National security is indeed the most salient "issue" facing us this election, but we should worry as much about how fighting a perpetual war corrodes an executive branch that's itself barely survived the abuses of the Cold War. As Immanuel Wallerstein notes:
The biggest unknown is how far he will go to dismantle the quasi-police state structures that the Bush regime has instituted under the umbrella of a war against terrorism. This involves far more than appointing better judges. It means a radical revising of both legislation and executive policies and exposing the ultra-secret rules and practices to the light of day. Much can be done, as we know from what was accomplished in the 1970s, reining in the CIA and the FBI. But the situation is worse now and requires more. History may well judge Obama most of all on what he does in this domain. Up to now, he has been quite silent about this arena.Make no mistake: Obama's rhetoric at its most affirmative and swollen makes me tremble. In context, I'm relieved that the paleoconservative rag American Conservative has also realized, in tones more paranoid than I'd adopt myself, that an Obama administration might (they say "would") "parrot precisely the Bush regime’s panic-packed arguments about the horrendous threats facing America," especially when he remarks, as he did last year, that "this century’s threats are at least as dangerous and in some ways more complex than those we have confronted in the past. They come from weapons that can kill on a mass scale and from global terrorists who respond to alienation or perceived injustice with murderous nihilism. They come from rogue states allied to terrorists and from rising powers that could challenge both America and the international foundation of liberal democracy.”
You can spin this as Obama's way of countering the "perception" that he's "weak on national security," but he said those words, and he must account for them. American history is strewn with the bodies of presidents who appealed to our better natures by leading us into unsolicited wars of choice. The real audacity of hope would be if a President Obama shirks the call to higher duty.