One leftist after another are criticizing Senator Sanders, candidate for President in the Democratic Party, for not talking about foreign policy in a way they want him to. Senator Sanders has won many elections, often against great odds; so it is up to the Senator, not the peacenik, anti-militarism leftists to decide how he can best, first secure the Democratic Party nomination, and then finish his political revolution by taking over the Executive Branch of government in November of 2016. This article will argue for letting Senator Sanders decide how and when to address foreign policy.
Leftists unhappy with Sanders’ focus on domestic policy include:
- Jeff Cohen, who “want[s] Bernie to start addressing some of the things that had been wrong with U.S. foreign policy and militarism under President Bush, President Obama,”
- Bruce Gagnon, who has a “bulls**t meter” apparently pegged because Senator Sanders “never once mentioned military and foreign policy,”
- Sam Husseini, who criticized Sanders because he “has actually pushed for the repressive regime [of Saudi Arabia] to engage in more intervention in the Mideast.”
- Over 25,000 of Sanders’ supporters, who signed a Roots dot org petition calling on Bernie “to speak out about how [corporate power and oligarchy] are intertwined with militarism and ongoing war.”
Elections are rarely won because of positions taken by candidates for the presidency on foreign policy, but appearing “weak” of national defense can bury a candidate. Examples of the latter are not difficult to find in recent history.
- Senator Kerry was defeated by incumbent George Bush opposing the “war on terror” in favor of a crime and punishment approach to going after terrorists,
- Senator Mondale was defeated by incumbent Ronald Reagan while supporting a freeze on the testing, production and deployment of new nuclear weapons,
- Senator McGovern was defeated by incumbent Richard Nixon in part by strongly opposing the Vietnam War,
A counter-example to this short list would be Senator Obama besting Senator Clinton in 2008 for the Democratic nomination largely on Clinton’s vote in support of the resolution of force against Iraq and then defeating Senator McCain, a hawk’s hawk, in the general election. In every example given, there are other factors involved aside for positions on foreign policy.
Husseini’s criticism is especially poorly considered. ISIS is first an Arab-Arab and Arab-Kurd problem. Senator Sanders is spot-on to support Arab confrontation to that caliphate/empire in the making, and Saudi Arabia has the hardware to do this (thanks to American war plane manufacturers). If fact, that is the kind of anti-militarism American leftists should expect from Sanders. Better to have Arab pilots shot at, captured and beheaded or burned alive than American pilots.
What the anti-militarists need to keep in mind is the role of billionaire’s money in politics in our Citizens United era. Senator Sanders is running against neo-conservative hawks, including Secretary Clinton, who will frame Senator Sanders as “weak” on foreign policy if he takes a stand against American militarism, imperialism or the world-wide American empire itself. Clinton, and the Republicans he’ll face, if Bernie should manage to defeat the establishment in the Democratic Party, have super PACs with millions and millions of dollars/speech to bomb the airwaves with negative ads should Senator Sanders take a strong stand against U.S. militarism. Sanders is treading lightly on the topic because he’s crossing a mine field.
Sanders, like Obama in 2007, is touting his vote against the Iraq War in 2002; but that’s not good enough for Cohen, Husseini, Gagnon and the gaggle of peaceniks signing the Roots dot org petition. If the anti-war crowd get their way and push Senator Sanders to take a strong stand against militarism, imperialism or empire, they may well compel Bernie to say something that will undermine the political revolution the United States desperately needs. It may be hard for peaceniks to understand, but there is a more pressing issue that must be addressed, i.e., climate change. Naomi Klein’s aptly titled This Changes Everything points to climate change as a life or death struggle against the fossil fuel corporations and capitalism itself. “Everything” in that title includes the puritanical thinking by anti-militarists who want Senator Sanders to speak out against war and/or for peace, and doubters should watch the video above if they disagree before posting a comment below.
Make no mistake: the United States needs a new foreign policy that is based upon national self-determination and non-intervention by all countries. However, pushing Senator Sanders to articulate such a bold, new policy would give his neo-conservative opponents ammunition to undermine the political revolution Sanders is leading. While peaceniks can desire and expect Sanders to oppose American militarism, they should also give him the flexibility to walk through the mine field that resembles his path to the White House.
The Executive Branch needs to abide by the Constitution and not wage war without congressional declarations. That alone would be a step in the right direction and a policy position that Senator Sanders could articulate and obtain massive support for.
In “Revolution,” an essay on Revolt Against Plutocracy’s website, it states, “Bernie Sanders has a campaign to run—a thing he does extraordinarily well—and we should all be deeply grateful to him for running it.” While the left can and should join the grassroots movement for revolution, they should also remember Sanders is very good at winning elections. They, we all, need to give him the space he needs to maneuver the mine field he’s crossing en route to the White House. The peace-oriented left needs to help aid the political revolution by helping unseat the militarists in Congress and let Bernie tip toe across the mine field he’s traversing in the manner he best understands.