One of my reservations about Bernie Sanders’ candidacy has been his foreign policy qualifications, or, to be more precise, his interest in the subject. My reservations have been largely put to rest by a piece in Politico Magazine, dated February 11th, by Lawrence Korb, an Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration and Washington think tank habitué since, “Bernie Sanders is more serious on foreign policy than you think.” I won’t summarize what Korb says—just read the thing—except to say that I’m convinced.
In point of fact, there is no rhyme or reason to think that Bernie, who has been in Congress for the past 25 years, would be any less knowledgeable on foreign policy than any of the other candidates, Hillary excepted (whom everyone agrees is totally on top of the subject, regardless of how one feels about her positions). And, to put it mildly, I trust Bernie’s foreign policy instincts over those of any of the candidates in the other party, and particularly on subjects like this.
On foreign policy, Salon writer Daniel Denvir had an article dated yesterday, “America needs a ‘Bernie Doctrine’: How Sanders’ foreign policy weakness could become a game-changing strength,” in which he cites several lefty academics, as well as engagé writers on the Middle East. Denvir, entre autres, links to a piece in The Electronic Intifada by Rania Khalek, “Bernie Sanders and the question of Palestine,” which is the most comprehensive I’ve seen on the matter of Bernie’s position on Israel.
In the event—still unlikely—that Bernie is elected POTUS, one may be sure that his Middle East policy will not be significantly different from the present one. Also that he’ll appoint mainstream Washington establishment types to his foreign policy team. The usual think tanks (Brookings, Carnegie Endowment et al) will be well represented in a Sanders administration. Lefties who have illusions on this score will be disappointed.
I watched today, via YouTube, the entire Bernie-Hillary debate in Milwaukee last night. I thought Hillary hit it out of the park but that Bernie was very good too (TPM’s Josh Marshall has a good analysis). I like him—both politically and viscerally—and have a high regard for her, as I always have. If they maintain last night’s tone—with no acrimony or nastiness—for the rest of the campaign, then it will all work out.
UPDATE: Bernie supporters on social media have been trashing Hillary of late for her friendly relationship with Henry Kissinger, to the point where this is being seen as almost disqualifying her candidacy. In this vein, a Hillary-hating friend, linking to this Mother Jones article, wrote the following yesterday on social media
Odd how Clinton supporters are so quiet about about the Kissinger connection. For the life of me, I can’t imagine how a self-professed “progressive” would proudly associate with the worst and most cynical secretary of state in US history, someone who rightly could be considered a war criminal regarding Southeast Asia and a stone reactionary in Latin America. No doubt the Kissinger problem will not go away, particularly when younger people learn of who he was and what he did.
My response: I haven’t been keeping tabs on how Hillary supporters are responding to this Kissinger brouhaha but, IMHO, it’s irrelevant and hardly even worth talking about. So Hillary Clinton—a former First Lady, former Secretary of State, and ex officio pillar of the foreign policy establishment—pals around with Henry Kissinger, a former NSC director, Secretary of State, pillar of the foreign policy establishment, and quite simply one of the best known, most famous personalities in international diplomacy of the latter half of the 20th century… I find this utterly unexceptional. Moreover, I find it entirely normal. Seriously, why wouldn’t she have a cordial relationship with him? And they both live in New York City to boot!
As for Kissinger being a ‘war criminal’, he has been accused of such in incendiary pamphlets and countless articles in leftist publications but never been indicted by any court of law. And no such indictment is on the horizon, so far as I am aware. But even if one were issued (but from where? and for what crime exactly?), it would necessarily target Kissinger’s hierarchical superiors, i.e. Nixon and Ford, both long dead, as in the United States it’s the president who formulates foreign policy. The buck stops with him, not the NSC director or Secretary of State.
Seriously, Hillary-haters should let this one go, though they likely won’t. Haters gonna hate, whaddya wanna do?