Some of my friends support Hillary; some of my friends support Bernie. Me? I’m with my friends.
I first heard those fence-straddling words of wisdom from a wise old Chicago politician. It is a good way to approach the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders race this early in the year.
Why not wait until a few more states vote before we agree on the strongest candidate to run against whichever Republican emerges from the hard-right options currently wallowing in the muck of the GOP primary and caucus races.
Strong support from minority voters in Nevada and South Carolina (on February 20, 23, and 27) could deliver twin victories to Clinton over Sanders. On Tuesday, March 1, voters in 13 states, American Samoa and Democrats Abroad, will make their decisions between the two Democratic opponents.
If that leader is Clinton, a nagging question must be asked:
Is she too military-minded for the Democratic liberal base she needs to win a general election?
Clinton may look like the strongest candidate to defeat any Republican. But will she take the nation back to the bellicose military policies favored by Israel and corporate military interests?
Is that a fair question? Maybe not, but Clinton’s critics are asking it, and her strongest supporters are worried about it.
Sanders has the most enthusiastic supporters, but enthusiasm goes only so far. Regrettably, we know little about Sanders’ foreign policy views. We do know a great deal about Hillary Clinton’s record.
Stephen Zunes wrote an essay for the Cairo Review of Global Affairs which offers troubling reminders from her record.
Zunes is professor of politics and international studies and program director of Middle Eastern studies at the University of San Francisco. His essay is entitled “Hillary the Hawk”.
He argues that a President Clinton would push this nation back toward militarization of the problems she has faced as Secretary of State.
“If Clinton wins the American presidency in 2016, she will be confronted with the same momentous regional issues she handled without distinction as Obama’s first secretary of state: among them, the civil war and regional proxy war in Syria; the Syrian conflict’s massive refugee crisis; civil conflict in Yemen and Libya; political fragility in Iraq and Afghanistan; Iran’s regional ambitions; the Israel-Palestine conflict; and deteriorating relations with longstanding allies Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
“There are disagreements as to whether Clinton truly embraces a neoconservative or other strong ideological commitment to hardline policies or whether it is part of a political calculation to protect herself from criticism from Republicans who hold positions even further to the right.
“But considering that the Democratic Party base is shifting more to the left, that she represented the relatively liberal state of New York in the Senate, and that her 2008 presidential hopes were derailed in large part by her support for the Iraq war, it would probably be a mistake to assume her positions have been based primarily on political expediency.
“Regardless of her motivations, however, a look at the positions she has taken on a number of the key Middle East policy issues suggest that her presidency would shift America to a still more militaristic and interventionist policy that further marginalizes concerns for human rights or international law.”
Clinton, then a senator from New York, was among a minority of Democrats who supported President George W. Bush’s request for congressional backing to attack Iraq.
In her 2002 senate speech she said she was persuaded that Saddam Hussein was moving toward a nuclear capability. In voting with Bush she said her vote was one “cast with conviction”.
She has since said the vote “was a mistake”. But, she did cast it, in her own words, “with conviction”. Barack Obama, then an Illinois state senator, spoke against the war.
In casting that vote “with conviction”, she was in harmony with Israel’s eagerness to attack Iraq. Bernie Sanders, a secular Jew, and also a member of Congress, voted against the Bush request.
C-SPAN has posted a ten-minute video clip (below) that contrasts the different positions taken in 2002, first by Sanders, and then by Clinton.
That was 2002. The “shock and awe” attack on Iraq followed in early 2003. Now, 14 years later, Clinton and Sanders meet on a 2016 political battlefield to determine which of them should be the Democratic nominee.
Bernie Sanders has said very little about what he would do to negotiate this nation through the minefield of conflicts with which Hillary Clinton dealt during her years as Secretary of State. His vote against the Iraq war is encouraging. His reluctance to speak in depth on contemporary issues is discouraging.
Sanders’ raison d’être, his passion for correcting the imbalance in the nation’s economy, is a worthy cause, badly needed. Thus far, however, as a candidate, he has failed to direct much of that passion toward ending Israel’s occupation, the root cause of the conflicts the next President will face in the Levant.
Clinton’s insistence on taking a gun to the diplomatic bargaining table might help her with her neoconservative friends and her pro-Israel financial backers who are eager to embrace American military solutions to every Levant problem.
Pistol-packing diplomacy excites Israel’s loyalists, but it does nothing to restore any semblance of freedom to a captive and long-suffering Palestinian population.
Which of the two candidates is best prepared to negotiate a foreign policy in the best interest of a war-weary American public, and at the same time, is in the best interest of war-weary nations saddled with the empirical militaristic policies of successive U.S. administrations?
Which of the two candidates is best equipped to win a general election in November?
Some of my friends think it is Hillary; some of my friends think it is Bernie. Me? I will stick with my friends until I have had time to study this a bit longer. You got any better ideas?
The picture of Hillary Clinton at top is a screen grab.