The discussion about the size of our military seems almost to describe an alternate world. Our military is so huge and so well-funded that our budget on this equals the spending of the next 10 countries combined, Obama says.
But the bigger issue is that it's set up in ways that don't make sense. When I was in Iraq in 2004, I was embedded with the Pennsylvania National Guard's 109th Field Artillery unit. Field artillery means they were trained to mass up and shoot huge guns at a massed up army a few miles away. But armies don't fight like this, and never will again, and as soon as they got to Iraq these guys were retrained to be military police.
We don't need more military spending, we need less, but we need to spend it on the right things, and naval carriers and field artillery units ain't it.
Obama has the best line of the night so far, on this, saying to Romney: "You mention the Navy, and the fact that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets. We have these things called aircraft carriers and planes land on them. We have ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. It's not a game of Battleship, where we're counting ships. It's 'What are our priorities?'"
Oh, and then there's the red line. And who likes Israel most. The dumb thing about this public argument is that there is a ton of back channel information on Iran and nukes, coming from Israel and our own intelligence community, that neither you, me, nor Romney have access to. Obama does have access to it, and can't talk about it.
That's not anything against Romney. He can't know what he doesn't know. But it does make the public debate on this a bit silly. Nothing about the Israel/U.S. response to Iran's desire to build nuclear weapons is going to be adjudicated on television.
This is, also, another topic on which Romney doesn't seem to suggest he would do a single thing differently than Obama is, he'd just be...meaner about it? Tougher? Louder?
I can say Iran absolutely, positively can't have nuclear weapons more emphatically than you can, both candidates seem to be saying, but Obama gets a bit of an incumbent edge on the issue because he's actually doing it. All Romney can do is a agree, albeit in an incredibly disagreeable manner.