Democratic Platform Atrocious on Foreign Policy

While one cannot fault people for voting the lesser evil this election given the GOP nominee, it must be acknowledged how atrocious the Democratic Party platform is on foreign policy even in the wake of the Bernie Sanders insurgency.

Sanders' delegates for those out of the loop were able to push important measures into the platform like the $15 minimum wage, stricter financial regulation and rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, though failed to yield much influence in foreign policy.

The draft that will be promoted at the Philadelphia convention this week is filled with vacuous rhetoric, stark omissions and support for militarism.

It starts by proclaiming the belief that "our military should be the best trained, best equipped fighting force in the world." This is a clear prescription for maintaining the $600+ billion dollar military budget, 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending, at a time when Americans are facing severe budget cuts and a deterioration of basic social services.

The platform goes on to contradict itself when it claims the mantle of promoting peace while suggesting that the "United States would deal firmly" with those "who seek to imperil America or our partners," would "destroy ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria," and would work with the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan to bolster the democratically elected government as it assumes the primary role in tackling terrorism. As in George Orwell's 1984, war thus equals peace.

American leaders it should be noted have been talking about passing over the baton to Afghan security forces for years, but these have been repeatedly found to be wanting, brutal and corrupt. (It is also hard to consider a government democratic when its vice president, Rashid Dostum, is accused of major war crimes).

The Democrats' primary villain is the Russians, who are rebuked for engaging in destabilizing actions along its borders, violating Ukrainian sovereignty, propping up Assad in Syria and attempting to recreate spheres that undermine American interests. The Democrats in turn say they will not "hesitate to stand up to Russian aggression."

Vladimir Putin may indeed be an unsavory leader, however, the United States in reality bears significant portion of the blame for escalating tensions, having expanded NATO on Russia's border and sponsored an anti-Russian coup in Kiev in February 2014 which threatened the major Russian naval base in Crimea that in turn forced a military response.

The party platform goes on to stress the importance of "deepening alliances" in the Far East and "protecting freedom of the Seas in South China." This is a clear call to expand the Obama administration's "pivot to Asia" policy that is ratcheting up tensions with the Chinese and provoking a dangerous new arms race that could lead to full-scale proxy or even nuclear war.

Africa is barely mentioned in the platform except with the desire for increased partnership with the African Union (AU). This is in many ways a sick joke as Hilary Clinton was a central figure in the ouster and murder of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, who had donated over one third of the AU's budget.

An underlying agenda driving U.S. involvement in Africa is the desire to access the continent's rich mineral resources and expand AFRICOM, a giant network of military bases resisted by Qaddafi, which the Democrat platform avoids mention of.

For the Middle-East, the drone war is also never mentioned, leading to the implication that Clinton plans to carry it on indefinitely.

The platform advocates "maintaining cooperation with the Gulf countries" that help provide cheap oil and access to military bases. These include Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet the Obama administration lavished with billion dollar arms deals.

Sanders supporters were rejected in their efforts advocating for Palestinian rights. The platform instead emphasizes the importance of a strong and secure Israel and that the Democrats will "always support Israel's right to defend itself including by retaining its qualitative military edge." We can thus be assured the U.S. will continue to provide Israel over $3 billion in annual military assistance while our own cities crumble.

Latin America surprisingly is little mentioned except to promote expansion of Obama's historic opening with Cuba and to suggest that the party should push for the respect of human rights there and in Venezuela. The singling out of these two leftist regimes is disingenuous and ideological. No similar pledge is made for Honduras, where Clinton backed a right-wing military coup, and Colombia, a leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid where human rights abuses are also legion.

The 2016 Democratic Party Platform fits with the party's tradition of supporting militaristic policies and capitalistic expansion dating to the era of Woodrow Wilson.

This past month, I was undertaking research at the U.S. National Archives and came across the 1964 Democratic Party platform.

In a statement before the platform committee, Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara boasted about a 50 percent increase in expenditures in military research and development and 150 percent increase in the number of nuclear warheads. Discussing the threat of Castro subversion and the Vietcong, he assures the committee about the ability of U.S. strategic forces to destroy both the USSR and China if war were to break out. He then went on to say that the most significant achievement of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations was to develop "the greatest military power in human history."

Perhaps the Democrats were a little crazier in those days, but things are not that different if we consider the trillion dollars nuclear weapons buildup initiative by Obama and drone campaigns and renewed cold war brewing which the 2016 platform enthusiastically endorses.

Though little covered in the mainstream, an alternative program has been advanced this election cycle by the Green Party. Its leader, Dr. Jill Stein argues in a Counterpunch essay this week that ISIS cannot be stopped by more violence. Stein instead proposes a weapons embargo, banking freeze targeting ISIS financiers and strengthened efforts to stop the flow of jihadi fighters from Turkey.

More broadly, she says that we need a new approach to foreign policy based on human rights and international law. Stein advocates for an end to weapons profiteering and an arms embargo in the Middle East rather than the arming of all sides. We need to use our valuable resources not for death but things we need in life - education, health care, infrastructure improvements and a solution to the climate crisis.

Some would call these suggestions utopian though to my eyes they are far more sensible that what the Democratic Party is proposing, and would also be a good remedy for defeating Trump.