February 17, 2016
In order to distinguish himself from Hillary Clinton, Sanders will have to think bigger when it comes to diplomacy
With a major victory in New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders’ campaign now moves to the national stage. Sanders’ uncompromising focus on the rigged economy and inequality mobilized millions of young Americans, and even pulled Hillary Clinton’s economic policies to the left.
To win the nomination and the general election, however, Bernie Sanders also needs a progressive foreign policy platform that distinguishes him from Clinton and the Republican frontrunners.
His foreign policy must be based on three principles: non-aggression, détente and human rights.
Sanders must distinguish himself from Hillary Clinton and others by presenting a platform that artfully combines the respect for other nations’ sovereignty with an unconditional support for human rights.
His foreign policy platform must echo the principles and values that have made the United States an exemplary nation for millions around the world, while dispelling its long legacy of foreign interventions and human rights violations abroad.
The Sanders campaign needs to unequivocally reject the regime change doctrine and the United States’ overt and covert interventions in other parts of the world.
This is particularly crucial in the Muslim world, where past interventions have resulted in millions of deaths, unending violence and growing displacement.
Bernie Sanders’ career opposition to regime change as a centerpiece of his foreign policy was absent in the recent debate hosted by MSNBC.
It resurfaced in much greater detail in his answers during the PBS debate on February 11th, but typically he has focused instead on more generic calls for coalitions.
“So I would say that the key doctrine of the Sanders administration would be no, we cannot continue do it alone, we need to work in coalition,” Sanders said, for example, in the MSNBC debate.
Even George W. Bush or Dick Chaney would not disagree with this doctrine. The disastrous war in Iraq was carried out by the “coalition of the willing,” however small it might have been.
But building coalitions cannot be the basis of a progressive foreign policy doctrine. Opposing regime change can. That is what separates Sanders from the other candidates for the White House.
Sanders will be best advised to reemphasize his opposition to the Iraq War as an example of his unequivocal rejection of the regime change doctrine.
Détente is the second pillar of the progressive foreign policy for Bernie Sanders. Coupled with the principle of non-aggression, detente can reduce tension and the potential for war.
President Obama’s rapprochement to Iran and Cuba are useful examples of starting points for the Sanders’ campaign. Talking to Iran and establishing a line of diplomatic communications resulted in a historic deal that avoided yet another devastating war.