When it comes to foreign policy, it ought to go without saying that Trump, Biden, and Buttigieg are walking catastrophes. A bit of research suggests that Elizabeth Warren is pretty much a true believer in slightly modified catastrophe. But what about Bernie Sanders?
I think that, as he is right now, Sanders would, overall, if pressed a typical amount, be a dramatic improvement over 45 out of 45 past U.S. presidents. But that's a low bar. I'm delighted with his domestic policies and with the prospect of watching the corporate media squirm as he wins. And I think Sanders has improved enough on foreign policy, in part in response to this demand, to support him now.
I also think that LBJ would have been pretty good on domestic policy if he'd resisted militarism and understood the connections between the two, and I wonder whether Sanders understands that lesson or rather has internalized the corporate-media notion that it's anti-militarism that hurts your domestic agenda.
Sanders evolved in recent years from his 2016 campaign mode of insisting that Saudi Arabia ante up its fair share of the cost of global wars, as if wars were a public service, and never mentioning the financial cost of militarism when asked about funding domestic programs, to trying to end the war on Yemen (and one on Iran), saying he'd move some completely unspecified amount of money out of the military, and listing the military industrial complex in the list of the forces he'd be challenging as president.
But lately, the military industrial complex has vanished from Bernie's speeches, suggestions from his staff that he would push to end Afghanistan or one of the other wars have never materialized, he's never indicated within 10% or $100 billion or at all how MUCH money he would seek to move to human and environmental needs from the military budget, he's never spoken of mass murder as a moral problem, and while he no longer talks about war as a public service that foreigners aren't helping to fund, he still talks about foreign policy as a matter of bringing recalcitrant foreigners into line.
When Sanders does speak about the financial cost of militarism, he says that as president he will wrangle up the world's nations and convince them to start spending money on climate protection rather than militarism. One can't help cheering for such a statement, because it's so bizarrely almost wonderful coming from a presidential candidate. But it's only almost, because it conveniently omits the real problem. The United States is the biggest war maker and the biggest weapons dealer. If the U.S. were to stop selling weapons, many nations' military spending would plummet. If the U.S. were to stop spending quite so much on weapons, it would spark a reverse arms-race.
When the Sanders campaign sent out a survey asking people what issues they cared about, and foreign policy was nowhere to be seen, a friend of mine emailed a complaint and got back a response. The response from the Sanders campaign included this:
"Around the world, dictators are rising up to exploit people's fears, prejudices and grievances in order to gain power and personal wealth. In Russia, China, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and elsewhere, authoritarian leaders are rising to power. They are hostile to democracy, dismantle the free press, they sow hatred toward ethnic and religious minorities, and they use government to benefit their own selfish financial interests. And they find comfort and support in the words and deeds of President Trump. They are the powerful and wealthy few tyrannizing powerless poor people everywhere.
"As Bernie has said: 'There is a global struggle taking place of enormous consequence. Right-wing authoritarians backed by a network of multi-billionaire oligarchs are forming a common front. We who believe in democracy must join together to build a progressive global order based on human solidarity.'
"Bernie is calling for a new international coalition to fight to rebuild democracy. We must:
Build a sustainable energy future, not enrich fossil fuel companies who profit from destroying the air, land and water that our children and grandchildren will depend on.
Devote our resources to fighting diseases, not building weapons of mass destruction.
Break up the information monopoly in which a handful of multinational media giants, owned by a small number of billionaires, control the flow of information on the planet.
End the practice of multinational corporations stashing over $21 trillion in offshore bank accounts to avoid paying their fair share of taxes while working families suffer.
Create trade agreements that benefit working people, not the corporations that oppress them."