Would Hillary Overthrow a Government Run by Bernie?

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Would Hillary Overthrow a Government Run by Bernie?

"While our thought experiment may at first appear ludicrous," writes Leopold, "the people of Honduras might not think it so." (Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Let’s try a thought experiment.

Imagine for a moment that a Bernie-like leader was elected the president of a Latin American country and that the U.S. feared he would adopt policies that were hostile to American corporate interests. Further imagine that Hillary became the president of the U.S. Would she consider supporting a coup against Bernie?

We know what this Bernie-like president would likely do. He would want to break up the largest banks and begin to replace them with public banks. He would call to renegotiate foreign debt, especially with American creditors. In addition, he would increase labor rights in ways that might threaten American business interests. Also he might extend diplomatic ties with Cuba, China and Iran, contrary to the wishes of the U.S.

In short, his policies would be reminiscent of those put forth by Salvador Allende, the socialist Chilean president who was undermined by covert American operations even before he was elected in 1970. By 1973, the U.S. had created the conditions that led to the violent overthrow of the democratically elected government by General Pinochet, who proceeded to kill thousands of Chileans.

At that time, President Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, feared another leftist government in Latin America, especially one with close ties to Fidel Castro. Allende, a socialist, not a Communist, moved towards the nationalization of the copper and telecommunications industries , both owned mostly by US companies. Because the US was mired in a costly, losing battle in Vietnam, Kissinger and Nixon believed it important to draw the line in Latin America.

Would Hillary do the same with a modern-day leftist government? Would she follow the footsteps of Henry Kissinger, a man that she admires and considers a friend? Or would she chart a more non-interventionist path of live and let live?

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Muscular Hillary

We should expect Hillary to show the world that she’s tough. Her support for the Iraq War was not an aberration. She has consistently been more hawkish than Obama on Syria by asking for more support for the so-called moderate rebels, and in calling for a highly problematic no-fly zone. While she says that currently America should not send more ground troops to the Middle East, she is quite comfortable with the steady use of special ops.

More importantly, she was clearly in the General Petraeus camp by urging Obama to put 40,000 troops into Afghanistan to conduct a wider counter- insurgency war. That should give great pause to Hillary supporters, like former anti-Vietnam War leader, Tom Hayden, who should be suffering horrendous flashbacks when they hear such enthusiastic support for counter-insurgency. It seems that the interventionists learned nothing from the death and destruction wrought by counter insurgency in Vietnam. Even Tom Hayden seems to be suffering from selective amnesia.

Hillary calls her foreign policy doctrine ‘smart power’ — the projection of democratic values, human rights, and American interests through diplomacy, backed by force if necessary. Regime change is never off the table. Rather it is something that should be done smarter, rather than the way Bush and the neo-cons pursued that strategy in Iraq.

Yet when Hillary pushed for regime change in Libya, it would be hard to find any smartness in the chaos which followed and is still with us. Had Obama taken her advice in Syria, the arms she wanted to send to the “moderate” rebels would probably have flowed to ISIS. Her ill-conceived no-fly zone didn’t even have the support of the military who thought it would require the support of 70,000 U.S troops and possibly lead to a conflagration throughout the region. But all of that is part of her “smart power” doctrine.

We’ve seen this movie before. American foreign policy since WWII has been a series of interventions and regime changes punctuated by major wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of Americans have died. Our nation is also responsible for killing several million people in these countries along with squandering trillions of dollars.

Over the past decade alone, our military adventures in the Middle East created ISIS, the Syrian civil war and a massive refugee migration to Europe.

Modern Isolationism?

While Hillary is centered in this interventionist tradition, Sanders proposals are extremely modest. He wants no part of this trail of blood, of CIA engineered coups, of wasted resources.

The Sanders doctrine, such as it is, centers more on what he will not do. He won’t be overthrowing governments and starting ill-fated wars. Like Rand Paul, he would be very cautious about projecting American power around the world.

But the foreign policy establishment and Team Hillary warn that Sanders is naive. Once in office he will have no choice but to defend, and thereby project, American power around the world. That is the responsibility of the world’s superpower. He will be drawn into the long war against terrorism, just like Obama. He too will have to counter expansionist Russia and Chinese actions. The real world will make him act more like Kissinger than like a peacenick.

However, this real politique approach is what has justified all of our imperial interventions. It amounts to saying that we never really have had a choice but to topple governments and intervene militarily where we are not welcomed or wanted.

While some may still be vacillating between Hillary’s domestic pragmatism versus Bernie’s idealism, no one should doubt that a vote for Hillary is a vote for a muscular, interventionist foreign policy. With Bernie we sail into unchartered waters where the projection of American power is limited by choice and where regime change and wars of choice are avoided.

So Would Hillary Support a Coup to Oust a Sanders-like Presidency in Latin America?

While our thought experiment may at first appear ludicrous, the people of Honduras might not think it so. Under Hillary Clinton’s leadership as Secretary of State, the U.S. gave support to the Honduras military which ousted yet another democratically elected president. Here’s Dana Frank’s description in the New York Times on January 26, 2012.

“Ever since the June 28, 2009, coup that deposed Honduras’s democratically elected president, José Manuel Zelaya, the country has been descending deeper into a human rights and security abyss. That abyss is in good part the State Department’s making....

This chain of events — a coup that the United States didn’t stop, a fraudulent election that it accepted — has now allowed corruption to mushroom. The judicial system hardly functions. Impunity reigns. At least 34 members of the opposition have disappeared or been killed, and more than 300 people have been killed by state security forces since the coup, according to the leading human rights organization Cofadeh. At least 13 journalists have been killed since Mr. Lobo took office, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists....

Why has the State Department thrown itself behind the Lobo administration despite brutal evidence of the regime’s corruption? In part because it has caved in to the Cuban-American constituency of Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Republican chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and her allies. They have been ferocious about Honduras as a first domino with which to push back against the line of center-left and leftist governments that have won elections in Latin America in the past 15 years. With its American air base, Honduras is also crucial to the United States’ military strategy in Latin America.”

Hillary was in charge of the State Department, before, during and after the coup. This is the Hillary Doctrine hard at work We should expect more of it should she become POTUS.

If you opposed the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq, don’t you think it would be prudent to stop this interventionism before it’s too late?

Les Leopold

Les Leopold, the director of the Labor Institute in New York is working with unions, worker centers and community organization to build a national economics educational campaign. His latest book, Runaway Inequality: An Activist's Guide to Economic Justice (Oct 2015), is a text for that effort. All proceeds go to support this educational campaign. (Please like the Runaway Inequality page on Facebook.) His previous book is The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance destroyed our Jobs, Pensions and Prosperity, and What We Can Do About It (Chelsea Green/2009).

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