Could Middle East Policy Be Sanders’ Biggest Strength Against Trump for 2020?

Yves here. I know some readers are critical of Sanders for not calling for a big curtailment of US military adventurism. But Sanders has always focused primarily on domestic policy and may not want to stick out his neck unduly in an area that he doesn’t know as well.

By Carly A. Krako,  a writer, researcher, and activist who is a PhD candidate in International Law at the London School of Economics,. She earned her MPhil in International Relations and Politics at the University of Cambridge. She is on Twitter @CarlyKrakow. Originally published at openDemocracy

Sanders’ policies regarding Yemen and Palestine position him as uniquely suited to combat Trump’s violent brand of exceptionalism, but what would a Sanders presidency mean for those who have long suffered due to American interventionism in the Middle East?

In the 2016 US presidential election, Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy, or alleged lack thereof, was portrayed as his Achilles heel. But a closer look at the Senator’s actions, specifically regarding the Middle East, reveals that Sanders’ views on foreign affairs are key to setting him apart from many of his Democratic competitors. This approach is exactly what is needed to position Sanders as the ideal candidate to take on Trump in 2020.

What could a Sanders presidency mean for Yemenis, Palestinians, and others who have long suffered due to foreign policies steered by American exceptionalism and interventionism?

Sanders’ views are definitely not centrist or American mainstream. But, as the Israeli historian Illan Pappé put it during a question and answer session at the University of Cambridge in February 2017, they’re also not as radical as some would hope when it comes to countries in the Middle East. As Pappé said, “There’s something very sad in the fact that … 70 years after the Nakba [expulsion of Palestinians in 1948], [Sanders’ comments were] hailed by all of us … ‘Did you hear Bernie Sanders?… Palestinians are human beings?! An American candidate for American President says the Palestinians are human beings! Thank God I lived to see this moment!’”

Pappé has critiqued Sanders tendency to follow in the US liberal tradition of “Progressive Except On Palestine,” and suggests that Sanders may not reform the US-Israel relationship as drastically as many would hope. Sanders has stood up firmly for Palestinian human rights, but also has frustrated many advocates with his opposition to the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS).

However, Sanders’ actions since the 2016 election, notably his recent resolution to end US support for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen (which has passed in the Senate, but must now make its way through the House) have given us more hope for his progressivism on Middle East policy than Professor Pappé’s 2017 depiction allows.

Many Arab American activists who support Palestinian rights have already announced their support for Bernie 2020, partly because of his leadership when it comes to condemning Israeli military brutality in Gaza. Sanders also opposed a bill to enable states to penalize businesses and individuals that boycott Israel, on the grounds that it would violate Americans’ First Amendment right to boycott—a constitutional right whether the subject of boycott is Israel, any other nation, or a business. Most recently Sanders signed on to a pledge to end the “forever wars” raging in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Niger, Somalia, and Thailand.

Nevertheless, Pappé’s point about the American political context is well taken. Mainstream US politics, particularly regarding the Middle East above all else, has moved so far to the right that even the most middle of the road views that would be deemed centrist in many non-US contexts are pegged as radical or extreme socialist in the US.

Unquestioning support for Israel has been ingrained into large portions of the American electorate, an issue I encountered firsthand when campaigning for Sanders in 2016. Four days before the 2016 New York Democratic Primary, on a cloudy April afternoon, I stood in Union Square Park with a pile of “Bernie 2016” flyers in tow, canvassing commuters and others passing through the park, trying to convince them to vote for Senator Sanders for president. Many of the people my fellow volunteers and I encountered were enthusiastic (“We’re already with you!”), some were politely ambivalent or less politely skeptical (“But does he really have a chance?”), and others, such as a pair of high school students, were equal parts passionate and frustrated (“God, I wish I could just f*cking vote in this election”). Some, however, were not so cordial. After a brief lull in activity, a woman who looked to be in her 80s walked by my spot in the southeast corner of the park.

“Hi!”, I said. “Are you voting in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary?”


“I would like to talk to you about why Bernie Sanders is the best candidate.”

“I can’t vote for him, because of Israel. Haven’t you heard what he said?!”

She looked at me with what I initially saw as cautious, or possibly even sympathetic, eyes. Eyes that suggested (patronizingly, but surely not maliciously) that a nice young person like me must simply not have heard the scandalous views Bernie was espousing concerning the Middle East. Otherwise, what was I doing there?

I replied. “I’m glad you bring that up. Senator Sanders’ stance regarding Israel is actually one of the key reasons I support him, and I think he’s the only candidate who has a vision that could bring peace to the region.” (Normally I avoid jargon along the lines of “bring peace to the Middle East,” but I was trying to meet my audience halfway and at least open a dialogue in the limited time available.)

“But he supports … supports … those Palestinians.”

