Foreign Affairs today has an important piece by Stephen Pampinella, titled “Bernies’ World,” urging Bernie Sanders to articulate a foreign policy in which the U.S. would get over its imperial status and “share power with rising hegemons in a system that treats all states as equals.” That means normalizing relations with Iran now and putting teeth into international law, in direct opposition to Hillary Clinton’s aggressive, neoconservative-lite positions.
Pampinella is a scholar of international relations at SUNY New Paultz. He begins by saying what was clear from last night’s debate: all eyes are on Sanders to come up with foreign policy vision that has the power of his domestic ideas:
On domestic policy, Sanders has pushed Clinton to the left, bringing discussions of economic inequality and financial regulation to the forefront of the campaign. But when it comes to foreign policy, Sanders has been much less influential. Many assume that he just can’t compete on foreign policy with Clinton, who served as secretary of state for four years. In the last two televised debates, Sanders offered glimpses of his views on U.S. engagement with Iran and the need for multilateral coalitions to fight the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), but he has yet to offer a comprehensive foreign policy vision.
He would not have to look far for one. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the inspiration for the “democratic socialism” that underpins Sanders’ domestic policy, can also provide the inspiration for how Sanders might engage in foreign policy. By embracing Roosevelt’s pursuit of great power cooperation within international institutions and international law, Sanders can articulate what the Princeton University professor John Ikenberry has described as a post-hegemonic foreign affairs strategy: the United States would relinquish its dominant role in maintaining a liberal world order and instead share power with rising hegemons in a system that treats all states as equals.
That means Sanders should fully own his idea of normalizing relations with Iran:
Iran is willing to cooperate on shared interests in the region. The agreement has also empowered Iranian moderates, such as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, at the expense of hard-liners bent on regional domination. Given these developments, it is wise for Sanders to open the door to eventual diplomatic normalization with Iran, as he hinted he would in the last debate before the Iowa caucus. The long-term goal should be the development of a great power consensus about the final status of Syria and Iraq.
The U.S. should back up its commitment to international law:
A Sanders administration could complement its pursuit of great power concert with a renewed commitment to Roosevelt’s postwar vision of international institutions and law. Sanders’ rejection of regime change and the unilateral use of U.S. military force are good first steps in this direction.
Pampinella says these twin ideas could become a vision that Americans would embrace, in direct contrast to Clinton’s “persistent hostility,” and thus would send the neocons packing, from both parties:
Sanders’ articulation of a post-hegemonic vision of foreign affairs could form the strongest challenge yet to neoconservatives in both the Democratic and Republican parties. For example, Sanders could contrast his openness toward Iran with Clinton’s persistent hostility and connect her past support for regime change to future attempts at dominance. By strongly embracing international law and human rights, Sanders could initiate a broader challenge to exceptionalist understandings of the United States’ role in the world. Over time, internationalist ideas might become more acceptable, in the same way that “socialist” positions have become increasingly popular today.
Pampinella doesn’t mention the name Israel and it seems intentional. This vision of foreign policy would of course eclipse the special relationship in a heartbeat. It would expose Israel to war crimes prosecution, and offer a Pax Iran to quell the unrest in the Middle East. It would do what so many folks in our community want to do, marginalize the Israel lobby by presenting a strong counter-force.
It ain’t going without a struggle. Alternet reports that Haim Saban is — no surprise– pouring money into the Hillary Clinton campaign. This follows her letter to Saban vowing to fight the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Then there was her fulsome Israel-loving speech at the Saban Forum, when she said that she and Israel were born months apart and she will invite Netanyahu to the Alternet:
Haim Saban and his wife Cheryl together contributed $5 million to the Hillary Clinton Super PAC—Priorities USA Action—between 2015 and 2016 alone, according to disclosures available on OpenSecrets.org, affiliated with the Center for Responsive Politics.
While the contributions are not surprising from long-time Clinton-backers, $3 million of them notably poured in after the presidential hopeful authored a letter to Haim Saban in July of 2015, seeking advice on “how we can work together” to defeat the growing movement to Boycott, Divest from, and Sanction (BDS) Israel.
Thanks to Adam Horowitz and Peter Belmont.