“The problem in Venezuela,” the president said, “is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.”
In a major foreign policy speech delivered from the same Westminster College campus where Winston Churchill gave his famous “Iron Curtain” speech more than 70 years ago, Sanders trotted out just about every shibboleth of the tired old Socialist left, with surprisingly little inventiveness or variation.
It was a speech of anti-militarist and anti-capitalist diatribe, sprinkled with attacks on President Trump and his supporters — just the type of thing that has made Sanders the darling of liberal arts college students.
Iraq was a disaster that left tens of thousands of Americans “wounded in body and spirit from a war we should never have started” Applause.
The U.S. “spend(s) more on defense than the next 12 nations combined, … (at the same time) they want to throw 32 million Americans off of the health insurance they currently have.” Applause.
Income inequality is the scourge of the past, present and future, in the world according to Sanders. “This planet will not be secure or peaceful when so few have so much, and so many have so little.” Applause.
With the exception of his insistence on the “crisis” of climate change, there was little in this speech that could not have been uttered in the 1960s, either by outgoing U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower (whose famous “military-industrial complex” speech Sanders quoted at length) or by Timothy Leary.
You want to know America’s biggest problem? In the world according to Sanders, it’s America’s success.
To Sanders, our military power is a problem, a really big problem. “Partnership, rather than dominance,” should direct U.S. policy toward the world, not U.S. military solutions to problems. “We must rethink the old Washington mindset that judges “seriousness” according to the willingness to use force.”
Sanders believes that America’s unparalleled economic success is not just a problem, but a threat to the rest of the world. “There is no moral or economic justification for the six wealthiest people in the world having as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population – 3.7 billion people.”
But hey, don’t worry, Bernie will take care of that. He’ll just confiscate their wealth and redistribute it to the less fortunate so we can all be poor and miserable together.
Sanders really doesn’t like Donald Trump, in case anyone didn’t notice. Just like his friends in the national media, the senator thinks that Trump should give up on threatening Kim Jong un, and offer him more carrots than John Kerry offered the Iranians.
And just like that wonderfully successful Iran deal, that “advanced the security of the US and its partners, and it did this at a cost of no blood and zero treasure,” surely Rocket Man will see how generous and kind we are and will volunteer to give up his nuclear weapons and his ballistic missiles, because we promise to give him goodies.
To those of us brought up in the 1960s, it’s all depressingly familiar. Blame America first, abandon U.S. power and might and kowtow to a consortium of nations that despise us and seek our destruction — otherwise known as the United Nations — and the world will become a wonderful place.
While Bernie likes to contrast the Iraq war to the Iran deal — and no contrast better illustrates his worldview — it’s precisely here that his 1960s socialist vision breaks down.
The United States tried to woo Saddam Hussein. In 1989, under President George H.W. Bush, the United States was set to shower the Iraqi dictatorwith billions of dollars of U.S. high technology, most of it to be delivered on credits financed with taxpayer dollars.
But like any true dictator, Saddam wanted more. When he invaded Kuwait, even Bush 41 said enough was enough.
After another 12 years of crippling sanctions and the toughest arms control regime ever devised by the United States and its partners, Saddam still wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. Despite 17 UN Security Council resolutions condemning him, including multiple authorizations of force under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, it still took U.S. leadership and military might to force Saddam’s hand.
And even then, just as U.S. and allied forces were crossing the borders into Iraq, he had still been manufacturing outlawed ballistic missiles (Al-Samoud 2 missiles), according to the chief United Nations arms inspector, Hans Blix.
The lesson is simple, but it’s a tough one to accept if you’re a 20-year-old liberal arts major who might be subject to the draft: Some national security threats to our nation must be dealt with by force, and by force alone.
When Iran finally tests its first nuclear weapon — developed thanks to the Iran deal — Senator Sanders and his ilk will predictably blame the U.S. military-industrial complex and militarists in Congress for angering the Iranians.
Once again, it will be our fault.
And that is what’s fundamentally wrong with Bernie’s 1960s vision of the world. Far from being the source of all evil in the world, as Bernie thinks, America remains the world’s last bulwark against evil.
Who will you want to call when things go desperately wrong? Something tells me, for most Americans, it won’t be Bernie.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Hill.