Bernie Sanders wants to crusade for democracy

The big weakness of Bernie Sanders as a political leader has been the lack of a consistent peace policy.  His tendency has been to oppose wars launched by Republican Presidents and support wars launched by Democratic Presidents.

Now, according to an article in POLITICO, he is rethinking foreign policy.  His idea is to make American foreign policy a crusade in favor of human rights and democracy.

Bernie Sanders

The problem with that is that all the recent disastrous U.S. military interventions have been justified as a duty to support human rights and democracy.  What would keep Sanders from being led down the same path?

The Clinton administration bombed Serbia supposedly to protect the human rights of the Bosniak Muslims and Kosovar Albanians.  The George W. Bush administration invaded Afghanistan and Iraq supposedly to free the Afghan and Iraqi people from the tyrannies of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.  The Obama administration engineered the overthrow of Qaddafi and attempted the overthrow of Assad supposedly to protect pro-democracy people.

Economic warfare against Venezuela and Iran, with a goal of reducing their people to destitution and misery, is justified in the name of protecting their human rights.  A ramp-up to military confrontation to Russia, with the risk of triggering nuclear war, is justified as resistance to the tyrant Vladimir Putin.

Here’s what Sanders had to say in a speech last September—

“Today, I say to Mr. Putin: We will not allow you to undermine American democracy or democracies around the world. In fact, our goal is to not only strengthen American democracy, but to work in solidarity with supporters of democracy around the globe, including in Russia.  In the struggle of democracy versus authoritarianism, we intend to win,” Sanders thundered.

He continued: “Inequality, corruption, oligarchy and authoritarianism are inseparable. They must be understood as part of the same system, and fought in the same way … Kleptocrats like Putin in Russia use divisiveness and abuse as a tool for enriching themselves and those loyal to them.”

Source: POLITICO Magazine

What statements like this imply is some kind of support for anti-Putin forces in Russia, continuation of sanctions against Russian oligarchs and possibly attempting to draw Ukraine and Georgia into NATO.

We’d be telling Vladimir Putin that our goal is to drive him from power.  That means it would be a matter of survival for him to interfere in U.S. politics and try to change that goal.

If I were part of the liberal democracy movement in Russia, the last thing I would want is some American politician announcing support for people like me.  It would be poison.


Now there are ways an American President could support democracy and human rights without intervening in the affairs of foreign nations.

  • He or she could start by fighting inequality, corruption, oligarchy and authoritarianism at home.
  • He or she could make sure the U.S. government followed not only our own Constitution and laws, but international human rights laws.
  • And try to get the U.S. to ratify all the human rights treaties our government hasn’t yet signed.
  • The United States could cease all covert actions intended to manipulate foreign governments, undermine democracies or keep dictators in power.
  • It could wind down military aid to dictatorships.
  • It could recognize newly democratic governments as soon as they come to power, and promptly extend aid (especially debt relief).

To the extent that this is what Sanders has in mind, I am for him.  But judging by the kind of people who are praising Sanders for his supposed realism, I think he instead is unthinkingly re-branding the present disastrous policy of military intervention.  I would prefer the isolationism of a Pat Buchanan or a Ron Paul.

I think American priorities in foreign policy should be nuclear disarmament and mitigating the global warming catastrophe.  Nuclear war and global climate change are threats to the survival of American society and to all of humanity.


Bernie Sanders Is Quietly Remaking the Democratic Foreign Policy in HIs Own Image by Derek Robertson for POLITICO.

The Issues That Won’t Go Away by Robert Koehler for Counterpunch.

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4 Responses to “Bernie Sanders wants to crusade for democracy”

  1. Fred Says:

    “Ich bin ein Berliner!” – John F. Kennedy

    “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” – Ronald Reagan

    “In the struggle of democracy versus authoritarianism, we intend to win!” – Bernie Sanders


    • philebersole Says:

      Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate – John F. Kennedy

      Peace is not the absence of conflict. It is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means – Ronald Reagan.

      President John F. Kennedy negotiated the Partial Test-Ban Treaty with the UK and USSR of 1963, which bans nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in the ocean and in outer space.

      President Ronald Reagan negotiated the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987 with the USSR, which bans short-range and intermediate-range land-based missiles (range of from 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 and 3,450 miles). Under this treaty, 2,692 missiles were destroyed.

      President Reagan proposed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (START) which was ratified in 1991 by the USA and USSR. It set an upper limit of 6,000 nuclear warheads and 1,600 nuclear missiles for each country. Some 80 percent of nuclear missiles then in existence were destroyed.

      This was updated with the START 2 treaty negotiated by President Barack Obama with the Russian Federation.

      President Donald Trump has announced he intends to withdraw from the INF treaty.

      Which path do we follow – a new arms race and Cold War, or continued nuclear arms reduction?

      I don’t say that Bernie Sanders is following the first path. I fear he may be listening to bad advice from the old Cold War establishment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fred Says:

    I thought my comparison was favorable to Bernie. I admire both JFK and Reagan.


    • philebersole Says:

      Your comparison was indeed respectful of Sanders. I respect Sanders, too, but I worry about his lack of principled opposition to worldwide U.S. military intervention and covert war.


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