Bernie Sanders Embraces Limited Use of Drones as One Tool of Foreign Policy

Even as the Pentagon is announcing the embrace of “drone swarms,” Bernie Sanders is saying that he wants to reign in use of drones. This weekend, he told Martha Raddatz on This Week With George Stephanopoulos:

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RADDATZ: Would you do away with the drone program? Would you do away with the drone program because you have clearly had problems with that. You didn’t vote for CIA director John Brennan because of the drone program and how it was run.

SANDERS: I think what you — Martha, what you can argue is that there are times and places where drone attacks have been effective, there are times and places where they have been absolutely countereffective and have caused more problems when they have solved. When you kill innocent people, what the end result is that people in the region become anti-American who otherwise would not have been.

So, I think we have to use drones very, very selectively and effectively. That has not always been the case.

The context of this statement was a discussion of the use of force. Sanders had just told Raddatz that “I get very nervous about my Republican friends who keep implying that the only way we could do that is through another war. War is the last resort, not the first resort.” Sanders did admit, “yeah, there are times when you have to use force, no question about it.”

For some (progressive) critics, this will be Bernie Sanders refusing to end the drone program and therefore embracing the idea of endless war. For other (conservative) critics, this will be seen as Bernie Sanders making America weak by showing hesitation in the use of force. Republicans inculcated on George W. Bush’s 1 Percent Doctrine want war on demand, war on any pretext, war for the sake of war.

They might not want to hear it, but Republicans, like Al Qaeda, prefer endless war. They have become their enemies.

That might work for a terrorist organization. It cannot work on the global stage when you are the world’s sole remaining superpower.

There is obviously a vast gulf between the two positions – Sanders and Republicans – and there is no doubt that Sanders characterized the Republican position accurately. They want war with Iran. Their complete lack of alternatives to Obama’s Iran nuclear deal proves this. And from what Sanders said, the world could expect a less aggressive United States under his administration. Under Obama, we already have a less aggressive United States than under President Bush.

You can broaden the subject to look at other candidates. Sanders wants to further restrict the use of drones. Ben Carson wants to use them on our own borders. North Dakota police, perhaps presaging the future, have weaponized their drones:

Polls show Carson gaining on Trump. Maybe Republican voters find drones more exciting than walls? In Hollywood, drones chase people and blow them up. Walls…well, they’re just walls.

Raddatz pointed out that Sanders’ campaign site fails to address either foreign policy or national security. Sanders responded that he has “been focusing, quite correctly, as you’ve indicated, on the economy, on the collapse of the American middle class, on massive income and wealth inequality.” However, he allowed that Raddatz was “absolutely right, foreign policy is a huge issue.”

And this is not the first time Sanders has addressed foreign policy issues on TV. He told Ed Schultz back in May that the Islamic State has to be stopped but that he opposes the employment of U.S. ground forces in the region, that “Two wars is enough.”

At that time, he voiced support for “airstrikes and special missions.” Asked by Schultz if he would continue President Obama’s drone policy, Sanders answered, “Yes and no,” pointing out that killing civilians is counter-productive. Drones are “one tool in the arsenal,” he said, that have at times “clearly backfired on us.”

The problem here is not what Raddatz said, or even the suggestion that Sanders has so far failed to address national security and foreign policy. He clearly has.

The problem lies in what she failed to say – about the utter absence of a viable foreign policy position from ANY of the Republican candidates. It is great that Sanders got some air time on national TV during a time when usually only Republicans are given a voice.

However, the mainstream media must begin asking Republicans some tough questions. Raddatz did not just ask Sanders and then let it go, but continued to demand specifics. Republicans, by contrast, get off lightly, and to date, for example, Walker has not had to clarify how treating the Islamic State like a labor union is going to accomplish any worthwhile goals in the Middle East.

Thomas H. Naylor wrote at Counterpunch back in 2011, that Sanders “behaves more like a technofascist disguised as a liberal, who backs all of President Obama’s nasty little wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.” It claimed, “Sanders, not unlike President Obama, thinks drones are cool.”

Others have similarly critiqued Sanders’ positions on foreign policy, and the best of these might be Jesse Walker on, who calls Sanders “a dove in the 80s, something more complicated since then,” with a record “far less interventionist than Hillary Clinton’s.” Clinton has in the past defended the use of drones as an effective anti-terrorist weapon.

In the coming weeks we will no doubt see the evolution of a Bernie Sanders foreign policy. For now, it is obvious it will be a far more moderate foreign policy than the chickenhawk positions of his potential Republican foes, one that will favor diplomacy over war, and further safeguards on the use of drones, making him more moderate in his approach than even than Barack Obama.