“I know. I think his balanced vision is exactly what our country needs right now. A step forward.”

Poo-ey!”, she exclaimed. Her once hesitant eyes narrowed aggressively.

And then she spat at me.

Now, I would not want to over-dramatize the situation. She did not spit directly at my face, but she did spit in my direction. Most of the spit ended up on my right shoe, or on the ground.

Without going so far as to universalize an encounter with one very angry Manhattanite, the experience appears emblematic of much of the critique and skepticism Sanders faced in 2016. He is likely to confront attacks on his foreign policy approach again, though in a modified form this time around, given how Trump has altered the political climate and many Democrats have picked up Sanders’ formerly ‘too left’ policies. Foreign policy was an aspect of Sanders’ campaign that was attacked in 2016 not just by spitting park-goers, but by the media and the Democratic party, which had of course decided to support Hillary Clinton long before a democratic primary process was carried out.

Sanders’ progressive stances regarding foreign policy are exactly what we need, and he has made strategic efforts since 2016 to showcase his foreign policy abilities. In addition to the long overdue Senate resolution to end US support for the war in Yemen, he is the only Democratic candidate running so far who has lead the way to at least recognize Palestinian human rights and the Palestinian right to self-determination. Sanders spearheaded Medicare for All, once deemed an outrageous approach but now supported by all the Democratic frontrunners, a signature Sanders domestic project that has the potential to pull the US out of its low position in global healthcare rankings.

He would finally take desperately needed action on the climate crisis, and he seeks to bring the US back into the Paris Climate Agreement. Sanders also wants to go beyond the agreement, which he argues “goes nowhere near far enough,” a key issue given how Global South countries are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Stress on water resources in the Middle East will be worsened by climate change as well. Domestically, he is committed to addressing the numerous other environmental injustices plaguing millions of Americans, from lead poisoning water crises in places like Flint, Michigan to addressing air pollution.

Sanders has said he wants to undo the damage Trump has done with the Iran nuclear agreement, and he wants to end unconscionable human rights abuses being carried out against border crossers at the US-Mexico border.

It remains to be seen how much leeway a President Sanders would have to truly shift decades of destructive US policies towards the Middle East. After all, even an unprecedentedly progressive president cannot alone undo an entire history of neoconservatism or immediately dismantle structurally entrenched biases.

But Sanders’ actions with Yemen, and Israel and Palestine, suggest that he does offer more than mere promises, and is capable of avoiding the mistake of viewing Arab and Muslim countries as a monolithic bloc.

The Senate resolution on Yemen was written by Sanders and Senator Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah. Seven Republican Senators supported the resolution. The resolution invoked the 1973 War Powers Act, established at the end of the Vietnam War to reaffirm congress’s constitutional right to decide when the US can enter into war.

The brutal murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 has raised the profile of Yemenis’ immense suffering, but the Saudi-led coalition has been waging war in Yemen since 2015. Khashoggi’s murder has emerged as an internationally condemnable red line from which the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is facing great difficulty walking back. It should not have taken the murder of a prominent Washington Post journalist, however, for the western media to finally begin to give Yemen the attention it requires.

Over 20 million Yemenis are food insecure and 7.4 million are starving. An estimated 85,000 children have already been killed by starvation. 10,000 people are newly diagnosed with cholera every week. Approximately 17.8 million people require assistance to access safe drinking water and sanitation. Attacks on civilians are rampant, including an August 2018 attack on a school bus, in which a US-made bomb killed 40 children.

Families are forced to choose between using whatever money they have left to save one starving child by taking him or her to a hospital, or using the same money to feed their other children.

Of all the Democratic presidential candidates, Sanders has the longest and strongest track record of challenging unjust abuses of power, such as in Yemen. He had made clear that he remains committed to this approach domestically, such as when speaking bluntly about the unjustified authority held by billionaires, demonstrated recently through his comments regarding former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s promise not to run for president only if a moderate Democrat is nominated. With signature Sanders sarcasm reserved for taking on the elite and the corrupt, he retorted, “Ohhh, isn’t that nice? Why is Howard Schultz on every television station? Why are you quoting Schultz? Because he’s a billionaire.”

While Trump protects his ally Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, actively denying the Prince’s role in the Khashoggi murder and threatening to veto congressional efforts to end US support for the brutalities in Yemen, Sanders had made clear that he will not be bought or intimidated by despots domestic or foreign.

Trump, of course, has a great affinity for cozying up to dictators. Remember the ‘handshake scandal’ when he wouldn’t shake Angela Merkel’s hand, but embraced Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt? It is well known by now that Trump might as well post a sign on the Oval Office door: “For ‘privilege’ of a Trump handshake: must be male/human rights violator/destructive dictator. Women, democratically-elected leaders, and those with diplomacy skills need not apply!”.

