Ahead of the California presidential primary, the state’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, weighed in on the Sanders campaign, recommending that Sanders “read the signposts” and admit that his presidential bid is “all but over.” I of course do not resent Feinstein’s comments, and respect her work on behalf of her preferred candidate. But the intervention from this particular hawkish senator highlights one of the services that Sanders’ campaign--if indeed Clinton wins the nomination--must continue to serve: to rein in the violent, radical, and essentially unhinged foreign policy of the Democratic frontrunner.
Sanders’ campaign came belatedly and lazily to emphasize its foreign policy. The senator is broadly sceptical of the use of force and warned presciently about the war of aggression waged on Iraq in 2003. He has yet to articulate a coherent foreign policy framework, which is a pity, because his social democratic values could translate into international as well as domestic practice. But his critiques of Clinton’s neo-conservatism are important.
With Clinton as its nominee, the Democratic Party would solidify its status as a party of aggressive war, with little respect for international norms, treaties, and regulations. In virtually every debate about the use of force in the Obama administration, Clinton came down on the side of violence. She wasn’t always able to influence the President’s final decision, but her views did win out in Afghanistan and Libya, shaped intervention in Syria and Yemen, and offer a glimpse of the increased violence her election might unleash in South Asia, the Middle East, the Sahel, and the Horn of Africa.
Clinton’s generally uncritical support for the War of Terror is likely to draw other countries in West and East Africa into tragic conflicts, and to continue the proliferation and interlinkage of international terrorism and terrorists that her support for the Iraq war helped to initiate. This has the side-effect of expanding and emboldening the security state in our own nation, which has developed its own versions of state terror in the midst of an official culture of impunity.
In articulating and shaping responses to significant events like the Arab Spring, Clinton offered her support to “stable” authoritarian figures rather than democrats, both failing to recognize how the temporary “stability” could lead to long-term chaos, and dramatically altering the course of those revolutions by prolonging the lifespan of regimes and their subversive violence. Her authoritarian instincts have also led Clinton to call for the punishment of Edward Snowden, who shed light on the abuses of the security state Clinton helped to run for four years.
The Democratic Party would run with a nominee who supports an outlandish and cartoonish notion of diplomacy wherein--without reference to our interests or Israeli interests--our government pledges its unconditional support to an unjust and self-destructive colonial government.
The example of Israel is instructive because it involves Clinton taking a stand in favor of colonialism, lopsided state-nonstate violence, and impunity that is bad for the United States, lethal for Palestinians, and ultimately self-destructive and futile for Israeli citizens. In her cheerleading for colonial strategies like punitive expeditions and collective punishment, and in her savage and ignorant efforts to uniformly equate critics of the Israeli state with anti-Semites, Clinton has outstripped all but the most fundamentalist and racist politicians in Israel itself, while emboldening those same dangerous radicals and diminishing U.S. influence. She defends a set of colonial policies that even Israel’s leading generals argue to be counter-productive. Unlike Clinton, they recognize that those policies have the capacity to “further erode the rule of law and human rights, or lead to a dangerous, superfluous military campaign.”
There is little doubt in my mind that although Clinton would be a far less dangerous president than Donald Trump, she would nonetheless make a significant contribution to global instability, give comfort to autocratic regimes, aid the proliferation of international terror, and exacerbate and expand conflict by mulishly insisting on fighting fire with fire.
By staying in the Presidential race through the end of the primaries--and assuming by some improbable twist of fate that he doesn’t win the nomination--Sanders can keep Clinton on the left of some pressing domestic issues. But he can also help to shape the Democratic platform and perhaps even Clinton’s foreign policy by demanding that she acknowledge and moderate a foreign policy framework that is shockingly violent, disturbingly radical, and appallingly regressive.
At a time when people and governments around the world need to work on building bridges, advocating for economic and political equality, building more robust and democratic international institutions, and addressing the root causes of state and non-state violence, Hillary Clinton needs to understand that there are voters who care about that world and who will balk at supporting a candidate with her outlandish and destructive views.
The onus to change is on Clinton rather than on those voters. And those among her supporters who seek to pressure Clinton’s critics should put their efforts to use persuading their candidate, and contemplate how their largely uncritical acceptance of their candidate’s views and record has already done unspeakable damage to people and their livelihoods around the world. If they don’t want a President Trump, Clinton’s campaign and her supporters should get to work. Because of their candidate’s dangerous views and bad record, the results of the election are on their heads.