Only Sanders, not Clinton or Trump, has right plan to defeat ISIS
© Getty Images

There's a reason Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersMusk's SpaceX has a competitive advantage over Bezos' Blue Origin New York, New Jersey, California face long odds in scrapping SALT  Warren calls for US to support ceasefire between Israel and Hamas MORE (I-Vt.) says "I'll be damned" if the U.S. leads the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The repercussions of perpetual wars upon American veterans and their families have resulted in tremendous sacrifice. This sacrifice unfortunately has not led to a decrease in terror or stability in the Middle East, so before addressing why Sanders has the right plan to destroy ISIS, let's analyze the costs of war.

ADVERTISEMENT

Because of his work as chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, Sanders witnessed how the military conflicts espoused by President George W. Bush, and Democrats like Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCongress won't end the wars, so states must Democrats say it's up to GOP to stop Trump 2024 Hillary Clinton to speak at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders summit MORE, continue to affect American soldiers and their families. In Congress, Sanders has fought for the same people whom we send to fight America's enemies. For this reason, he recently won the Congressional Award from the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The human cost of both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have been paid by a small percentage of Americans within an overstretched U.S. military. Multiple tours of duty and Americans fighting longer than ever before have resulted in a "higher than believed" suicide epidemic, as USA Today noted. Thus far, 4,494 Americans have died in Iraq, while 32,223 Americans have been wounded. Ignoring his stance prior to winning the White House, President Obama recently sent more Americans to Iraq in order help Iraqis fight ISIS.

As for Afghanistan, Obama decided to prolong the war that already resulted in 2,372 Americans dead and 17,674 wounded. Rebecca Ruiz of Forbes explains the magnitude of both conflicts in a piece titled "A Million Veterans Injured In Iraq, Afghanistan Wars."

How much did both wars cost? Both wars might easily exceed $6 trillion.

What's been the cost of fighting ISIS thus far? We've already spent $2.4 billion fighting ISIS, and now Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFranklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Man suspected in wife's disappearance accused of casting her ballot for Trump Stefanik: Cheney is 'looking backwards' MORE both want to increase spending and resources. Trump is open to more U.S. ground troops in Syria, but has yet to elaborate on the cost and impact upon our military. Clinton has called for America to "intensify and broaden" efforts, but ignores the legacy of her Iraq War vote or bombing of Libya.

Failed policies and tough rhetoric from Republicans and Democrats like Clinton have led to foreign policy disasters. These debacles helped foster the creation of groups like ISIS. When Clinton unveiled her strategy to defeat ISIS at the Council on Foreign Relations, she failed to mention the consequences of her Iraq vote.

As noted by the Council on Foreign Relations, "[Abu Musab al-]Zarqawi's successors rebranded AQI [al Qaeda in Iraq] as the Islamic State of Iraq and later, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) ... reflecting broadened ambitions as the 2011 uprising in Syria created opportunities for AQI to expand." Al Qaeda in Iraq was "rebranded" ISIS, and while Clinton's supporters simply point out that she's called her vote a "mistake," it's clear that our invasion of Iraq resulted in a great many unintended consequences.

Most importantly, Sanders wants to ensure that our battle against terror doesn't create even more instability, or an increase in the number of terrorist organizations. Sanders understand how ISIS and similar groups wage war. The primary goal of groups like ISIS is to lure America into asymmetric wars that mitigate our military advantages; submarines and nuclear weapons can't defeat improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or insurgents hiding in apartment buildings. The willingness of Sanders to move beyond the traditional American paradigm of continual war, in the hopes of ending continual terror, is why Sanders has the right formula to defeat ISIS.

In contrast, Clinton helped further the structural roots of regional instability by accepting $10 million to $25 million from Saudi Arabia for the Clinton Foundation, even with the country's human rights abuses and Saudi links to terror groups. What's even more baffling is that Clinton herself has already acknowledged the Saudi links to funding terror. According to a CBS News article, "WikiLeaks: Saudis Largest Source of Terror Funds," Clinton clearly acknowledged Saudi support for the same groups we've been targeting for years:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged U.S. diplomats to do more to stop the flow of money to Islamist militant groups from donors in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi government, Clinton wrote, was reluctant to cut off money being sent to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Pakistan.

"More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups," according to the memo signed by Clinton.

Although Clinton supporters will no doubt ignore the relevance of this State Department memo, the fact remains that the Clinton Foundation accepted millions from Saudi Arabia. These donations were accepted, even as Clinton believed Saudis had a link to funding terrorist organizations.

As for Clinton's willingness to overlook Saudi funding of terrorism, another troubling aspect of this relationship pertains to weapons deals. According to Mother Jones, the former secretary of State oversaw weapons deals to various nations shortly after they donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation:

In 2011, the State Department cleared an enormous arms deal: Led by Boeing, a consortium of American defense contractors would deliver $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, despite concerns over the kingdom's troublesome human rights record. In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of [S]tate, Saudi Arabia had contributed $10 million to the Clinton Foundation, and just two months before the jet deal was finalized, Boeing donated $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to an International Business Timesinvestigation released Tuesday.

The Saudi transaction is just one example of nations and companies that had donated to the Clinton Foundation seeing an increase in arms deals while Hillary Clinton oversaw the State Department.

While the FBI's investigation of Clinton’s emails has dominated news, it's the curious timing of donations to the Clinton Foundation (as well as subsequent weapons deals) that undermine her overall plan to defeat ISIS. Defeating ISIS can't be done when a president has financial ties to a country that's linked to its creation. The Guardian's Patrick Cockburn explains Saudi links to ISIS in "Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country." Former MI6 agent Alistair Crooke also explains the Saudi/ISIS link in his piece titled "You Can't Understand ISIS If You Don't Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia."

In contrast, Sanders calls for Middle Eastern nations to lead the fight against the terrorist groups in their backyard. Sanders is also the only presidential candidate to criticize Saudi Arabia for suggesting U.S. troops against ISIS and states, "With the third largest military budget in the world and an army far larger than ISIS, the Saudi government must accept its full responsibility for stability in their own region of the world." Focusing the responsibility of destroying ISIS upon regional powers is the right thing to do, especially since American wars have resulted in numerous unintended consequences.

After the horrific attacks in Paris, Sanders explained that "the fight against ISIS is a struggle for the soul of Islam, and countering violent extremism and destroying ISIS must be done primarily by Muslim nations." While Hillary Clinton echoed the same talking points (in a slightly less bellicose tone) as Trump, Ben Carson and other Republicans candidates, Sanders focused on long-term strategy.

As for Syria, the same people who advocated the Iraq War are at it again. Clinton and others have called for the ouster of Bashar Assad in Syria, but nobody has explained who will replace Assad once he's gone. In addition, nobody has explained why we've sent Americans to Syria, even though America has recently scrapped a $500 million program (that Clinton once supported) to arm the Syrian rebels. Like Iraq after Saddam Hussein, and Libya after Moammar Gadhafi, Clinton continues to ignore the lessons of history.

Bernie Sanders rightfully states that Americans shouldn't continue to be sent to "quagmires in the Middle East." In terms of overall strategy, only Sanders demands that Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries intensify their fight against ISIS. It's this road map that will defeat ISIS, not the hawkish rhetoric of Clinton or Trump, and Sanders is once again on the right side of history. It's time to let Middle Eastern nations lead the fight against terror, and with Sanders as president, America won't repeat the mistakes of the past, or succumb to a reactionary foreign policy. After all, the primary goal of ISIS, al Qaeda and other terrorists is to lure us into endless Middle Eastern quagmires.

Goodman is an author and a journalist.