“We live in a difficult and dangerous world, and there are no easy or magical solutions…America must defend freedom at home and abroad, but we must seek diplomatic solutions before resorting to military action. While force must always be an option, war must be a last resort, not the first option.
As a member of Congress, I have supported the use of force only when it was a last resort and America’s vital interests were at stake. I opposed the first Gulf War, as did many other Members of Congress, because I believed that there was a way to achieve our goals without bloodshed, through sanctions and concerted diplomatic action. I supported the use of force to stop the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. And, in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001, I supported the use of force in Afghanistan to hunt down the terrorists who attacked us. I regret that President Bush did not use that authority properly, and that American combat troops remained there too long. I voted against the war in Iraq, and knew it was the right vote then, and most people recognize it was the right vote today. The only mission President Bush and his neo-conservative friends accomplished was to destabilize an entire region, and create the environment for al-Qaeda and ISIS to flourish.
While we must be relentless in combating terrorists who would do us harm, we cannot and should not be policeman of the world, nor bear the burden of fighting terrorism alone. The United States should be part of an international coalition, led and sustained by nations in the region that have the means to protect themselves. That is the only way to defeat ISIS and to begin the process of creating the conditions for a lasting peace in the region.”
– Sen. Bernie Sanders
Foreign Policy: Strength through Diplomacy
Senator Sanders believes that the test of a great and powerful nation is not how many wars it can engage in, but how it can resolve international conflicts in a peaceful manner. From the Middle East, to Ukraine, to North Korea, to the South China Sea, to civil war in the world’s newest nation – South Sudan, we face a multitude of serious foreign policy challenges.
Senator Sanders will protect America, defend our interests and values, embrace our commitments to defend freedom and support human rights, and be relentless in combating terrorists who would do us harm. However, after nearly fourteen years of ill-conceived and disastrous military engagements in the Middle East, it is time for a new approach. We must move away from policies that favor unilateral military action and preemptive war, and that make the United States the de facto policeman of the world.
Senator Sanders believes that foreign policy is not just deciding how to react to conflict around the world, but also includes redefining America’s role in the increasingly global economy. Along with our allies throughout the world, we should be vigorous in attempting to prevent international conflict, not just responding to problems. For example, the international trade agreements we enter into, and our energy and climate change policies not only have enormous consequences for Americans here at home, but greatly affect our relations with countries around the world. Senator Sanders has the experience, the record and the vision not just to lead on these critically important issues, but to take our country in a very different direction.
Iraq and Afghanistan
Sen. Sanders considers his vote against the Iraq War to be one of the most important he has cast, and believes that the invasion in Iraq was one of the worst foreign policy blunders in modern U.S. history. As a leader in the opposition to the war in Iraq, much of what then Congressman Sanders feared would happen has, in fact, occurred. Not only did the United States invade Iraq based on false information, but the war has radically destabilized the entire region and has been completely counterproductive in terms of fighting international terrorism.
As the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Senator Sanders knows what the cost of war is. He knows that 6,700 brave men and women lost their lives in those wars, that too many came home without legs, arms or eyesight. He also knows that some 500,000 servicemen and women returned home with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, and that the war disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of families.
Sen. Sanders voted to authorize military strikes against Afghanistan, after it became clear that the Taliban regime harbored and gave support to Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorists who attacked America on 9/11. However, while we entered that war with significant clarity of purpose and moral authority, President Bush soon lost sight about what our goals were in Afghanistan. Instead of fighting those who attacked our country, he embroiled our troops in a quagmire in a far-away land.
Sen. Sanders called on both Presidents Bush and Obama to withdraw U.S. troops as soon as possible and for the people of Afghanistan to take full responsibility for their own security. After visiting Afghanistan, Sen. Sanders spoke-out against the rampant corruption he saw, particularly in regards to elections, security and the banking system.
Preventing a Nuclear Iran
The U.S. must do everything it can to make certain that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, that a nuclear Iran does not threaten Israel, and to prevent a nuclear arms race in the region. Sen. Sanders supports the agreement between the U.S., Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program, because it has the best chance of limiting Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon, while avoiding yet another war in the region.