The same man who destroyed the Iran nuclear deal is hell-bent on selling nuclear energy to the Saudis right now, according to a report by the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform. This of course raises concerns that Trump is enabling the production of Saudi nuclear weapons, but distinct from that concern, the fact that Trump is fixated on intensifying US economic embedment with Saudi Arabia is cause for alarm in and of itself.

Bernie Sanders is the candidate most likely to stand up to Saudi Arabia, deviating from the long status quo of delivering the Saudis a “blank check to continue violating human rights,” as Sanders puts it.

And of course Trump’s love affair with Benjamin Netanyahu, another right wing authoritarian ruler, is not news. Trump’s decisions to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, withdraw from institutions such as UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Councilbecause of alleged anti-Israel bias, de-fund the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), and close the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) mission in Washington, DC have emboldened the Israeli right and correlate with uninhibited, potentially unprecedented illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank. Trump persists with dogged support for Netanyahu, even as the UN declares that war crimes were likely committed in Gaza in 2018 and it appears that Netanyahu will be indicted imminently on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.

Of all the candidates, Sanders’ foreign policy most strongly counters Trump’s toxic, extreme brands of nationalism and exceptionalism both ideologically and in practice. Sanders’ record also most aggressively counters decades of violent US exceptionalism that long predates Trump, particularly regarding Israel and Palestine. As Sanders noted in his recent comments defending congresswoman’s Ilhan Omar’s critique of AIPAC, the highly influential pro-Israel lobbying group, we cannot “equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel.”

This does not mean that a Sanders presidency would enable activists to become any less vigilant when challenging problematic policies that extend far beyond the Oval Office, or that a Sanders White House would not need consistent pressure to do the complex and difficult work required to enact policies that sincerely consider the interests of civilians in places such as Yemen and Palestine. But Sanders, more than any of the other candidates, would give a leg up, policy-wise, to those committed to advocating for genuine respect of human rights in the Middle East and beyond.

For all those would-be spitters out there (whether literal spitters or just the metaphorical kind lurking antagonistically on Twitter) who question Sanders’ foreign policy chops, I implore you to look again.

There are other worthy competitors for the Democratic nomination in the race this time around, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren. But no one has the history or strength of record, or commitment to citizen-driven change, when it comes to defending justice like Sanders. No one else promises to take the lead on issues, rather than passively toe the line while waiting for shifts in collective party policy. (Warren has recently followed Sanders’ lead by condemning Israel’s use of deadly force in Gaza in 2018, but has so far avoided taking the lead with any further criticism of Israeli policies. Warren’s views on Gaza are a big shift from her historically pro-Israel stance, and may be more reflective of adaptation to a changing Democratic party than of a long-term commitment to Palestinian human rights. Warren’s economic approach, and self-positioning as a proponent of capitalism, reveal further distinctions between her and Sanders.)

Sanders is precisely the antidote to Trump that we need. Remember when Sanders attacked Hillary Clinton’s embrace of Henry Kissinger, and declared Kissinger “one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country” for decisions that facilitated genocide in Cambodia? We can expect more of this boldness—defying injustice and challenging unlawful brutality that is far too often accepted as the status quo—from Bernie Sanders.

Overthrowing Trump needs to be the top priority for 2020. But if you’re just as concerned about undoing Trump’s damage when it comes to foreign policy as domestic, particularly regarding the Middle East, Bernie Sanders is the place to start. I look forward to rigorous debates on this point in the months ahead. Just, no spitting, please.

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  1. kimyo

    his positions on the f-35 and russiagate mark sanders as mentally unsuitable for any public office. his failure to alert californians to the denial of their vote via provisional ballots is a shameful disgrace. why do we consider this person a contender? are we insane?

    1. Rob P

      Come on. Bernie’s endorsement of Russiagate was embarrassing and deserving of criticism, but it’s not like he went full Rachel Maddow. What would you suggest, progressives vote for Trump instead because every Democrat fell for the Russiagate BS?

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Sanders made only obligatory asides on RussiaGate. He never supported it in a serious way. He only started making some weak noises after he announced he was running.

      In case you missed it, Sanders is the front runner and the entire MSM is gunning for him, even more so than last time. Refusing to give lip service to their hugely profitable obsession would have made him a monster target. And being proven right eventually wouldn’t necessarily undo the damage done by the press depicting him as a Trump/Putin supporter. Remember how the press was going nuts over him having had his honeymoon in Moscow!

      And I have a link in Links from a new Reuters poll showing that half the respondents still think Trump colluded with Russia. You can be assured that the Dems and Dem leaning Independents poll way over 50%. It will take them a while to get over it, and many never will.

      Shorter: Intellectual purity is not conducive to winning. If you want purity, you need to stay away from politics entirely.

