Last week, after reading Kevin Drum’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton at Mother Jones, I wondered why a progressive would assign so little import to her hawkish foreign policy instincts––and why her rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, gets so little credit for his prescient opposition to the Iraq War, his aversion to interventionism, and the longer odds against him starting a ruinous war of choice.
Many Hillary Clinton endorsers should grapple with the same question.
There is no issue bigger than war and peace. The stakes are as high as the $6 trillion that the Iraq War cost, the 4,500 American soldiers it killed, the part it played in the rise of ISIS, and the ISIS fighters who filled the power vacuum in Libya. Going forward, Hillary Clinton wants the United States to pursue regime change in another Middle Eastern country. Bernie Sanders does not. Both their records and their plans for the future are hugely different.
Yet Clinton endorsers treat these differences as if they are unimportant.
A comparison is instructive. Here’s The Nation’s well-argued case for Bernie Sanders:
On foreign policy, Clinton is certainly seasoned, but her experience hasn’t prevented her from getting things wrong. Clinton now says that her 2002 vote to authorize George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was a mistake, but she apparently learned little from it. Clinton was a leading advocate for overthrowing Moammar El-Gadhafi in Libya, leaving behind a failed state that provides ISIS with an alternative base. She supported calls for the United States to help oust Bashar al-Assad in Syria, an approach that has added fuel to a horrific civil war. She now advocates a confrontation with Russia in Syria by calling for a no-fly zone. Her support for President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran was marred by an explicit rejection of better relations with that country and bellicose pledges to provide Israel with more arms. If elected, Clinton will be another “war president” at a time when America desperately needs peace.
Sanders’s approach is different and better. The senator hasn’t talked as much as we would like about global challenges and opportunities, and we urge him to focus more on foreign policy. But what he has said (and done) inspires confidence. An opponent of the Iraq War from the start, he criticizes the notion of “regime change” and the presumption that America alone must police the world. He rejects a new Cold War with Russia. He supports the nuclear-weapons agreement with Iran, and he would devote new energy to dismantling nuclear arsenals and pursuing nonproliferation. He has long been an advocate for normalizing relations with Cuba and for reviving a good-neighbor policy in the hemisphere.
Compare that to the New York Times’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton. The newspaper did not ignore foreign affairs. It praised some of Clinton’s work as secretary of state. But it spent just two sentences on issues pertaining to her war record:
Mrs. Clinton can be more hawkish on the use of military power than Mr. Obama, as shown by her current call for a no-fly zone in Syria and her earlier support for arming and training Syrian rebels. We are not convinced that a no-fly zone is the right approach in Syria, but we have no doubt that Mrs. Clinton would use American military power effectively and with infinitely more care and wisdom than any of the leading Republican contenders.
Neither Iraq nor Libya were even mentioned. And even though its endorsement was aimed at the Democratic race, the Times only averred that Clinton would be more careful and wise than “leading Republicans,” but failed to draw a “care and wisdom” comparison with Sanders. It’s hard to imagine a more conspicuous evasion of a hugely relevant contrast.