While the agreement is not perfect, it is far better than the path we were on – with Iran developing nuclear weapons and the potential for military intervention by the U.S. and Israel growing greater by the day. If Iran does not live up to the agreement, sanctions can be reestablished and all other options remain on the table. It is incumbent upon us, however, to give the negotiated agreement a chance to succeed, and Sen. Sanders applauds the past efforts of President Obama and Secretary Kerry.
Israel and Palestine
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been one of the world’s most difficult and intractable disputes for more than sixty years. Moreover, the failure to resolve that crisis has helped fuel other conflicts in the region. Senator Sanders has long supported a two-state solution that recognizes Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, and the Palestinians right to a homeland in which they control their political and economic future.
The most recent violence in Gaza represented a particularly ugly and violent time in the dispute. Senator Sanders strongly condemned indiscriminate rocket fire by Hamas into Israeli territory, and Hamas’ use of civilian neighborhoods to launch those attacks. However, while recognizing that Israel has the right to defend itself, he also strongly condemned Israeli attacks on Gaza as disproportionate and the widespread killing of civilians as completely unacceptable.
The U.S. must play a leading role in creating a two-state solution, which will require significant compromises from both sides. The Palestinians must unequivocally recognize Israel’s right to exist, and hold accountable those who have committed terrorist acts. The Israelis must end the blockade of Gaza, and cease developing settlements on Palestinian land. Both sides must negotiate in good faith regarding all other outstanding issues that stand in the way of a durable and lasting peace in the region. In the meantime, strict adherence, by all sides, to the tenets of international humanitarian law is necessary in order to avoid escalating the conflict yet again.
We live in a dangerous world full of serious threats, perhaps none more so than the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. Senator Sanders is committed to keeping America safe, and pursuing those who would do Americans harm.
But we cannot combat international terrorism alone. We must work with our allies to root out terrorist funding networks, provide logistical support in the region, disrupt online radicalization, provide humanitarian relief, and support and defend religious freedom. Moreover, we must begin to address the root causes of radicalization, instead of focusing solely on military responses to those who have already become radicalized.
And while there is no question our military must be fully prepared and have the resources it needs to fight international terrorism, it is imperative that we take a hard look at the Pentagon’s budget and the priorities it has established. The U.S. military must be equipped to fight today’s battles, not those of the last war, much less the Cold War. Our defense budget must represent our national security interests and the needs of our military, not the reelection of members of Congress or the profits of defense contractors. The warning that President Dwight David Eisenhower gave us about the influence of the Military-Industrial Complex in 1961 is truer today than it was then.
Protecting America and American Values
Senator Sanders believes our country must remain vigilant to protect us from terrorist attacks at home, whether from organized international terrorist networks, or from “lone wolf” extremists. The threat is real, and he will aggressively pursue those who would do us harm. However, Sen. Sanders strongly believes that we must pursue policies that uphold the core values that make us proud to be Americans.
That is why Sen. Sanders voted against the Patriot Act when it was first passed, why he voted against the Patriot Act when it was renewed, and why he opposed the so-called USA Freedom Act. We must not trade away our constitutional rights and civil liberties for the illusion of security.
Instead, we must rein in the National Security Agency and end the bulk collection of phone records, internet history, and email data of virtually all Americans.Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies must have the tools they need to protect the American people, but there must be legal oversight and they must go about their work in a way that does not sacrifice our basic freedoms.
The same goes for our actions abroad. The U.S. must never again embrace torture as a matter of official policy. In an increasingly brutal world, the wanton use of torture by the Bush administration simply meant we lost our moral standing to condemn others who engage in merciless behavior. That is why Sen. Sanders has consistently spoken out against waterboarding and other forms of extreme “enhanced interrogation.”
We must also, finally, close the Guantanamo Bay detention center. The mere existence of this camp, and the misguided policies that led to its creation, continues to damage the United States’ moral standing in the world, undermines our foreign policy, and fans the flames of terrorism rather than deters it.
Sen. Sanders will fight to:
- Move away from a policy of unilateral military action, and toward a policy of emphasizing diplomacy, and ensuring the decision to go to war is a last resort.
- Ensure that any military action we do engage in has clear goals, is limited in scope, and whenever possible provides support to our allies in the region.
- Close Guantanamo Bay, rein in the National Security Agency, abolish the use of torture, and remember what truly makes America exceptional: our values.
- Expand our global influence by promoting fair trade, addressing global climate change, providing humanitarian relief and economic assistance, defending the rule of law, and promoting human rights.