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Thu Feb 21, 2019, 06:14 AM

It's Foreign Policy That Distinguishes Bernie This Time

He’s challenging American exceptionalism in a far more radical way than his 2020 competitors.

6:00 AM ET

Peter Beinart
Professor of journalism at the City University of New York


In 2016, foreign policy was the area where Sanders distinguished himself least.

This time, by contrast, Sanders arguably talks about foreign policy more than any other declared candidate. Of the four senators who launched their candidacies via video—Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Sanders—only his mentioned foreign policy. Over the past two years, Sanders has given two speeches outlining a broad foreign-policy vision. (Elizabeth Warren has delivered one, last November at American University, which she paired with an essay in Foreign Affairs. Neither Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, nor Kirsten Gillibrand has given any). And of the senators running for president, Sanders owns the biggest foreign-policy victory of the last Congress: the vote to end U.S. funding for the Saudi war in Yemen.

What distinguishes Sanders is the same quality that distinguished him on domestic policy in 2016: His willingness to cross red lines that have long defined the boundaries of acceptable opinion. One clear example is Israel. Most of the Senate Democrats running for president have shifted left on the subject. Booker, after initially supporting legislation to criminalize boycotts of the Jewish state, voted against a similar bill last month. Warren, after earlier in her career defending Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip, last year criticized Israel’s response to protests there. But Sanders has gone much further: He’s produced videos that call Gaza an “open-air prison,” he’s depicted Benjamin Netanyahu as part of the “growing worldwide movement toward authoritarianism,” and, most controversially of all, he’s suggested cutting U.S. military aid to Israel.

But Israel is only the beginning of Sanders’s sacrilege. He’s the only presidential candidate in recent memory who regularly describes the Cold War not as a heroic American victory, but as a cautionary tale. Sanders doesn’t just warn against U.S. military intervention in Venezuela, as Warren and Gillibrand have. He warns against it while invoking the United States’s “long history of inappropriately intervening in Latin American countries.” In his speech at Westminster College in 2017, he spent paragraph after paragraph detailed America’s disastrous 20th century interventions: Iran, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Vietnam—a litany that resembled a Noam Chomsky lecture more than a typical presidential candidate’s foreign-policy speech.

Sanders’s darker view of Cold War foreign policy isn’t mere historical revisionism. It’s linked to his critique of American foreign policy today. Now, as then, he wants America to shun the quest for global supremacy that leads it to overthrow regimes it can’t control and to instead pursue a foreign policy based on “partnership, rather than dominance.” That’s why, in his Westminster speech, Sanders did something Democrats have rarely done in recent decades: He called for putting the United Nations—which he called “one of the most important organizations for promoting a vision of a different world”—near the heart of American foreign policy.


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Reply It's Foreign Policy That Distinguishes Bernie This Time (Original post)
Donkees Feb 2019 OP
secondwind Feb 2019 #1

Response to Donkees (Original post)

Thu Feb 21, 2019, 07:52 AM

1. K&R

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