The Democratic party does not have a good record on foreign policy. The party’s establishment has long adopted hawkish interventionist polices rationalized by asserting humanitarian motivations that have doubtful validity. As Alex Kane writes, one notable feature has been the subservience of the party leadership to the dictates of the Israel lobby, even though the grass roots of the party and progressive Jewish groups have long since distanced themselves from it. In the party leadership, we see an abundance of so-called PEPs (Progressive Except for Palestine). Three powerful Democratic congresspersons Eliot Engel, Jerome Nadler, and Nia Lowey have been instrumental in advancing the lobby’s agenda but all three are encountering progressive challengers in the upcoming primaries.
The current crop of contenders for the Democratic nomination all tend to have the same dismal foreign policy outlook, with Bernie Sanders being the one exception. He has supported leftist governments in Brazil, Bolivia, and elsewhere and decried the machinations of the elites of those countries who have aligned with the military with US backing to overthrow those governments. He has also condemned Saudi Arabia for the brutal regime it is and recognized that Palestinians are being treated terribly by Israel.
OMG @BernieSanders called out Israel 🇮🇱 for its treatment of Palestinians- this is why I’m only @BernieSanders the only candidate with a moral compass- This has to be a 1st for a president candidate. pic.twitter.com/1mdVoRl6bv
— Resist the RESISTANCE (@natbabou) November 21, 2019
The following clip has everything that Sanders said at the last debate. At 8:50 he attacks Saudi Arabia and Israel and speaks up for Palestinians. His closing remarks at 11:35 are also worth listening to.
What concerns me most is Elizabeth Warren. While Warren has provided some good progressive polices on domestic issues, when it comes to foreign policy she tends to hew rather closely to the standard bipartisan imperialist line, as Ben Norton writes.
For the millions of Venezuelans suffering under a suffocating US blockade, there is no functional difference between Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren. In fact, the liberal Democratic presidential candidate has enthusiastically endorsed the far-right president’s strategy of relentless warfare against Venezuela and its nearly 30 million inhabitants.
After praising the US government’s sanctions on Venezuela, which violate international law and have led to the preventable deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, Warren went on whitewash the far-right military coup in Bolivia, where the Trump administration has helped put racist Christian extremists and actual fascists in power.
Warren’s eagerness for economic war on Caracas earned her the recognition of right-wing news websites like The Federalist, which gleefully emphasized that “Elizabeth Warren Agrees With Trump’s Strategy In Venezuela.”
If you read the rest of the interview, you see her parroting the standard establishment line that demonizes any government that dares to challenge the neoliberal orthodoxy.
Like most Democratic politicians, she is also very wary of criticizing the policies of Israel or the actions of the Israel lobby in the US, even though much of the party’s base and progressive Jewish organizations have been calling on the US to use its leverage as Israel’s main benefactor to push for Palestinian rights. She has recently made some cautious but at least positive moves in that direction (see here and here) that are to be welcomed.
Interestingly, Tulsi Gabbard has been sharply critical of US foreign policy orthodoxy and in the last debate attacked Pete Buttigieg of following the standard interventionist playbook. That may explain the harsh treatment that she is getting at the hands of the media (especially MSNBC), effectively accusing her of being a Russian agent. It is quite extraordinary how the Democrats are resurrecting Cold War rhetoric by demonizing Russia and accusing anyone who takes a more nuanced position as being a tool of Russia. This clip shows that Buttigieg and Kamal Harris (who just dropped out of the race) have the same hawkish outlook.