      1. Geo

        Well said. Sometimes a politicians needs to chose which battles to wage and talking reason during the Russiagate fiasco was never a winning battle. It’s how people get blacklisted from the mainstream.

        His actions in these issues speak louder than his words. And, while he’s not perfect, he’s the best option we have. Gabbard is great on foreign policy – not so much on a lot of other issues – and has about as much chance of winning as Kucinich did back in ‘08.

      2. David in Santa Cruz

        Bernie has made more than “obligatory asides on RussiaGate.” For example, he tweeted on February 21 2018,

        Mueller’s indictment provides further evidence that the Russian government interfered in 2016. It also shows that they tried to turn my supporters against Hillary Clinton in the primary and general election. I unequivocally condemn such interference.

        Bernie has rejected the Barr summary and demanded access to Mueller’s full report. Silly bot-nets aside, the indictments already delivered and the testimony made public show that the highest levels of the Trump campaign attempted to collude with the Russian government — but that they failed.

        Those indictments also strongly suggest that hackers from Russia were the source of the DNC emails revealed by Wikileaks. Those emails were a significant factor — but just one out of out of many — causing eligible voters to stay away from the 2016 polls in droves, paving the way to a Trump victory with only 26.3 percent of the possible vote.

        RussiaGate has been laughably overplayed by the MSM, but this does not mean that it should now be underplayed by the Left. Bernie has always acknowledged Russian interference in 2016, but he sagely places it in the appropriate perspective as one of many contributing factors in Trump’s victory, not the sole factor.

        I applaud Sanders for condemning the Forever Wars and for humanizing the Palestinian and Yemeni people.

        1. Tomonthebeach

          In fairness to Yves, I think that “obligatory asides” are hallway quips not attack rhetoric intended to start or escalate bipartisan bickering. That remark has nothing to do with Trump or his campaign.

          Even Barr conceded that Russia interfered with the campaign – just not in collusion with Trump.

          It seems that Pope Barr unwittingly gave Trump a plenary indulgence for all sins past and future :-).

          1. David in Santa Cruz

            The cited Ray McGovern article is an opinion piece recycling speculation from early 2017.

            The July 13, 2018 indictment of Viktor Netyksho, et al. is full of specifics of how Russian GRU officers and their associates spear-fished the DCCC and the DNC email systems. It was personally signed by Robert Mueller under penalty of perjury. While I do not think that Mr. Mueller changes into a blue bodysuit in phone booths, I strongly doubt that he’s a perjurer:


            Bernie is not drinking anybody’s Kool-aid on Russian hacking or Russian trolling. They happened. Did they “decide” the 2016 election? Doubtful. But were they one factor influencing nearly half of eligible voters not to cast a vote for either Clinton or Trump? Most certainly.

      3. kimyo

        Sanders is the front runner

        as far as my respect for polls goes here’s an old fave: nytimes 2016-11-08: Hillary Clinton has an 85% chance to win. (or how about brexit?)

        sanders failed to stand up for himself while clinton stole the election in broad daylight. why are we to think that won’t happen again?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Oh, come on. What kind of fantasy are you trying to sell? Pray tell, what could have have done? And give concrete steps, no handwaves.

          Let me clue you in: Secretaries of State certify election results. No one was gonna overturn a friggin’ primary. And he could do nothing about the superdelegates.

          1. Dan

            He certainly could have made more noise than he did. As I’m sure you know, change doesn’t happen by simply packing it in and supporting the status quo.

            I understand that Bernie has to walk a fine line between what he believes and wants to accomplish and what, for a practical matter, can actually happen, given the sorry state of politics in this country. But he said early on that he would support the Democratic candidate no matter what and he immediately threw his weight behind Hillary when the time came to bow out. He did not have to do that. The establishment has to be unceasingly pressured. The Hillary camp had nothing to fear. That is a problem.

            Bernie could have maneuvered in such a way so as to keep the pressure on while not being totally subversive. The grassroots of the Bernie campaign wanted him to take this approach, and in fact many left his camp when he essentially caved to the Democratic machine.

            I understand the retort will be that he’s back again, apparently stronger than ever, and this would not have been possible had he taken another approach last election. I don’t agree with that reasoning. As I said, he could have, and should have, been more forceful, while not entirely upsetting the apple cart – though the apple cart needs to be upset, demolished in fact, if any true change is going to happen in this country.

            It’s also not lost on me that many of Bernie’s initiatives have been taken up by the Democratic establishment, at least in theory. His camp has pushed the centrists to the left, allegedly anyway. It remains to be seen if this is largely lip service. I fear that it is. And that’s simply one more reason why Bernie should have kept the pressure on.

