The January 14, 2020 Democratic presidential debate on CNN had numerous discussions about foreign policy.
Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason argued that it was “one of the only semi-reassuring parts of the two-hour televised show.”
Several comments from the 2020 candidates on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a potential war with Iran showed how there may be a growing change of opinion on U.S. foreign policy adventurism.
“We need to get our combat troops out” and “stop asking our military to solve problems that cannot be solved militarily,” declared Senator Elizabeth Warren.
2020 presidential hopeful Tom Steyer added that President Donald Trump is “going from crisis to crisis, from escalation to escalation” in the Middle East. “But if you look further over the last 20 years, including in the war in Afghanistan, we know from The Washington Post that, in fact, there was no strategy. There was just a series of tactical decisions that made no sense”, Steyer continued.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said the Iraq War was “the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country.” Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota boasted about her early opposition to the Iraq War. In addition, she advocated for the current Senate resolution to direct the Trump administration to “have an authorization of military force if you’re going to go to war with Iran.”
The debate only had six Democrat candidates on stage: Former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (of South Bend, Indiana), Klobuchar, Sanders, Steyer, and Warren.
Sanders pointed out how his long-time opposition to the Iraq War and contrasted it with Joe Biden. He said that he could see through the Bush administration’s lies.
“Joe and I listened to what Dick Cheney and George Bush and [Donald] Rumsfeld had to say. I thought they were lying,” said Sanders. “I didn’t believe them for a moment. I took to the floor. I did everything I could to prevent that war. Joe saw it differently,” Sanders said.
Sanders also warned people not to fall for any regime change propaganda. He believes that the Trump administration is trying to lie the public into a war with Iran.
Biden showed no real commitment to drastically changing U.S. policy in the Middle East. He stated that the government should deploy U.S. troops in the case that “the overwhelming vital interests of the United States are at stake.” He stated that he would “leave troops in the Middle East in terms of patrolling the [Persian] Gulf” and that it would be “a mistake to pull out the small number of troops that are there now.”
The former Vice President also argued for the U.S. government to maintain a police presence around the world.
“You have to be able to form coalitions to be able to defeat [terrorists] or contain them. If you don’t, we end up being the world’s policeman again,” Biden declared.
All in all, Democrats appear to be less hawkish by rhetoric, but their track record on war is dubious at best.
For over a century, Democratic administrations have started the overwhelming majority of wars (with both Iraq Wars being the exception).
It’s easy to talk about being anti-war when you’re the opposing party, but once in power, many of these Democrats will try to give their spin for hawkish actions abroad.
Say what you want about Trump’s foreign policy blusters, he at least hasn’t gotten the U.S. mired into a new conflict.
Under a neoconservative or mainstream leftist administration, we would likely be another conflict at this point.