Sanders’ progressivism stops at the water’s edge

Bernie Sanders is, from my point of view, very good on economic issues, pretty good on civil rights and civil liberties issues and not good on war and foreign policy issues.

He is a better champion of the interests of the American voting public than any other Democratic candidate, or any Republican.   He is not much of a champion of harmless people overseas who get in the way of U.S. military operations.

Bernie-Sanders-coverHe recently said that he’d continue President Obama’s drone killing policy, but in a kinder, gentler manner in which fewer people were killed.  He also has called for a more active military role for Saudi Arabia.

What I take this to mean is that he would continue the Bush-Obama policy of global military intervention, but in a way that minimizes American casualties.

The issue with drone killings is not the technology.  Drones can be highly useful in conducting military operations, and are preferable to dropping napalm bombs.

Drone killings, and Special Operations assassinations, are a Constitutional issue.  It is whether a President of the United States has the authority to sign a death warrant for anybody anywhere in the world, based on his sole authority without any accountability.

The secondary issue is that, as applied to poor, primitive, brown-skinned people in remote areas, the policy is to kill people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.   It is death by racial profiling.

Saudi Arabia, whom Sanders would partner with, is a medieval autocracy which is a source and sponsor of terrorism.  The Al Qaeda and ISIS terrorists are adherents of a radical form of Islam called Wahabism or Salafism, whose missionaries are subsidized with Saudi oil wealth.

Osama bin Laden was a Saudi, as were most of the 9/11 attackers.  The Saudi government did not support Bin Laden or Al Qaeda, but many individuals in Saudi Arabia did.

What the Saudi government did not was to sponsor the radical Islamist rebels in Syria, out of which the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL and Daesh) arose.  If the U.S. government is serious about crushing ISIS, it should join forces with its enemies.

The supporters of Bernie Sanders say that “he has to do it” and “nobody’s perfect.”   It’s true that reversing American foreign policy would be a daunting task for the greatest of leaders, because our current policies are supported by so many entrenched political and economic interests.  I don’t know how many American jobs are supported by drone warfare, but I don’t think it is a small number.

The problem with the excuses given for Bernie Sanders is that they are the same as the excuses my liberal friends, especially women friends, give for Hillary Clinton.

And there is some basis for the excuses in both cases.   It would be very difficult for someone who is a supporter of both peace and economic populism to make headway against the entrenched interests who are against it.

But the question is not whether Sanders, Clinton, Obama or any other leader has good excuses for what they do or don’t do.  The question is how to stop the US descent into oligarchy, authoritarianism and perpetual war.

If there is an answer, it doesn’t lie with Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or any other individual candidate.  It lies with the people who are working at the grass roots for change—the Fight for Fifteen, Occupy Wall Street, #BlackLivesMatter, the fast-food workers’ union, the peace protesters—and who may in the long run create a movement that people such as Sanders and Clinton, and also Bush and Trump, will have to answer to.


Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas by Paul Street for Counterpunch.

Bernie Sanders Says He Will Not End Drone Program If Elected President by Taylor Tyler for Headlines and Global News.

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