            It occurs to me that many Bernie supporters act towards him in the same manner that the centrist masses act towards their preferred candidates, be it Hillary or Obama or Joe Biden, etc. They become emotionally attached to them on some level and forget that they’re politicians first and foremost.

            All politicians, even the Bernies and the Omars and the AOCs, are personally ambitious on a level beyond what most workaday citizens who support them are. They need to be constantly kept in check. They are our representatives, after all, though one would often be hard-pressed to recognize that fact given how they act. This is obviously due to all the big money in politics. But it applies to Bernie as well. He should be seen as an embodiment of grassroots and, dare I say, populist ideals, not as a savior (for lack of a better term) unto himself.

          2. Dan

            And he could do nothing about the superdelegates.

            Right, that’s the problem. The concrete steps that you asked for would be to show, clearly and concisely, that there are no concrete steps that can be taken, given the current system.

            The superdelegates still have way too much power. They should really be eliminated, if we’re interested in democracy, which of course TPTB are unequivocally not. The changes that were made last August are just window dressing.

            We know that secretaries of state certify elections, thank you. That’s not the point, and merely serves as a meaningless aside. The point is that Sanders immediately threw his weight behind the Democratic machine. It was, in fact, the grassroots of his campaign that forced the vote on superdelegates though, as mentioned, it’s insubstantial, which isn’t surprising. Power centers do not relinquish their power easily and will feign substantive change in order to maintain the status quo.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    I think one of Sanders greatest strengths is that he seems very reluctant to get on board any policy until he truly understands it and knows he can defend it – which means he doesn’t necessarily hop on any Progressive idea or bandwagon (witness his slowness to accept MMT). He sticks to what he knows and understands and is passionate about. This can be frustrating for his supporters, but its one of the reasons he’s been so successful as a politician.

    Given his intellectual history I’ve little doubt that he understands exactly the nature of imperialism, but also knows what opposing it means*. So focusing on his strength – domestic policy – is good politics. But he can’t do that forever if he wants to run for president, so I think that his slow, careful response to foreign policy issues is sensible, even if it doesn’t exactly excite people.

    I hate to say that supporters should ‘trust’ a politician – but if anyone has earned trust over a long career, its Sanders. Maybe ‘trust but verify’ – i.e. supporters should trust his political instincts, but keep reminding him that foreign policy matters and this means confronting very powerful forces.

    The one thing I would say is that every now and again in history, countries face a point where they need someone to press a ‘reset’ button. In other words, sometimes radical change is easier than incremental change – so much pressure builds up that radical change in all sectors is the only practical response. It may be that the US (and the world) is overdue one of those, so a radical leader could change both domestic and foreign policy in one complete paradigm change. I can’t think of anyone in the world other than Sanders who could both recognise the need for this, and be capable of steering it.

    *politically, and in terms of small aircraft engine failures.

    1. KLG

      Regarding trust in a presidential candidate, there have been three (with a reasonable chance of success) in my living memory that could be trusted: Barry Goldwater, Jimmy Carter, and Bernie Sanders. Quite a spectrum, each with his own set of “issues” that we need not get into. 1976 was my first vote in a presidential election, after I turned 18 for the 1974 midterm. But that is it: three. To nitpick Bernie as kimyo does is to want to lose. Period. An odd tic of the erstwhile Left that I do not understand. Michael Harrington famously believed that the Democratic Party was the “left wing of the possible” and therefore should get my vote for that reason. Well, not anymore. Bernie wins this time of American politics will never got out of the deep ditch in which we find ourselves.

    2. Spring Texan

      Yep. You have to look at Sanders’ record of constructiveness and trustworthiness. And it’s the strongest that there is.

      And yep should he be elected continued political pressure is very necessary — because he will be fought tooth and nail.

      And he reminds supporters that political pressure MUST continue to get things done . . . only candidate I am aware of doing that.

    3. Chris Cosmos

      Good points. I want to add that what many leftists fail to understand is the Washington milieu and prefer to just demonize it without understanding it. I call it a “snake pit” because it is very vicious and you, if you are a politician, must tread very carefully. If you step on the Israel button you must be very, very, very careful or have the whole city crash down on you. Supporting Israel is sacred writ not just because US policy supports Israel but because it is sacred writ. There are rules and lines in that town that you must abide by. You can oppose US policy but you do it in a roundabout way both with Israel and with “defense”/security issues. So I don’t fault Sanders on anything in that area. Sanders is a pragmatist and wants to achieve some level of power for himself and his group of people who also understand power whereas in the last election many stayed away for fear they’d encounter the Bernie Bros attacks that were part of the reason he lost the primaries.

        1. Joe Well

          I, too, would be open to seeing hard evidence that Sanders supporters in 2016 were more vitriolic than supporters of the opposing candidate.

