Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Why Bernie Sanders Will Win - Part 3: Foreign Policy

Why Bernie Sanders Will Win - Part 3: Foreign Policy
by Joe Brunoli
a.k.a. EuroYankee

No one needs to discuss the differences on foreign policy that exist between Bernie Sanders and the Republican candidates. Those should be treated as a given. What has not been discussed publicly, however, and what bears real examination, is that these same policy differences exist between Bernie and Hillary Clinton.

Hillary often boasts that she had wide and deep support from Republicans when she served as Secretary of State. Given the reactionary and militaristic views of the Republican party when it comes to foreign policy, such a claim should immediately raise red flags for any Democratic voter. 

In addition, it is well-known that Hillary voted to support the Bush Administration’s disastrous invasion of Iraq.  She has since admitted that this was a mistake, and that she had been fooled like so many others. But what if Hillary’s Iraq vote was not a lapse in judgment but rather an expression of her deeper convictions, specifically her support for the neo-conservative interventionist policies of Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz and others? What if Hillary voted “yea” not because of possible WMD, but because deep down she thought that the U.S. had the right – indeed the responsibility – to invade Iraq and install a “friendly” government that would serve America’s strategic aims in that region?

Robert Kagan, a well-know neocon and one of the architects and proponents of the Iraq war, was one of the principal adherents to the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). This is the organization that called for the U.S., as the sole superpower, to pursue an aggressive program of military intervention and to project “hard power” everywhere to secure America’s preeminent place in the world.

Kagan is a real fan of Hillary, and he speaks glowingly about her willingness to pursue interventionist policies. In a 2014 interview with the New York Times, Kagan said of Clinton: "If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue …it's something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else."

Indeed, whenever there has been a choice between diplomacy and war, Hillary has pushed for a military solution. She was the one that urged the U.S. attacks on Libya; she was for being more militarily involved in Syria, arming the so-called “moderate” rebels and even putting in American “advisers.” More recently, she has called for a “No Fly Zone” over Syria – and we know from our experience in Iraq that such as step usually ends up being a prolonged lead up to war.

There were also other telltale votes in the Senate. When a bill came up to limit the use of cluster bombs in heavily populated civilian areas, she crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans against it. She also joined Republicans in voting against transferring Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. so that the prison could be closed. (Bernie voted for it.)

Likewise, she voted to set policy to "combat, contain, and roll back" violent Iranian activities in Iraq – a major increase in military operations in Iraq. (Bernie opposed it.)

And, of course, Hillary voted for the $500 billion Defense Spending Bill in 2008, which Bernie opposed so eloquently and vehemently. (See video: http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4544002/sen-bernie-sanders-defense-spending-national-priorities )

Let’s make no mistake--Hillary has as much as told us that she would be to the right of Obama on foreign policy. She has opposed him numerous times, not just on Syria but also as regards Israel. Hillary has condemned Jimmy Carter’s assessment that the occupied territories represent a new apartheid. She has also worked to block Palestine’s recognition as a state in the U.N.

I don’t know if Clinton’s bellicosity arises from a fear of being perceived as weak on foreign policy, or whether she is just another neocon who believes that the U.S. should intervene wherever it wants to. But one thing is sure,  Hillary is always the first to push for a military option, and in this way. she is a true student of neo-conservatism. If she is president, it is most likely, as Kagan says, that she will pursue what the PNAC called a “Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity.” 

President Obama recently announced that he will not be bringing the troops home from Afghanistan. The next president will thus need to decide whether or not to leave a permanent military presence in that country or indeed to double-down on our commitment with even more troops. There is no doubt also that Iraq will continue to be a cauldron of violence and instability. How would Hillary Clinton as president handle these situations? Unfortunately, if the past is any indication, we know that Hillary will listen to the other war hawks and choose the military solution, bringing about the “quagmire” Bernie is warning about.

When it comes to foreign policy, Bernie can always be expected to give the line that he delivered in the Democratic debate: "I happen to believe from the bottom of my heart that war should be the last resort.”

Many may be tempted to dismiss this statement as simple oratory or expressing a sentiment rather than arguing a position. But in reality, when Bernie Sanders is compared with Hillary Clinton, we must realize that it is not a platitude but rather a serious declaration of a major difference in their approach to foreign policy. That simple belief that “war is a last resort” may seem axiomatic to Bernie and to us, but it is by no means a given with Hillary Clinton.

Joe Brunoli, a.k.a. The EuroYankee is a US Ex-Pat with dual US-EU
citizenship. Originally from Connecticut, Joe currently splits his time between his ancestral residence on Lake Como, Italy and his apartment in Barcelona, Spain. He travels Europe extensively for his work and tries to find time to comment on trends, attitudes, politics and points of interest - especially as they may affect or regard the US.  


  1. "War is madness. Whereas God carries forward the work of creation, and we men and women are called to participate in His work, war destroys. It also ruins the most beautiful work of His hands: human beings. War ruins everything, even the bonds between brothers. War is irrational; its only plan is to bring destruction; it seeks to grow by destroying." --Pope Francis

  2. Peace is a precious gift which must be promoted and protected...Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence."
    --Pope Francis, Reflecting on Syria, 9-1-13


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