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Al-Jazeera America

Bernie Sanders Should Stop Ducking Foreign Policy

The progressive favorite has views on foreign affairs but has avoided articulating them to voters

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, accompanied by Jeff Miller, R-Fla., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 28, 2014. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

Senator Bernie Sanders has sparked a strong grassroots response in his run for the Democratic presidential nomination on social and economic issues. At the same time, he has given short shrift to foreign policy, military spending and war. That approach should change.

I’m among millions of supporters who are enthusiastic about the clarity of his positions in taking on Wall Street, corporate power and economic inequality. But we also need Sanders to be clear about what he would do as commander in chief of the world’s leading military power.

A snapshot of avoidance can be found on the Sanders campaign’s official website. Under the headline “On the Issues,” Sanders makes no mention of foreign policy, war or any other military topic. The same omissions were on display at an Iowa Democratic Party annual dinner on July 17, when Sanders gave a compelling speech but made no reference to foreign affairs. Hearing him talk, you wouldn’t have a clue that the United States is in its 14th year of continuous warfare. Nor would you have the foggiest inkling that a vast military budget is badly limiting options for the expanded public investment in college education, infrastructure, clean energy and jobs that Sanders is advocating.

Such omissions have become typical of Sanders’ campaign. After hearing the candidate address a rally with 8,000 people in Portland, Maine, in early July, longtime activist Bruce Gagnon was glum. An Air Force veteran who coordinates a group opposing weapons in space, Gagnon wrote: “Nothing was said about the metastasizing Pentagon budget nor a mumbling word was spoken about foreign policy.”

Perhaps Sanders prefers to bypass such issues because addressing them in any depth might split his growing base of supporters, who have been drawn to his fervent economic populism. But ongoing war and huge military spending continue to be deeply enmeshed with ills of the domestic U.S. economy and many dire social problems. About 54 percent of the U.S. government’s discretionary spending now goes to military purposes, hemming in more productive expenditures.

Read the full article at Al-Jazeera.

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Norman Solomon

Norman Solomon is co-founder and national coordinator of His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State." He is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. 

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