Bernie Sanders recently gave a speech on U.S. foreign policy at Westminster College in Missouri (same college that Churchill gave his Iron Curtain speech). In it Sanders outlined his views for what might be called a progressive foreign policy. As such it was great on vision but short on details. This is a problem for some but others are more forgiving. I tend to side with the latter. In his speech, Sanders made several important points that need to be part of any foreign policy discussion in the U.S. For example:
- We need a broader understanding of what U.S. foreign policy is and we must specifically consider the economic opportunity costs of military spending and the social and human costs of war
- The U.S. must practice what we preach on values. Democracy, freedom, and justice must not just be preached to others but also practiced at home. The U.S., “cannot convincingly promote democracy abroad if we do not live it at home”
- the threats of the day don’t just come from terrorism and nukes (although they are threats) but also people losing faith in democratic institutions both within the U.S. and abroad, and also people losing faith in the post WWII institutional order.
- The U.S. must struggle to defend and expand the rules based international order, and work for a world where disputes are resolved peacefully.
- We need dialogue and diplomacy not just at the diplomatic and ministerial level but also at the people level – “good foreign policy means building people to people relationships.”
- The vision of the U.S. as a “benevolent global hegemon” has been discredited by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership not dominance.”
- The U.S. can and must do more for global challenges such as climate change and increasing economic inequality. “Inequality, corruption, oligarchy, and authoritarianism are inseparable”
- The U.S. prosecution on the GWOT has been disastrous economically, strategically, and morally. We, “must rethink the Washington mindset that judges ‘seriousness’ by willingness to use force.”
- Diplomacy over the U.S. of force. Nuclear agreement with Iran as an example
- “Here is the bottom line: In my view, the United States must seek partnerships not just between governments, but between peoples. A sensible and effective foreign policy recognizes that our safety and welfare is bound up with the safety and welfare of others around the world.”
This is a pretty good start for a progressive foreign policy and I hope these elements start to become part of the mainstream discourse on U.S. foreign policy