  3. Alex

    I’d say it’s not very consistent to talk about Saudi Arabian human rights violations in Yemen and then quote from a UN Human Rights Council report considering that Saudi Arabia is one of the members and others include such exemplary defenders of human rights as China (what about the Uighur reeducation camps?) Russia, Ukraine, Cuba, Iraq, Somalia, Qatar etc

  4. gnatt

    the evangelicals’ “love” for israel based on what a former friend (his choice) who became born again forty years ago, said, is because the israelis will be the “shock troops for jesus,” as armageddon approaches. so, trump’s huge base (with the white supremacists and the “strongman” supporters ( i live in a spanish speaking part of new york. many men in the community like trump’s warrior style) plus the power of aipac and the anti-muslim mood since 9/11, give anyone who opposes the current us/israel embrace a hard road to walk. sanders obvious honesty and decency helps, certainly, but i don’t see this as a winning issue for him.

    1. Tomonthebeach

      My Jewish friends and many writers point out that conflating Zionism and Judaism is too often the base for antisemitism. True enough. However, when American Jews spit on your shoe over criticism of Bibi’s brutality, they seem to promote such conflation. Wanna see my shoes?

      1. Dan

        There would be no Zionism with Talmudic Judaism. It’s an obvious extension of the belief system. Israel Shahak, among others, has written extensively on this. The unspeakable acts committed daily against the Arabs of Palestine are directly attributable to Jewish religious fanaticism.

        And it’s not just the ultra-orthodox in the settlements (and in Lakewood, NJ, among many other places), who are clearly crazy. Many of Israel’s more mainstream Jewish supporters seem to buy into the religious myth as well:

        I asked [Zionist Organization of America’s Morton] Klein why he believed it was “utterly racist and despicable,” as he put it, for [Richard] Spencer to promote a state for only one ethnic group but not racist for Israel to do so. “Israel is a unique situation,” he said. “This is really a Jewish state given to us by God.” He added, “God did not create a state for white people or for black people.” Senator Charles Schumer, the Democratic minority leader, similarly told the Aipac conference in 2018: “Of course, we say it’s our land, the Torah says it, but they don’t believe in the Torah. So that’s the reason there is not peace.”

        I have a hard time talking to my Jewish family members (through marriage) about Zionism and Israel. I don’t like disharmony within the extended family, so I largely avoid it. Disharmony seems to be a given for the immediate family…

  5. Louis Fyne

    >>>Sanders is precisely the antidote to Trump that we need.

    Domestically (arguably) yes. International policy, (IMO) wish-fulfillment on the part of the author.
    Sorry. Keeping it real.

    Foreign policy wise, Trump just to not screw up and it’s a wash between Sanders and Trump for the electorate.

    Now Tulsi Gabbard v. Trump. That should be interesting

    1. Lee

      Yes…I think Tulsi v. Trump would be “interesting” and probably the best equipped to overpower him psychologically.

    2. Anarcissie

      You might be able to help get Gabbard in the debates by contributing a very small amount of money to her campaign. She won’t be allowed to win or even get very much attention, but it might do something to break the monopoly of militarism and imperialism in public discourse.

      1. Alex Cox

        Sanders would be a great domestic president but would cave in to the Pentagon just as Trump has done. Consider his absurd stance on Venezuela.

        Unlike the author I don’t think job number one is replacing Trump. It’s avoiding a nuclear war.

  6. TG

    “Of all the candidates, Sanders’ foreign policy most strongly counters Trump’s toxic, extreme brands of nationalism and exceptionalism both ideologically and in practice.”

    Um. Remember back during the election, when Trump was running AGAINST those things? Remember when he said gee wouldn’t it be nice if we could stop wasting trillions on endless pointless foreign wars and spend that money on ourselves? Remember when he was rabidly attacked for this position as being racist and fascist and Literally Hitler, and so-called liberal democrats were essentially screaming that we MUST waste trillions on pointless wars?

    Now Trump has been pressured into toeing the establishment lines, most finally on cheap-labor immigration, and ‘Russiagate’ can be allowed to die a natural death.

    I like Bernie Sanders, but let’s not kid ourselves that he will be some kind of reformer. He won’t be able to handle the establishment pressure even a fraction as well as Trump did – jackass as he is, Trump did hold out for nearly two years before completely giving up.

    Remember back in the election, when Bernie Sanders talked clearly and calmly about how open-borders was a far-right plot by the Koch brothers et al. to drive wages down and profits up? Remember the screaming about how this made him a racist and a fascist and Literally Hitler? And remember just how quickly Bernie folded? I guarantee, if he steps over the line on anything the establishment really cares about he will back off quickly. Mind, he still may be better than any other candidate, and be able to tinker around the edges. With the total control of the mainstream press by just a few big corporations probably nobody decent can get elected (hear much about Ralph Nader lately?). But the next FDR or TR? Not a chance.

