Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders' Best Moments Tonight Were on Foreign Policy

Sanders took on Clinton's record on regime change, and he had some things to say about Henry Kissinger too.

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The two high points of tonight's Democratic debate—and, as far as I'm concerned, the two high points of Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign—came when the moderators raised the topic of foreign policy. Sanders has criticized Hillary Clinton for backing the Iraq war before, but this time he used that as a springboard for larger critique:

Angry Grandpa vs. The Stare of Cold Fury
PBS

Now I think an area in kind of a vague way, or not so vague, where Secretary Clinton and I disagree is the area of regime change. Look, the truth is that a powerful nation like the United States, certainly working with our allies, we can overthrow dictators all over the world.

And God only knows Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator. We could overthrow Assad tomorrow if we wanted to. We got rid of Qaddafi. But the point about foreign policy is not just to know that you can overthrow a terrible dictator, it's to understand what happens the day after.

And in Libya, for example, the United States, Secretary Clinton, as secretary of state, working with some other countries, did get rid of a terrible dictator named Qaddafi. But what happened is a political vacuum developed. ISIS came in, and now occupies significant territory in Libya, and is now prepared, unless we stop them, to have a terrorist foothold.

But this is nothing new. This has gone on 50 or 60 years where the United States has been involved in overthrowing governments. Mossadegh back in 1953. Nobody knows who Mossadegh was, democratically elected prime minister of Iran. He was overthrown by British and American interests because he threatened oil interests of the British. And as a result of that, the shah of Iran came in, terrible dictator. The result of that, you had the Iranian Revolution coming in, and that is where we are today. Unintended consequences.

So I believe as president I will look very carefully about unintended consequences. I will do everything I can to make certain that the United States and our brave men and women in the military do not get bogged down in perpetual warfare in the Middle East.

Clinton responded first by noting that Sanders has not opposed regime change in every case (which is true, but it doesn't say a lot about Clinton's own judgment). And then she moved on to the argument the Clintonites always raise when Sanders cites her support for the Iraq war: "I do not believe a vote in 2002 is a plan to defeat ISIS in 2016."

That might have been an effective response if Sanders had simply brought up her Iraq vote and left it at that. But of course he hadn't stopped there. He had put her vote from 2002 in the context of her career-spanning support for an aggressive U.S. foreign policy, reaching up to her recent tenure as secretary of state; and he had put that, in turn, in the larger context of a series of Washington-sponsored regime changes that began before the public had heard of Hillary Clinton. He made a sustained argument both that Clinton's approach to foreign policy is fundamentally wrong and that it is part of a long tradition of destructive intervention around the globe. And he was essentially right.

The second high point came shortly afterward. After Clinton gave a brief spiel about the decision to send Navy SEALs against Osama bin Laden, Sanders steered the discussion toward something his opponent had said the last time they butted heads onstage:

I had some major disagreements with Christopher Hitchens, but two subjects he was usually right about were Henry Kissinger and Hillary Clinton.
Verso

[I]n this last debate, she talked about getting the approval or the support or the mentoring of Henry Kissinger. Now, I find it rather amazing, because I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.

I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger. And in fact, Kissinger's actions in Cambodia, when the United States bombed that country, overthrew Prince Sihanouk, created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in, who then butchered some three million innocent people, one of the worst genocides in the history of the world. So count me in as somebody who will not be listening to Henry Kissinger.

Again it was a sharp attack, both in terms of being basically correct and in terms of laying bare some of Clinton's core problems on foreign policy. Not all of the exchange that followed was as illuminating as that—Sanders made an argument about Kissinger, the domino theory, and trade with China that wasn't very coherent. But the key point had been made: Hillary Clinton embraces the praise of a man whose record includes the "secret" bombing of Cambodia, the Christmas bombing of North Vietnam, and the coup that installed Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Bernie Sanders may not be a foreign-policy whiz, but at least he knows better than to seek counsel from that guy.

After the debate, the CNN panel chortled a little over the Kissinger chatter, suggesting that young viewers would have to Google the man to know who the candidates were talking about. And no doubt quite a few of them were in the dark. But then, such voters would have had to Google the guy when Clinton brought him up in the last debate too. If they did, they'd have plenty to think about as they contrasted Sanders' account of Kissinger's career with Clinton's comment that she was "flattered" by the old butcher's praise.

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  1. But this is nothing new. This has gone on 50 or 60 years where the United States has been involved in overthrowing governments. Mossadegh back in 1953. Nobody knows who Mossadegh was, democratically elected prime minister of Iran. He was overthrown by British and American interests because he threatened oil interests of the British. And as a result of that, the shah of Iran came in, terrible dictator. The result of that, you had the Iranian Revolution coming in, and that is where we are today. Unintended consequences.

    So I believe as president I will look very carefully about unintended consequences. I will do everything I can to make certain that the United States and our brave men and women in the military do not get bogged down in perpetual warfare in the Middle East.

    The old bat has bout of lucidity. Too bad a reasonable candidate can’t have such a reasonable opinion on the ME.

    1. *had a* bout . . .

      I wish I didn’t have to be awake right now.

