how are we going to defeat ISIS? I’ve got a proposal. I’m the leading voice in America for not arming the allies of ISIS. I’ve been fighting amidst a lot of opposition from both Hillary Clinton, as well as some Republicans who wanted to send arms to the allies of ISIS. ISIS rides around in a billion dollars worth of U.S. Humvees. It’s a disgrace.”


Walker – “We need to have a national security that puts steel in front of our enemies. I would send weapons to Ukraine. I would work with NATO to put forces on the eastern border of Poland and the Baltic nations, and I would reinstate, put in place back in the missile defense system that we had in Poland and in the Czech Republic.”

Pentagon Spending

Carson – “Well, what we have to stop and think about is that we have weakened ourselves militarily to such an extent that if affects all of our military policies. Our Navy is at its smallest size since 1917; our Air Force, since 1940. In recent testimony, the commandant of the Marine Corps said half of the non-deployed units were not ready and you know, the sequester is cutting the heart out of our personnel.”

Christie – “The first thing we need to do to make America stronger is to strengthen our military, and I put out a really specific plan: no less than 500,000 active duty soldiers in the Army. No less than 185,000 active duty marines in the Marine Corps. Bring us to a 350 ship Navy again, and modernize the Ohio class of submarines, and bring our Air Force back to 2,600 aircraft that are ready to go.”

Huckabee – “The purpose of the military is kill people and break things. …We’ve reduced the military by 25 percent under President Obama. The disaster is that we’ve forgotten why we have a military.”



The top ten GOP Presidential Candidates will take the stage for the first debate at 9pm EST on August 6th, including Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and John Kasich. The other seven candidates–Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, and Jim Gilmore–will take the stage at 5pm EST earlier that day. Below is a compilation of the candidates’ views on foreign policy and national security issues that pertain to the Council for a Livable World and the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.


When it comes to foreign policy will the candidates stay consistent with their past positions?

The following analysis of positions held by the GOP candidates comes from direct quotes of each candidate and a more expansive breakdown of the 2016 Presidential Candidates’ positions can be found here.


The Iran Deal

Every one of the GOP Presidential Candidates have come forward in strong opposition to the Iran Nuclear Agreement and urge Congress to vote against the deal.



Approve of Possible US Troop Commitment

Ten of the GOP candidates – Bush, Carson, Cruz, Graham, Huckabee, Jindal, Kasich, Pataki, Santorum and Walker – would approve and want US boots on the ground to counter the advance of ISIL’s terrorism in Iraq and Syria.

Approve of Air Support

Cruz, Graham, Paul, Perry and Rubio have specified the necessity of more air support for allies’ troops fighting against ISIL.

Approve of Non-Military Commitments

Other candidates have also argued that the US would need to support allies – without committing troops – through providing arms and financing other countries’ armies, including Christie, Fiorina, Paul, and Perry. Trump supports defeating ISIL by destroying their access to oil and financially ruining the regime’s monetary resources.

*Gilmore has not expressed policies specific to combatting ISIL


Approve of either providing weapons systems or missile defense to Baltic States

Many of the candidates have argued that the US needs to provide weapons or station missile defense systems in the Baltic states region in response to Russian aggression, with a particular focus on providing weapon systems to Ukraine. Those candidates include Bush, Christie, Cruz, Fiorina, Graham, Jindal, Pataki, Perry, Rubio, Santorum, and Walker.

Approve of Economic and Oil Sanctions/Restrictions

Given that Russia is a major provider of oil to Europe, candidates Graham, Jindal, Paul, Perry, and Rubio, want to see sanctions in place to cripple Russia’s economy.

Approve the Possible Invocation of Article 5 of NATO treaty

Governors Bush and Pataki have claimed that if Russia were to attack the Ukraine, then they would invoke Article 5, as they view an attack on Ukraine as an attack on any member state of NATO.

*Carson, Gilmore, Huckabee, Kasich, and Trump have not provided specific views addressing Russian aggression and the increasing tensions with the government of Russia.

Pentagon Spending

Increase in Defense Spending

The majority of the GOP candidates want an increase in the budget for the Pentagon and a lifting of the sequestration. The candidates wanting a larger military are Carson, Christie, Gilmore, Graham, Huckabee, Jindal, Pataki, Perry, Rubio, Santorum, Trump, and WalkerBush calls for an increase in defense spending but has also criticized the amount of defense spending under his brother, President George W. Bush. Cruz has also recently supported a larger military but in 2013, he sided with Sen. Rand Paul to denounce drone usage.

Balancing the Budget

Fiorina has called for zero-based budgeting in order to reduce wasteful spending in the Pentagon. Kasich is a self-proclaimed cheap-hawk and aims to eliminate excessive spending, but also wants to build-up the navy. Paul has consistently held that our number one threat to our national security is our debt.

US Nuclear Arsenal

Three GOP candidates have publicly argued that the US nuclear arsenal needs increased investment in order to modernize: Pataki, Rubio, and Trump. The other candidates have not provided specific views on the US nuclear arsenal.