    1. Alex

      Well, Trump at least hasn’t started any new wars unlike the previous 3 (or more?) presidents, so you can’t say that he broke his campaign promises completely.

    2. Anarcissie

      I think the ruling class would allow him to institute a Bismarckian Welfare-warfare state under the name of ‘democratic socialism’ (or ‘unicorn wings’ or whatever) provided he could make the proles pay for it, and if they were duly quiesced thereby. War, domination, and exploitation are critical to the Established Order, but these could be somewhat mitigated among the 90% as long as the 10% continued to float above.

  7. NY Geezer

    It appears to me that regime change in Israel is the purpose of the BDS movement. That is good only for Israel’s Arab/Muslim enemies. It is long past time for those enemies to accept the reality that the nation of Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state just as the other countries in the middle east insist on their right to exist as Muslim states.

    A good faith discussion requires consideration not only of the fate of Israel’s Jews if regime change were to occur but also whether the Jews are the sole cause of the desperate condition of many Palestinians.

    Any suggestion that Jews would be able to live in Israel in peace in a single state with a majority Muslim population is disingenuous. Anti Jewish pogroms would occur until enough Jews are massacred to force the entire Jewish population to flee just as they have had to flee from other Muslim countries in the Middle East. For a few Palestinians like the Barghouti clan who would claim large parcels of land it would be a dream come true.

    1. a different chris

      You conflate “regime change” – aka replacing Bibi and his type, with a host of other things. That’s not “good faith”.

      In general, why do you think that an arse-hole like Bibi is the only one that can hold a Jewish state together? If so, that says something about the whole issue that I don’t think you want to examine very closely. (didn’t somebody once say the Jewish homeland should have been in Oklahoma?).

      There seem to be more than a few Jewish political movements in Israel that could balance things out a lot better.

      You can try to frame the entire discussion to your benefit (“sole cause”??? 100% ??? Pretty high bar methinks) but that won’t work here.

      1. Alex

        Who said only Bibi can hold Israel together? I’ll vote against him and hopefully enough of others will do the same. There is plenty of space politically between Bibi and BDS

    2. Chris Cosmos

      Right wing Israelis and pro-Israel Jews betray the Jewish tradition in the West as an important vehicle for internationalism. Instead of opposing fascism, as one would have thought, Israel now embraces fascism at least in the cultural sense. Jews, the right-wing Israelis and right-wing pro-Israeli American Jews, are the master race and the Palestinians are “animals” (I’ve heard this a lot from Israelis over the years) and, as one retired officer in a certain intelligence agency argued with me, all Muslims are “barbarians.” This is the right-wing Jewish attitude towards Islam and it’s not much better towards Christians.

      The regime change we want is to get away from master-race ideology of fascism and return to the humanism and urbanism that made Jewish culture a gem in the West, despite horrible persecution over the centuries. I see no evidence of the current Israeli government or any future one of moderating their ideology of “the only language Arabs understand is violence” a trope I have heard also over the decades from right-wing Iraelis

  8. Darthbobber

    Sanders Mideast positions MAY be A strength in a hypothetical general election.

    Barring some bloodbath in the meantime in which the corpses are actually American, it won’t be the key strength or even a central issue.

    With the partial exception of the Vietnam era, and Wilson’s 1916 reelection, nobody has won a national election in the United States based primarily on foreign policy considerations.

    1. a different chris

      Yeah the problem with the whole article is the headline is “Sanders biggest strength” — I don’t know though if that’s the writer’s headline.

      Because what the writer wrote was all the good things Sander’s would do for people who don’t get to vote in a US election. This is a pretty important thing. The Yemeni atrocity is horrible, but I’m embarrassed to say I suspect I won’t even think about it when I’m in the voting booth.

    2. elissa3

      Yes. Agree. Barring some horrible event (or events) that affects a significant portion of the population, American voters put foreign policy way down the list of why they support a candidate. The forthcoming–my dog, still more than a year and a half away!–election will almost certainly be decided by the domestic economic environment, or rather by the amalgamation of millions of individual situations. That said, if there are ongoing wars which can be framed as not only costly, but actually taking the bread out of children’s mouths, there may be an opening for an astute politician like Bernie. See Eisenhower’s 1953 “Chance for Peace” speech.

      1. Dan

        That’s the key. There has to be much stronger emphasis on the costs of the imperialist adventures to the American taxpayer. It has to be shown, clearly and in no uncertain terms, how the war machine robs the citizenry of meaningful social policies. Directly link the drastic rise in mental health and addiction issues to war policy. How are we going to pay for universal health? Drastically cut the war budget. Show it in simple, black and white terms.