  2. Yes, but Hillary repeated “Obama” over and over, which will win her the Black vote, and hardly anyone votes for foreign policy.

  3. Because campaign rhetoric has a very strong correlation to actual behavior during one’s presidency.

    I’m thinking of both “america should be humble” GWB, and war-ending-Obama, who sent 50,000 new troops into afghanistan and then pretended it didn’t exist.

    1. Well socialist governments have a good record of foreign policy by virtue of not being the USA /likely Sanders voter

  4. Sorry, but everyone needs to put this ‘CIA overthrew Mossadegh to protect oil interests’ fairy tale to bed already. It’s a line of bullshit, and it’s very fucking lazy.

    Mossadegh was off the rails by the time he was overthrown. He wasn’t this popular, secular reformer that everyone likes to paint him as, nor was he democratically elected — he was appointed by the Shah.

    He was rapidly becoming an autocrat, nationalizing the oil industry, reneging on legal contracts with the UK, confiscating private land, and eventually turning to the Soviet Union for support. The Shah legally ordered him removed from power — as was his right to do — and Mossadegh refused, forcing the Shah to flee. Mossadegh was extremely unpopular at that point and a large majority of the Iranian people wanted the Shah back. The army sided with the people, and removed him from office, allowing the Shah to return.

    The CIA didn’t oust Mossadegh and the CIA didn’t install the Shah. The US government did indeed help the Shah escape and return, but why wouldn’t they? He was the legally sanctioned leader of that country, and had been a productive trade partner for years. You know, trade, that thing we all like around here?

    Oh, and after the Shah returned to power, the oil industry remained nationalized and the UK had to take it on the chin anyway. So much for the whole ‘oil conspiracy’ thing.

    1. What the fuck are you talking about? The coup was clearly engineered by the CIA, as recorded in CIA documents.

      https://goo.gl/eIVSf

      1. Bullshit. The CIA and the US helped the Shah, and of course there were CIA operatives in country to assist when Mossadegh was removed. And I’m also sure that, at the time, the CIA Iran office wanted to take credit for it internally. But the CIA didn’t engineer a coup. The so-called conventional wisdom is dead wrong here; I don’t care what Wikipedia says.

        Mossadegh was deeply unpopular from the time the Shah went into exile — the Shah who appointed him and had every legal right to remove him from office.

        The real coup was the Soviet influence over Mossadegh which led to the Shah’s exile. Helping him return to power was the legally appropriate and entirely sensible thing to do.

        1. Yeah, like the CIA & MI6 training of the newly formed Savok helped the people so much during that time. I’m sure their families loved being raped, tortured and murdered for dissent. If the Shah were so great, why did they tear up their Constitution and take away womens rights?

          1. If you want to say that the U.S. had no business interfering in another nation’s internal politics, say so. That point is valid in itself. But don’t try to pretend that Mossadegh was a beacon of Jeffersonian democracy who would not have resorted to similar suppression of dissent had he remained in power. Recall that he had obtained the power to issue law by decree, had cancelled an election in mid-vote when he saw that his party was losing, and was in the process of scheduling a referendum that would have abolished Parliament and giving him permanent lawmaking power.*

            *This is what Sanders considers to be “democratically elected prime minister.

            1. Exactly.

              And as to the point about not interfering with another nations internal politics, that’s a fine academic argument to make, but in the context of the Cold War, we simply didn’t have that luxury.

              There was no room for us to take the high road when the Soviets had no problem meddling in literally every shaky government on the planet. Should we have just been hands-off and allowed the Soviets to essentially take over the world through puppet governments and satellite states? Of course not. The world may not be perfect today, but it would be far worse had the Soviets gone unchecked.

            2. Where did I defend Mosadegh, or even imply he was Jeffersonian in any way??? His policies would have led where every socialist idea does. That’s a given.

    2. Similar situation in Chile, although Allende was democratically elected, there were demonstrations for months against him, as the economy started to head south. Did the CIA actually INSTALL Pinochet? No. They certainly supported the military coup, but didn’t originate it. And today Chile has the only really decent economy in Latin America.

  5. Bernie was asked which American politician best exemplified his belief in American foreign policy
    …he spent 2 mins talking about the new deal.

    Bernie’s foreign policy thus would be taken only within the US and upon the US.

    See ya guys in camp, I bet this generation’s Korematsu just gets shot before trial.

    1. How else is going to win over the LaRoucheites if he doesn’t name drop FDR?

  6. Everything in the middle east is ALWAYS about oil and mining interests, anyone who claims otherwise is simply full of it.

  7. “Hillary Clinton embraces the praise of a man whose record includes the “secret” bombing of Cambodia”

    So?

    John Kerry, the founder of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and current Democrat Secretary of State, distinctly told us that dropping bombs on a sovereign nation, without authorization from Congress, for the purpose of degrading a military force located there, is not what Americans would consider an act of war!

    So what’s the problem with the secret bombing of Cambodia?

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    All we need is a mobile or PC with a very good internet connection. There are many applications by which we can enjoy videos, our missed programs, live streaming etc.

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