Sunday, February 14, 2016

Foreign policy: Sanders, Clinton, Kissinger and the debates

It is interesting to watch the demeanor of the candidates at the debates. Where Sanders is impassioned and tends to stay on message and one message, Clinton is calm, collected and firm. I kid you not, Clinton has a certain appeal about her. In the PBS debate, her makeup was perfect, her yellow smock directed attention to her face and never once stumbled while speaking. Sanders did a lot of ums, and ahs. His hair seemed to go into chaos in direct proportion to the feelings that he had.

It's almost as if Clinton is betting on her composure to win the debate rather than the substance. Sanders is clearly uncomfortable on the subject of foreign policy. He appeared to me, at least in the last two debates I watched (MSNBC here and PBS here), clearly not on his game when it comes to foreign policy. Clinton, having been Secretary of State, was all over it. She had well prepared responses, she was confident. Her composure is appealing, but there something not quite right.

This despite the fact that Sanders has a rather sober view of foreign policy. He doesn't believe unilateral action and that if we're going to act, we will do that as a part of a coalition of countries working together. Not mentioned in the debates is Lawrence Korb, a man who has spent many decades being involved in foreign policy. I bring him up because Sanders brought him up. Korb was kind enough to write an article on Politico pointing out how serious Sanders is on foreign policy.

Korb is not exactly a hawk or a dove, but he's served in the Reagan Administration. He's served the Council on Foreign Relations. He's worked to eliminate discrimination of gays and lesbians in the military. He was critical of Bush's invasion of Iraq. He doesn't even come close to professing the "confidence" that Clinton exhibits.

I read somewhere, a long time ago, that confidence will do you no good. I had someone tell me that, too. I first heard that when I first set foot in a sheet metal shop. In a sheet metal shop, it's easy to lose fingers. Daydream for a second and a finger comes off. Get a little too confident and injury is swift and merciless.

George W. Bush was confident, too. Early into the Iraq War, he's on a navy ship, declaring mission accomplished. Years later, I'm reading stories about how contractors were surrounded in their SUV, dragged from their vehicle, beaten, shot, dismembered and their body parts were hung from wires overhead. Yeah, that's confidence. Hilary voted for that war, Sanders did not. I guess 900,000 dead Iraqis is how some people accomplish peace.

The PBS debate really turned around when the subject turned to Kissinger. Sanders mentioned that he had read one of Clinton's books where Clinton expresses admiration for Henry Kissinger. Now I don't know that much about Kissinger, but after doing some reading and reflecting on Sanders' comments in the PBS debate, it became clear what I see in Clinton.

And then there is China. Kissinger played a central role in opening up trade relations with China. If you want to know how we got the ball rolling, Kissinger was the man who pushed the ball. Sure, lets open up China and send a bunch of manufacturing jobs there. China now owns a large portion of our debt to keep the dollar strong, and to keep the trade deficits big. That in turn undermines our unions, our wages and our economy. Kissinger, in his trade policies, probably did more to wipe out the middle class in America than anyone else on foreign policy front.

To me, the defining difference in foreign policy is Kissinger. Clinton admires Kissinger and calls him a friend where Sanders does not. Kissinger is a big fan of interventionist foreign policy. That's where we go around the world attempting to mold it in our image. Fomenting wars, conflict and disruption is big business. Dan Froomkin at The Intercept has briefly inventoried Kissinger's long, long history of interventionist foreign policy. He also points out that Kissinger is not exactly a liberal. C'mon! Clinton admires a known war criminal? This is not someone I want working behind the scenes with our president.

So yeah, I see that Sanders is not all that confident in foreign policy. I don't want someone who is confident on foreign policy as commander in chief. I want someone who is aware that too much confidence can result in the loss of a finger. Maybe two.
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