  9. The Rev Kev

    Trump has his ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan but from this distance, I would guess that Sander’s slogan would be something along the lines of ‘America First’. As a President, if the powers-that-be came to him and said that we will let you have a reform victory at home if you leave foreign policy with us, that he would agree to that proposition. His interests lay domestically and to think that he would take on Israel & Saudi Arabia in the middle east is in my opinion a non-starter.
    You don’t have to be Tom Terrific to work out what is happening in Venezuela and yet Sanders contented himself with repeating CIA talking points in a tweet. And how about this quote from last July: “Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a resolution Thursday to force members of the Senate to go on the record in accepting the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and the looming threat of Russian interference in this year’s midterm elections.” That’s not drinking the Kool Aid. That is doing a Jonestown on everybody else.
    Look, I still say that people should vote for the guy but what I am saying is that you have to be realistic at what might happen and be prepared to hold his feet against the fire on his promises. Otherwise he will just be another Hope & Change candidate. And the last time that happened it gave the country a Trump. Maybe he needs a Gabbard as Veep to take on foreign issues while he concentrated on domestic affairs. My concern is the number of times that he has folded and how he seems to lack that killer instinct in politics. Just my take.

    1. Louis Fyne

      Yes, absolutely (IMO) the ideal Sanders slogan would be “Americans First.”

      But of course that would never fly given today’s identity politics, the open borders constituency within the Democratic Party and of course the Lindbergh/pre-Pearl Harbor connotations of “America First.”

      The Democratic Party has ceded all iconography of patriotism/American-ness to the GOP (eg, the first night of the 2016 Dem. convention, Hillary’s banal campaign logo, etc).

  10. Ashburn

    I think there is a bi-partisan majority of Americans that are truly sick of our failing and illegal wars and the lives and treasure expended in this futile effort to maintain a declining empire. The fact that the MSM diligently avoids reporting on the wars (preferring instead to hype the non-existent threat from Russia) and that the Democratic Party and Obama were complicit in institutionalizing and expanding our Middle East and African wars has served to mute this opposition. Obama and Trump both campaigned to a degree as anti-interventionists and were elected in part thanks to those cynical promises.

    Sanders support for a reversal of neoliberal policies and expanded domestic spending, including a Green New Deal, provides a perfect opening to question our wasteful and failing foreign interventions. I think we will see a significantly increased concern this election cycle—certainly among Democratic primary voters—over climate change and our ongoing war policies that was nearly absent in 2016. Bernie Sanders is well positioned on both issues.

    A President Sanders could begin his administration by simply demanding that Congress fulfill its Article 1 responsibilities and vote on each and every military intervention, while spelling out in detail the trillions already spent, lives lost and damaged, and the projected costs of continuing these wars. I’m confident there would be a comfortable majority in both Houses to vote for disengagement—even in the face a fierce counter attack by the MIC deep state and its corrupt network of supporters.

  11. Anarcissie

    I really don’t understand why activities like the mass murder of innocent, unthreatening persons in order to advance one’s political prospects or business is considered secondary, indeed, inconsequential. So far, one potential candidate seems to take the issue seriously, and it’s not Mr. Sanders.

    Maybe it’s like Uncle Joe supposedly said: ‘If you kill one person, it’s murder. If you kill a million people, it’s a statistic.’

    1. Barry

      Not only that, but it’s a statistic that proves you ‘have the courage to make the tough decisions.’

      You know, that special kind of courage that involves other people killing other people to benefit your political prospects.

  12. Ger

    Most Americans are tuned to Comcast, Time Warner, Fox or watching Quack Dynasty. They think foreign
    policy is some kind of insurance offered on the internet……

    Bernie has two obstacles to overcome: The warmongering democrats and the republicans. Other words, insurance companies, big media, wall street, death merchants and the Russian Are Coming, damn it, didn’t you hear me!!! The Russian Are Coming!!! You Socialist Commie!!!

    F’em Bern, I’m with you.

  13. Roy G.

    I agree, and this is why Bernie will be running uphill against the wind. Imo, Trump and Obama have proven that US foreign policy is not dictated by the President, but by the Deep State. Obama basically capitulated the entire FP portfolio except for the role of figurehead, and while Trump made some independent movements, in the end they saddled him with the likes of Bolton, Abrams and Pompeo.

    The Augean stables of American foreign policy need to be mucked out. Bernie is in for the fight of The (New American) Century.

  14. Michael C.

    Yves, you said: “But Sanders has always focused primarily on domestic policy and may not want to stick out his neck unduly in an area that he doesn’t know as well.”

    I tend to think he does know foreign policy well, but he also knows the power of the national security/military industrial complex state so he always makes sure he doesn’t get it against him. It’s a tactical approach for him. But if he ever gets in power, who he really is in this regard would surface, one way or the other.

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