I have a new article up this morning at Washington Post’s Monkey Cage, responding to those who have previously tried to classify Bernie Sanders as a “pacifist” (Krauthammer who calls his view “part swords-into-plowshares utopianism, part get-thee-gone isolationism”) or alternatively as a “realist” (Katrina vanden Heuvel , likening Sanders’ to Obama vis a vis Clinton’s more hawkish liberal internationalism). Many have argued he actually doesn’t have a foreign policy position.
I argue Sanders’ vision has been hard to understand and articulate because it defies conventional labels. And it’s hard to categorize because it combines elements of several foreign policy perspectives: a realist aversion to unnecessary wars, a liberal concern with human rights and diplomacy, and a constructivist emphasis on the pragmatic value of international morality and soft power, and a critical theorist’s rejection of arbitrary distinctions such as the domestic v. the international.
Yet far from being a purely academic exercise, this is a distinctive policy perspective best understood as “progressive”:
Sanders did not invent this vision. He is channeling an alternative viewpoint on foreign affairs articulated by many on the progressive left for decades and outlined in Foreign Affairs magazine last summer by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In the article, U.S. Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy (Conn.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and Martin Heinrich (N.M.) lay out concrete and specific policy proposals. These include increased funding for foreign aid; efforts to protect human rights and gender equality at home and abroad; renewed support for multilateral institutions; restrictions on the executive branch’s expanded power to wage war; and a strengthened socioeconomic base at home to more effectively project U.S. power.
I argue that by triangulating these positions, we can infer three distinct thematic pillars of “progressive foreign policy” thought that are particularly reflected in the Sanders campaign: evidence-based threat assessment, the dependence of American national security on human security for those beyond our borders (achieved by addressing root causes through non-kinetic means); and the impact of dynamics – militarism, corruption, environmental issues, economic inequality – that cut across borders and bridge the domestic with the global. Read the whole thing here.
The math obviously favors Clinton for the nomination, especially after her big win in yesterday’s primary. But if Sanders has done nothing else, its greatest legacy may ultimately be the reshaping of Washington foreign policy discourse, and the opening of space across the political spectrum to rethink the foundations of American and global security.