Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Why We Must Transcend the Clinton-Sanders Debate:
The Middle East in US Foreign Policy
By Ramzy Baroud
March 1, 2016
As US liberals and some leftists are pulling up their sleeves
in anticipation of a prolonged battle for the Democratic Party
Presidential nomination, the tussle becomes particularly ugly whenever the
candidates’ foreign policy agendas are evoked.
Of the two main
contenders, Hilary Clinton is the obvious target. She
is an interventionist, uncompromisingly, and her term as Secretary of
State (2009-2013) is a testament to her role in sustaining the country's
foreign policy agenda under George W. Bush (as a Senator, she had voted
for the Iraq war in 2002) and advocating regime change in her own
right. Her aggressive foreign policy hit rock bottom in her infamous
statement upon learning of the news that Libyan leader, Muammer Gaddafi,
was captured and killed in a most savage way.
“We came; we saw;
he died,” Clinton rejoiced during a TV interview, once the news of
Gaddafi’s grisly murder was announced on October 20, 2011. True to form,
Clinton used intervention in the now broken-up and warring country for her
own personal gains, as her email records which were later released,
In one email, her personal advisor, Sidney Blumenthal congratulated
her on her effort that led to the ‘realizing’ of ‘a historic moment,” -
overthrowing Gaddafi - urging her to “make a public statement before the
cameras (and to) establish yourself as in the historical record at this
moment.” She agreed, but suggested that she needed to wait until “Qaddafi
goes, which will make it more dramatic.”
Her rival for the
Democratic Party nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders and his supporters, of
course, pounce on the opportunity to discredit Clinton, which is not
entirely difficult. But many have argued that, although Sanders is
promoted as the more amiable and trustworthy, if compared to Clinton, his
voting record is hardly encouraging.
“Sanders supported Bill
Clinton’s war on Serbia, voted for the 2001 Authorization Unilateral
Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), which pretty much allowed Bush
to wage war wherever he wanted (and) backed Obama’s Libyan debacle,” wrote
Jeffery St. Clair. Aside from supporting the US’ current position on
Syria, Sanders has “voted twice in support of regime change in Iraq,”
including in 1998.
“It should be the policy of the United
States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein
from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government
to replace that regime,” the Iraq
Liberation Act of 1998 read.
On Israel, Sander’s legacy is
very similar to that of current President, Barack Obama. He seemed to be
relatively balanced (as ‘balanced’ as Americans officials can be) during
his earlier days in various official capacities, a position
that became more hawkish with time. It behooves those who argue that
Sanders is the lesser of two evils to examine the legacy of President
Obama, whose sympathy with the Palestinians was underscored by his
friendship with the late Palestinian
Professor Edward Said, and Professor
Rashid al-Khalidi. The trappings and balances of power, however, led
Obama to repeatedly grovel before the Israeli Lobby in Washington DC, and
he has stalwartly backed Israel’s wars against Gaza. More Palestinians
died at the hand of Israel during Obama’s terms than those killed during
the administration of W. Bush, who was an adamant supporter of Israel.
Still, the current administration is negotiating an increase in US funding
of Israel to exceed, and by far, the current 3.7 billion dollar a year.
As odd as this may actually sound, as First Lady, Clinton, too, was
criticized for not
being firm enough in her support for Israel, before shifting her
position in supporting Israel, right or wrong, just before she eyed a
Senator position representing the State of New York.
many are ignorant of Sanders’ less-than-perfect past records, but some are
rushing to Sanders’ side because they are compelled largely by fear that a
Clinton White House would spell disaster for the future of the country,
not just in the area of foreign policy, but domestic policies as well.
It is this train of thought that
has compelled leading Leftist professor, Noam Chomsky, to display support
for Sanders, and, if necessary, even Clinton in swing states to block
Republican candidates from winning the presidency.
course, has no illusions that Sanders’ self-proclaimed socialist title is
even close to the truth. He is not a socialist, said Chomsky in a recent
interview with Al Jazeera, but a “decent, honest New Dealer.” Thanks to
the massive repositioning of the American political system to the Right,
if one is a New Dealer, one is mistaken for a ‘raving leftist.”
To a degree, one can sympathize with Chomsky’s position considering the
madness of the political rhetoric from the Right, where Donald
Trump wants to ban Muslims from entering the country, and Ted
Cruz is advocating ‘carpet bombing’ Middle Eastern countries to fight
terrorism. But, on the other hand, one is expected to question the
long-term benefit of the lesser of two evils approach to permanent,
serious change in society. Chomsky had, in fact, made similar statements
in previous presidential elections, yet America’s foreign and domestic
policies seems to be in constant decline.
If seen within the
larger historical context, US foreign policy, at least since the end of
the Second World War, has been that of ‘rolling back’ and ‘containing’
perceived enemies, ‘regime change’ and outright military intervention. The
tools used to achieve US foreign policy interest have rarely ever changed
as a result of the type of administration (the lesser of two evils,
Democrat, or a raging Republican) but varied, largely based on practical
The rise of the Soviet Union as a global
contender after WWII, made it difficult for the US to always resort to war
as a first choice, fearing an open confrontation with the pro-Soviet bloc
and possibly a nuclear war. It was Henry
Kissinger that helped navigate America’s imperial interests at the
time, resorting to most underhanded and, often, criminal tactics to
achieve his goals.
But the demise of the USSR has opened up US
appetite for global hegemony like never before. The US’s interventionist
strategy became most dominant throughout the 1990s, to the present time.
If Republican or Democratic administrations differed in any way, it was
largely in rhetoric, not action. Whereas Republicans justified their
interventions based on pre-emptive doctrines, Democrats referenced
humanitarian interventionism. Both were equally deadly and, combined,
destabilized the Middle East beyond repair.
The Presidency of
Obama is hardly a significant departure from the norm, although his
doctrine – ‘leading
from behind’, at times and aerial bombardment as opposed to ‘boots on
the ground’ and so on – is mostly compelled by circumstances and not in
the least a departure from the policies of his predecessors.
While US administrations change their tactics, infuse their doctrines and
adapt to various political conditions, wherever they intervene in the
world, massive, complex disasters follow.
Clinton might have
come, saw and Gaddafi was brutally murdered, but the country has also
descended into a ‘state of nature’ type of chaos, where extreme violence
meted out by militant brutes and managed by western-backed politicians,
have taken reign.
Similar fates have been suffered by Iraq,
Yemen and Syria.
Thus, it is essential that we understand such
historical contexts before, once more, delving into impractical political
feuds that, ultimately, validate the very US political establishment
which, whether led by Republicans or Democrats,
have wrought unmitigated harm to the Middle East, instability and
– Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about
the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated
columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder
of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include ‘Searching Jenin’, ‘The
Second Palestinian Intifada’ and his latest ‘My Father Was a Freedom
Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story’. His website is: www.ramzybaroud.net.
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