Republicans have accused Obama of apologizing for America. The question is, will Sanders, like Obama, now find himself being attacked from left and right both?

15 Replies to “Bernie Sanders Embraces Limited Use of Drones as One Tool of Foreign Policy”

  1. Whatever his position, it will be well thought-out, not belligerent, not pandering to the basest instincts of the American voter, consistent, and an honest expression of how Sanders really things and feels about the subject.

  2. Whatever his position, it will be well thought-out, not belligerent, not pandering to the basest instincts of the American voter, consistent, and an honest expression of how Sanders really thinks and feels about the subject. But that won’t stop the media from posting a headline claiming Sanders “embraces drones,” like he’s some kind of geek warbird.

  3. The question is, will Sanders, like Obama, now find himself being attacked from left and right both?

    Short answer? Nope. I’ve brought this up with links to back up Bernie Sanders’ rather hawkish past, and the best response I got (that wasn’t an ad hominem against me) was that “he’ll do much better than Obama”.

    Uh huh. Right. When I ask, based on what, they flip out. For the diehard Sanders supporters, he can do no wrong. For the lucid among us, it’s a wake-up call to research his background.

  4. He’s stated his position more than one time, he’d continue to use them-he doesn’t get a pass because it was well thought out…

  5. …the “Attacks-from-both-sides Bullshit brought to you by the Teatard “Heads-I-win,Tails-you-Lose” squad…and the letter “F”…
    {{{You can easily guess why!!!}}}

  6. Bernie Sanders on the Cost of War in his own words:

    “The cost of war is great, and it is far more than the hundreds of billions of dollars we spend on planes, tanks, missiles and guns,” Sanders wrote in an opinion piece in the Boston Globe last summer. “The cost of war is more than 6,800 service members who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The cost of war is caring for the spouses and children who have to rebuild their lives after the loss of their loved ones. It’s about hundreds of thousands of men and women coming home from war with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, many of them having difficulty keeping jobs in order to pay their bills. It’s about high divorce rates. It’s about the terrible tragedy of veterans committing suicide,” he wrote.

    “I believe that the United States should have the strongest military in the world. We should be working with other countries in coalition. And when people threaten the United States or threaten our allies, or …

  7. No, you’re right. He gets a pass, however, because he’s leading a revolution against the neo-liberal, Obamatrade-backing establishment.

    Revolt Against Plutocracy puts that most important consideration ahead of his ideas we disagree with because fundamentally transforming the U.S. into a democratic order trumps everything else.

    We have a plan to use innovative leverage to help Bernie defeat Hillary in the primaries. We call it the #BernieOrBust pledge. We say, Bernie or else!

  8. Sanders is not anti war. You people better start doing some research instead of listening to fake progressives

  9. Bernie or else what? I personally don’t know who I’m gonna support, but if Bernie doesn’t get it what are you gonna do? not vote like you didn’t (not necessarily you, but a lot of people) in 10 and 14? You see what that got you and everybody else…

    Like I said I don’t care if it’s well thought out, he’d still use them, if my family, friends, or even myself were a victim of a drone strike, I wouldn’t give a damn if it was well thought out….

    That goes for Bernie, Obama, or any other President that uses them…

  10. I have to wonder if he were tempted to tell Martha that he didn’t have a crystal ball, so he couldn’t predict the future; therefore he could not say when or where he would pull out the Big Guns and go to war with another country. But if he ever did have that crystal ball, she’d be the first person he’d give the story to. That would have left her to be the first interviewing reporter to sit, speechless, having nothing for a comeback. And it would have also been the funniest thing on TV!

  11. You don’t have to come on like you think we Sanders supporters are idiots. What, do you think we’re dropping acid or something? We research our candidate, and all of us aren’t “young” people, if you mean millenials. Some of us–many of us–are boomers. We know war better than you do, maybe. We’ve lost friends in them, seen them injured, lost or had kids and their friends injured. Remembered dads and uncles. Have grandkids serving. Do you really think we want someone whose record we don’t know as our standard-bearer? I suggest you stop talking down to other voters, and do your own homework about whomever you are considering. Perhaps you, too, may conclude that Bernie is the best choice for yourself and the rest of the country. Last thing we need is a trigger-happy President, or one who doesn’t consider the cost of not only fighting the war, but tending to those who are charged with doing the actual fighting after the war is done, or their part in it is over. Think about that!

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