Krystal Ball analyzes why some 2020 Democrats don't advocate for reforming party's foreign policy approach

Opinion by: Krystal Ball

With a new entrant into the presidential race we’ve got another opportunity to inspect the status quo bipartisan foreign policy consensus that has led us to endless wars, endless military expansion and nearly limitless executive national security powers.

Even among the conventional Democrats, Mike Bloomberg stands out for his rightwing-neocon-hawkishness. After all, he used to be a Republican.

Mehdi Hasan has a great piece out at The Intercept looking at his views. Not only did he support the Iraq invasion but he championed the dumbest of the Iraq lies like the idea that Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in 9/11.

Not only does he adopt the standard rhetoric on Israel but directly defended a “disproportionate response” in their attacks on Gaza. He has been pal-ing around with MBS and lauded the Crown Prince’s reforms even after the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Obviously he’s said nothing about the war crimes that have made Yemen the site of the greatest human calamity on the planet.

Bloomberg once described the city of New York under his leadership as a “luxury product.” I guess not being bombed is also a luxury product.

Let’s just pause for a moment to consider how damaging and radical this set of views is. How devastating this foreign policy has been to our nation and to the world. The Iraq War alone cost hundreds of thousands of lives, trillions of dollars, destabilized the middle east, led to massive refugee flows that have destabilized europe as well and was almost certainly the most devastating strategic blunder of a generation.

Yet for some reason, cheerleading this absolute human catastrophe is barely challenged by the media while one meeting that Tulsi had with Assad is apparently disqualifying and something she must answer for in literally every, single media appearance and every debate.

This makes absolutely zero moral sense. It only makes sense from the perspective of a media that has been complicit with the National Security State in drumming up the case for war time and time again.

Bloomberg may actually have the worst foreign policy views of the field, but that’s cold comfort when you consider the power that the military industrial complex will have over any incoming president. That’s one of the parts of the Trump administration that has been so incredibly revealing.

Just consider this whole Ukraine episode. Watching the testimony of these officials, you come to realize just how deeply committed they were to the principal of providing lethal weapons to the Ukrainians which as Aaron Mate’ argued, is likely to make the region less stable--not more.

They were so disturbed that Trump would delay their Javelin Missile acquisition that they sparked an impeachment probe. It’s made me realize that anyone who doesn’t have a fully- formed oppositional view to the national security state and the stomach to fight for that view, is just going to be absolutely rolled.

Just look at Obama. His 2008 victory was as much about Iraq war opposition as anything else. It was certainly the lynchpin of his victory over Hillary and a crucial argument in his case against the hawkish McCain who famously commented it was fine with him if troops stayed in Iraq 100 years.

But the young president was ultimately either seduced or bullied by the National Security state. Drone strikes, warrantless surveillance, Syria, Libya, and--oh-by-the-way--we are still mired in Afghanistan to this day. His operating principle of “don’t do stupid shit” was not nearly strong enough pushback against an ever-expanding imperialist security state. And so in the end, the man who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his campaign promises, left office having gotten us into more military engagements than he got us out of.

So what do we make of the current field? Well, there’s really only one question that you need to ask yourself, ‘Who is willing to go to the mat against a national security state that’s willing to leverage every tool of propaganda to convince the media and the public that your decisions are terrible and dangerous and will lead to the next 9/11?’

Biden’s views are obviously the most formed and the most consistent with the radical status quo. He not only voted for the Iraq War, but as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee helped the Bush administration make the case.

Most of the other candidates really don’t have much to say on the issue. They’re all trying to stake out some Goldilocks “regime change for those who want it” position. Warren in particular has been quite squishy on how she views foreign policy. For example, she issued a mealy- mouthed statement on Bolivia in which she failed to call the military coup a coup referring instead to “interim leadership” even as that interim leadership was murdering protesters in the street. The Intercept’s Ryan Grim recently tried to pin Warren down on the issue.

Ryan Grim: The interim government has recently said that armed forces who shoot and kill protesters will have immunity during the protest. Do you believe that when the military pressured Evo Morales out of power that was a coup, and what is the U.S. role right now going forward.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash MORE: Boy, it sure looks like that. Whenever the military intervenes in a civilian transfer of power that's not good, and it’s dangerous for Democracy.


She inches closer to the “c” word but studiously avoids actually saying the word “coup.” This kind of equivocating from Warren or Pete or whoever will lead to one outcome: getting completely rolled by the military industrial complex and a continuation of the foreign policy status quo. So again I ask you, ‘Who will be willing to pay the price?’

Well, last week’s debate made it clear who at least has a shot at standing up to the bipartisan war consensus and its media and national security apparatus promoters.

Obviously Tulsi has made bucking the foreign policy status quo the signature of her campaign, but in my eyes the most telling moment of the night came when Bernie--of his own volition-- stood up for the dignity and human rights of Palestinians.

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardBiden: All-white debate not representative of party, but 'you can't dictate' nominee Delaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats worry about diversity on next debate stage MORE: Harris is doing is unfortunately continuing to traffic in lies and smears and innuendos because she cannot challenge the substance of the argument that I'm making. The leadership and the change that I'm seeking to bring in our foreign policy, which only makes me guess that she will as president continue the status quo, continue the Bush Clinton Trump foreign policy of regime change wars which is is deeply destructive.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE: it's no good enough for us simply to be pro-israel. I am pro-israel but we must treat the Palestinian people as well with the respect and dignity that they deserve [Applause] youth unemployment is 70 or 80% is unsustainable

Amazingly Bernie’s comments there about the dignity of Palestinians were greeted with
with raucous applause by the audience. The power of our Commander in Chief is awesome and vast with the power to shape the future of our nation and the globe. There are no guarantees that any president when push comes to shove will be strong enough to ultimately buck the war machine, but it’s at least worth knowing who will actually try.