The Daily Bern:  Sanders Foreign Policy May Give Some Progressives Pause

Written by on September 29, 2015

If you are going to study a candidate to decide whether she or he deserves your vote, you must study the good and bad sides and decide what you can tolerate. Here is the sad truth: There is no perfect candidate, not even Bernie Sanders.

Most of the presidential candidate’s supporters tout Sanders’ commitment to serving working people and the poor over Wall Street and the One Percent. However, if they are going to make a solid and fair decision in choosing a potential Leader of the Free World, they must explore his foreign policy plans as well. And much of what those who study will find may turn Feeling the Bern into feeling heartburn.

Take me, for instance: I’m a militant pacifist, and while I love the Israeli people with all my heart (and, like Sanders, feel rightfully proud of my Jewish ancestry), my thoughts regarding the country’s government are not at all friendly. (My antipathy for violent Palestinians runs equally deep.) Sanders is okay with the Israeli government’s unconscionable occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, a view I reject on moral grounds. That noted, his website says he is “not a great fan” of Israeli President Binyamin Netanyahu, that he supports a two-state solution, that he sees the difference between the Palestinian people and violent terror groups like Hamas, and that he criticizes pro-Israel and pro-Palestine violence.

Another point for Sanders: He solidly supports the Iran agreement.

Still, he is all for continuing financial military aid for Israel and Saudi Arabia. Last February, Sanders opined to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the US must help finance Saudi Arabia’s violent battle against ISIS terrorists. He has not retreated from that position.

From an op-ed on Mint Press News:

His stance remained unchanged despite a months-long, devastating Saudi-led campaign of bombing in Yemen that’s led to more than 1,000 dead children. While continuing to advocate against U.S. “boots on the ground,” and admitting that the U.S. had led to the destabilization in the region that directly spurred the rise of ISIS, Sanders told Blitzer in May that as one of the world’s biggest military spenders Saudi Arabia is “going to have to get their hands dirty in this fight. … [W]e should support those countries taking on ISIS.”

In an essay re-published Thursday by TruthDig, Sam Husseini, communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy, questioned this unflagging support for a despotic regime:

“Why should a US progressive be calling for more intervention by the Saudi monarchy? Really, we want Saudi troops in Syria and Iraq and Libya and who knows where else? You’d think that perhaps someone like Sanders would say that we have to break our decades-long backing of the corrupt Saudi regime—but no, he wants to dramatically accelerate it.”

That point is one that merits serious consideration by liberals deciding upon a candidate to support. This, too: While Sanders uses the rhetoric of the antiwar movement, his Senate votes tell a very different story.

But give him this: Bernie Sanders is one of the few candidates with the stones to bring up the military-industrial complex and call it by name:

“[W]hile there is no question our military must be fully prepared and have the resources it needs to fight international terrorism, it is imperative that we take a hard look at the Pentagon’s budget and the priorities it has established. The US military must be equipped to fight today’s battles, not those of the last war, much less the Cold War. Our defense budget must represent our national security interests and the needs of our military, not the reelection of members of Congress or the profits of defense contractors. The warning that President Dwight David Eisenhower gave us about the influence of the Military-Industrial Complex in 1961 is truer today than it was then.”

Journalist David Swanson notes, however, that the above could be interpreted as “suggesting that investing in preparation for ‘today’s battles’ is what produces today’s battles.”

That’s not the only part of Sanders’ foreign policy statement that should give peace-focused liberals some sleepless nights, according to the progressive pundit.

“Drones are not mentioned,” Swanson writes. “Special forces are not mentioned. Foreign bases are not mentioned. The only hint he gives about future action in Iraq or Syria suggests that he would continue to use the military to make things worse while simultaneously trying other approaches to make things better.”

Ultimately, Swanson assesses Sanders, like many of his positions, to be a “mixed bag.” You, the voter, must decide what you can and cannot stomach. Check out Swanson’s opinion piece in full, and if you can’t take Bernie’s hawkish side, I suggest Green Party candidate Jill Stein.


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