Sen. Bernie Sanders

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks at a May 4, 2023 press conference outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Bernie Sanders Says US Must 'Fundamentally Rethink' Its Foreign Policy

"In this pivotal moment in human history, the United States must lead a new global movement based on human solidarity and the needs of struggling people."

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday called for a "revolution in American foreign policy" that replaces "greed, militarism, and hypocrisy" with "solidarity, diplomacy, and human rights."

In a lengthy piece published in Foreign Affairs, Sanders (I-Vt.) asserted that "it is long past time to fundamentally reorient American foreign policy," a shift that starts with "acknowledging the failures of the post–World War II bipartisan consensus and charting a new vision that centers human rights, multilateralism, and global solidarity."

"If the goal of foreign policy is to help create a peaceful and prosperous world, the foreign policy establishment needs to fundamentally rethink its assumptions," the democratic socialist senator wrote. "Spending trillions of dollars on endless wars and defense contracts is not going to address the existential threat of climate change or the likelihood of future pandemics. It is not going to feed hungry children, reduce hatred, educate the illiterate, or cure diseases. It is not going to help create a shared global community and diminish the likelihood of war."

"In this pivotal moment in human history, the United States must lead a new global movement based on human solidarity and the needs of struggling people," Sanders argued. "This movement must have the courage to take on the greed of the international oligarchy, in which a few thousand billionaires exercise enormous economic and political power."

Sanders' article examines U.S. foreign policy since World War II, underscoring commonalities between the many wars and acts of aggression perpetrated by Washington over the decades.

"Dating back to the Cold War, politicians in both major parties have used fear and outright lies to entangle the United States in disastrous and unwinnable foreign military conflicts," the senator wrote, noting the U.S.-led war in Southeast Asia in which as many as 3 million Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians and more than 58,000 American troops were killed.

Sanders also highlighted the U.S. record of perpetrating or backing coups in Iran, Guatemala, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, and other countries, "often in support of authoritarian regimes that brutally repressed their own people and exacerbated corruption, violence, and poverty."

"Washington is still dealing with the fallout from such meddling today, confronting deep suspicion and hostility in many of these countries, which complicates U.S. foreign policy and undermines American interests," he wrote.

Sanders then moved on to the 21st century, when the George W. Bush administration responded to the 9/11 attacks by committing "nearly 2 million U.S. troops and over $8 trillion to a 'Global War on Terror' and catastrophic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq"—the latter "built on an outright lie."

The senator continued:

The Iraq War was not an aberration. In the name of the Global War on Terror, the United States carried out torture, illegal detention, and "extraordinary renditions," snatching suspects around the world and holding them for long periods at the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba and CIA "black sites" around the world. The U.S. government implemented the Patriot Act, which resulted in mass surveillance domestically and internationally. The two decades of fighting in Afghanistan left thousands of U.S. troops dead or wounded and caused many hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilian casualties. Today, despite all that suffering and expenditure, the Taliban is back in power.

"I wish I could say that the foreign policy establishment in Washington learned its lesson after the failures of the Cold War and the Global War on Terror," Sanders wrote. "But, with a few notable exceptions, it has not."

"In the past decade alone, the United States has been involved in military operations in Afghanistan, Cameroon, Egypt, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen," he noted. "The U.S. military maintains around 750 military bases in 80 countries and is increasing its presence abroad as Washington ramps up tensions with Beijing. Meanwhile, the United States is supplying [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu's Israel with billions of dollars in military funding while he annihilates Gaza."

"U.S. policy on China is another illustration of failed foreign policy groupthink, which frames the U.S.-Chinese relationship as a zero-sum struggle," Sanders said. "For many in Washington, China is the new foreign policy bogeyman—an existential threat that justifies higher and higher Pentagon budgets."

Revisiting a major theme from his two Democratic presidential runs, Sanders contended that "economic policy is foreign policy."

"As long as wealthy corporations and billionaires have a stranglehold on our economic and political systems, foreign policy decisions will be guided by their material interests, not those of the vast majority of the world’s population," he said. "That is why the United States must address the moral and economic outrage of unprecedented income and wealth inequality, in which the richest 1% of the planet owns more wealth than the bottom 99%—an inequality that allows some people to own dozens of homes, private airplanes, and even entire islands, while millions of children go hungry or die of easily prevented diseases."

"The benefits of making this shift in foreign policy would far outweigh the costs," Sanders wrote. "The United States must recognize that our greatest strength as a nation comes not from our wealth or our military might but from our values of freedom and democracy."

"The biggest challenges of our times, from climate change to global pandemics, will require cooperation, solidarity, and collective action," he added, "not militarism."

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