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Bernie finds his footing on foreign policy

I mentioned in passing in a previous post that Bernie needed to improve his performance in debates regarding foreign policy. He did just that last night. Everyone's talking about his jabs at Clinton on Kissinger, but i thought this was the better moment:

I voted against the war in Iraq because I listened very carefully to what President Bush and Vice President Cheney had to say and I didn't believe them. And if you go to my Web site, berniesanders.com, what you find is not only going to help lead the opposition to that war, but much of what I feared would happen when I spoke on the floor of the House, in fact, did happen in terms of the instability that occurred.

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 Gadhafi. 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 Gadhafi. 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.

I admit i started to roll my eyes when he brought up Iraq again (not that it wasn't an extremely important defining moment for Hillary Clinton, but it can't be the only thing Bernie talks about), but as he kept going i started to realize how this response is basically a kind of doctrine, or at least a demonstration about Bernie's philosophy on non-intervention (or at least careful intervention). Tying it back to the US overthrow of Mossadegh was the clincher, because it means that Sanders isn't just doing a scattershot criticism of Hillary's actions; he's doing a real critique of US interventions. The overthrow of Mossadegh is considered a turning point for the US, in a bad way, on the left, so it's not an accident that Bernie brought this up (and by the way, if you go back to things Sanders said back in, say, the 1980s, he was making the same critiques). In terms of mainstream punditry, the Iran coup is just a footnote, old news, so i am sure that Bernie will continue to be criticized as being "weak" on foreign policy. But Bernie has reconnected with his older self, the guy that protested the Vietnam war, and that's what i think was missing from him on this. In the past, when Bernie was "weak" on foreign policy, it had two meanings. He was "weak" in the sense that he was non-responsive and seemed unprepared, and he was "weak" in the right wing sense of not wanting to bomb half the world. He'll continue to be called "weak" but if he continues in the way we saw last night, it can only be in the latter sense. Finding his footing like this means he can sound confident talking about these issues during the debates, and the truth is the majority of Democratic primary voters agree with him.

I also think Bernie is completely in the right about wanting to move toward re-opening relations with Iran. Just like with Cuba, you make progress by talking with hostile countries, not isolating them. Give them a reason to make changes.

As for Kissinger, i was surprised at the way Hillary handled it. When Hillary cited Kissinger's approval of her in the last debate, the lefty interblogs let out a collective "aroo?" but i thought that was going to be the end of it. When Bernie brought it up this time, i though it was a cute jab but expected Hillary to shrug it off and it wouldn't even be a blip in the debate. Instead she doubled-down on her support of Kissinger, which just amazes me. As far as the left is concerned, the guy is a war criminal. You don't say about a guy like that (paraphrasing), "Well, he has his good points and his bad points, and i only listen to him on his good points". A bizarre self-inflicted fail.

One final thing. I already linked to this Vox article about how maybe Sanders doesn't need to play the "Who are your advisers on foreign policy?" game. After i read that article, i saw the game being played out directly, with pundits asking that exact question. Sanders hasn't had a great answer (basically because he doesn't have any), and when pressed on two separate occasions, he threw out a name: Larry Korb. So the press went to Korb and Korb said that he only spoke to Bernie once, and then the press and the Hillary campaign all had a good laugh. But the tables have turned, because Korb came out yesterday and basically endorsed Bernie. If you're at all worried about Bernie's foreign policy experience or views, i highly recommend reading his article.

By fnord12 | February 12, 2016, 8:06 AM | Liberal Outrage

Reference from SuperMegaMonkey

Katrina vanden Heuvel implies that for all of Bernie Sanders' positive points, he's not so great on foreign policy, says that the left needs someone to be a leader on that front. I agree with Heuvel. I did think that...    Read More: Point-Counterpoint-Bomb