No one needs to discuss the differences on Foreign Policy that exist between Bernie and the Republican candidates. Those should be treated as a given. What has not been discussed publicly, however, and what bears real examination, is that these same policy differences exist between Bernie and Hillary Clinton.
Hillary often boasts that she had wide and deep support from Republicans when she served as Secretary of State. Given the reactionary and militaristic views of the Republican Party when it comes to Foreign Policy, such a claim should immediately raise red flags for any Democratic voter.
In addition, it is well-known that Hillary voted to support the Bush Administration’s disastrous invasion of Iraq. She has since “admitted” that this was a mistake, and that she had been fooled like so many others. But what if Hillary’s Iraq vote was not a lapse in judgment but rather an expression of her deeper convictions, specifically her support for the neoconservative interventionist policies of Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz and others? What if Hillary voted “yea” not because of possible WMD, but because deep down she thought that the US had the right – indeed the responsibility – to invade Iraq and install a “friendly” government that would serve America’s strategic aims in that region?
Hillary was a staunch member of the Democratic Leadership Council, an organisation of so-called “New Democrats” of which Bill Clinton was Chairman. The DLC rejected economic populism and believed in “triangulation” – i.e., the co-opting of Conservative social and economic positions in order to win votes among what they perceived to be a conservative-leaning electorate. The DLC was fully behind the disastrous domestic policies that the Clintons pushed (Tough On Crime Bill, DOMA, Destruction of Welfare/dissolution of AFDC). But on Foreign Policy, the DLC was also very conservative, and the DLC signed on with and supported the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) – the cabal of neoconservatives that were behind the Iraq War. And indeed, support for Bush’s invasion of Iraq was the official policy position of the DLC!
In this way, we can say that Hillary’s vote for the Iraq War was not a “blip” or a “mistake” – she was not fooled or bamboozled into voting for war. She was simply voting in the manner in which the DLC and the PNAC wanted her to.
Robert Kagan, a well-know neocon and one of the architects and proponents of the Iraq war, was one of the principal adherents to the PNAC. This organisation called for the USA, as the sole superpower, to pursue an aggressive program of military intervention and to project “hard power” everywhere to secure America’s preeminent place in the world.
Kagan is a real fan of Hillary, and speaks glowingly about her willingness to pursue interventionist policies. In a 2014 interview with the New York Times, Kagan said of Clinton: “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue …it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”
Indeed, whenever there has been a choice between diplomacy and war, Hillary has pushed for a military solution. She was the one that urged the US attacks on Libya; she was for being more militarily involved in Syria, arming the so-called “moderate” rebels and even putting in American “advisers.” More recently, she has called for a “No Fly Zone” over Syria – and we know from our experience in Iraq that such as step usually ends up being a prolonged lead up to war.
There were also other telltale votes in the Senate. When a bill came up to limit the use of cluster bombs in heavily populated civilian areas, she crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans against it.
She also joined Republicans in voting against transferring Guantanamo detainees to the US so that the prison could be closed (Bernie voted for it).
Likewise she voted to “Set policy to “combat, contain, and roll back” violent Iranian activities in Iraq – a major increase in military operations in Iraq (Bernie opposed it).
Hillary voted for the incredibly bloated $500 billion Defense Spending Bill in 2008, which Bernie opposed so eloquently and vehemently (see video)
Let’s make no mistake -Hillary has as much as told us that she would be to the right of Obama on Foreign Policy. She has opposed him numerous times, not just on Syria but also as regards Israel. Hillary has condemned Jimmy Carter’s assessment that the occupied territories represent a new “apartheid”. She has also worked to block Palestine’s recognition as a state in the UN.
And of course she supports the NSA’s spying and thinks Edward Snowden is a traitor that needs to “face the music.”
I don’t know if Clinton’s bellicosity arises from a fear of being perceived as “weak” or “womanish” on foreign policy, or whether she is just another Israel-loving neocon who believes that the US should intervene wherever it wants to. But one thing is sure, and that is she is always the first to push for a military option, and in this way she is a true student of the neoconservatism. If she is president, it is most likely, as Kagan says, that she will pursue what the PNAC called a “Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity.”
President Obama recently announced that he will not be bringing the troops home from Afghanistan. The next President will thus need to decide whether or not to leave a permanent military presence in that country or indeed to “double-down” on our commitment with even more troops. There is no doubt also that Iraq will continue to be a cauldron of violence and instability. How will a President Clinton handle these situations? Unfortunately, if past is any prologue, we know that Hillary will listen to the other war hawks and choose the military solution.
When it comes to foreign policy, Bernie can always be expected to give the line that he delivered in the Democratic debate: “I happen to believe from the bottom of my heart that war should be the last resort.”
Many may be tempted to dismiss this statement as simple oratory or expressing a sentiment rather than arguing a position. But in reality, when Bernie is up there compared with Hillary Clinton, we must realize that it is not a platitude but rather a serious declaration of a major difference in their approach to Foreign Policy. That simple belief that “war is a last resort” may seem axiomatic to Bernie and to us, but it is by no means a given with Hillary Clinton.