Bernie Sanders Puts a Socialist Spin on Dwight Eisenhower

When it comes to war, peace and the secret agencies, Sen. Bernie Sanders didn’t have much to say in the 2016 campaign. Running against Hillary Clinton, Sanders focused almost exclusively on domestic issues. When pressed on foreign policy, he generally repeated a talking point and pivoted back to domestic issues.

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders, geopolitician.

No more. Now Sanders, with the help of adviser Matt Duss and others, is laying out a general philosophical framework and a fairly detailed policy agenda for how a Sanders administration would deal with the world.

One of Sanders’ models? President Dwight Eisenhower whom Sanders quoted in his first major foreign policy address.

Here’s how Bernie channels Ike.

Foreign policy, therefore, is remembering what Dwight D. Eisenhower said as he left office: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

And some more;

And he also reminded us that; “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway….”

After 17 years of failed neoconservative wars in the Middle East, the convergence of a socialist insurgent and Republican general is not as strange as you might think.

Ryan Cooper, national correspondent for The Week, explains.

There is quite substantial overlap between a leftist anti-imperialist perspective and the sort of realist conservative view focused on the national interest and avoiding expensive overseas overseas entanglements.

In as second major speech, Sanders put a socialist spin on Eisenhower’s realism. He called for the creation of an international movement working towards “democracy, egalitarianism, and economic, social, racial, and environmental justice,” in order to combat the manifest appearance of “a growing worldwide movement toward authoritarianism, oligarchy, and kleptocracy.”

Ryan Cooper:

Neither Republicans nor the bipartisan D.C. foreign policy establishment “Blob” will like this one bit. The Blob probably couldn’t even be talked around to an Eisenhower-style realist restraint, much less an ambitious pivot away from military spending and towards international diplomacy. Just look at the number of upstanding national security liberals who reacted with spluttering, stunned outrage when Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) criticized Elliot Abrams for covering up mass murder as part of the U.S. intervention in El Salvador in the 1980s. 

Abrams has a terrible record as a convicted Iran-contra conspirator. He lied to Congress about the Reagan White House conspiracy to circumvent a congressional ban on CIA covert operations in Nicaragua. Along the way, as I wrote last week, he also went to bat for a CIA-connected drug trafficker.

Yet in Washington, such behavior isn’t disqualifying.

In Blob World, U.S. military action is always right by definition, “we” always have to be meddling in most every foreign dispute no matter how badly the last attempt went, Israel is the most important U.S. ally no matter how much it formalizes its apartheid system, and anyone who looks askance at the resulting heaps of corpses is Unserious.

This is the cultural reality that Sanders is taking on in rethinking U.S. foreign policy. Dismantling an empire is a cultural, as well as political, challenge.

Source: How Bernie Sanders would dismantle the American empire


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