Sanders called it a “low blow.” Clinton has suddenly laid claim to the Obama legacy and chastised Bernie because he sometimes has taken issue with the President.
Aside from the injustice to Bernie, who has supported Obama while exercising the right to voice disagreements, Hillary has turned matters upside down. It is no secret that the former Secretary of State has been hawkish on foreign and military policy, that she along with the neocons has regarded Obama as “weak.” That’s why the current chief neocon advocate, Robert Kagan, who bitterly opposes any Obama/Kerry effort to try diplomacy instead of greater military force, can say of Clinton: “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy.” (Kagan’s wife is Victoria Nuland, Hillary Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs, who famously said “Fuck the EU” in her eagerness to manipulate “regime change” in the Ukraine.)
As the primary campaigns unfold, candidates take stock and adapt to the unexpected. Hillary has insisted that the US should set up a “no fly zone” in Syria, a proposal that Obama has opposed as irresponsible and dangerous. Instead, Kerry and Russia’s Lavrov have agreed to take joint steps to relieve the extreme humanitarian crisis and are in difficult negotiations for a ceasefire and an end to the civil war. Now Hillary expresses support, even takes credit, for that agreement as well as for the P+1 (UN Security Council and Germany) agreement with Iran. At least that puts space between her and the neocons, the GOP buffoons, and — though she’s unlikely to acknowledge it — her friend Netanyahu.
In the Sanders-Clinton debates, foreign and military policy is the weakest area. Clinton boasts long experience, but ignores the fact that decades of US foreign policy experience are rich in failures and disastrous wars. Surely Sanders has a point in stressing judgement, opposition to the Iraq War as well as to the whole “regime change” hubris of US policy. The Sanders legions are beginning to shake up US politics because they dare to challenge Wall Street and the billionaire class. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot more boldness on the domestic consequences of the power of the 1% than on its relevance to fateful issues of war and peace. There is a crying need for new thinking and direction to avoid repeating catastrophes of the last century. So far Clinton offers no change of course, and voices for a more realistic and peaceful foreign policy are relatively subdued.
In a climate of conformity to assumptions of American “exceptionalism” (supremacy), it can be intimidating to speak some truths. On some issues, the US can stand almost alone in its denial of what’s plain to see. Cases in point are US total commitment to supporting the governments of Saudi Arabia and Israel. Everyone sees that Israel has lurched to the right, that the illegal occupation is expanding, that democracy is being destroyed by racist extremists within and beyond the government. Many Jews, perhaps most, are appalled. It is as if Trump, Cruz or Rubio were to become President of the USA. Yet Clinton repeats with pride her ritual pledge of loyalty to Netanyahu, and seems to dare anyone to take the slightest exception.
On another issue, when Sanders is pressed on how his programs would be paid for, it’s disappointing that he hesitates to challenge our extreme military spending other than to mention waste within the Pentagon — testimony again to a climate of intimidation fostered by those who profit from military adventurism and imperialism all over the world.
Looking ahead, peace depends on the same courage and passion of millions, especially a young generation, beginning to say that this land and our lives belong to us. “Enough is enough.”