I think the kind of regime change the United States has brought forth over many, many years has been counterproductive. ~Senator Bernie Sanders to The Nation
All politics are local...before they grow and go global. Senator Bernie Sanders continues to draw criticism for focusing on domestic policy and lacking foreign policy experience. However, the American taxpayer has not always benefited from the foreign policy experiences of previous presidents---Democratic or Republican. Despite President Obama's many executive achievements, he acknowledged that Libya was one of the worst mistakes in his tenure--although constitutional. Before him, President George W. Bush embroiled the U.S. in what he still has to acknowledge as the worst mistake of is tenure: the 2003 Iraq war. Prominent Muslim Americans, like Dalia Mogahed, Zareena Grewal, Linda Sarsour, Dean Obeidallah, and Khaled Beydoun, have already already explained how/why Muslim Americans and Arab Americans compared Secretary Hillary Cinton's and Senator Bernie Sanders' social justice platforms. This brings me to three reasons as to why I think Muslim Americans, Americans of Mideast descent, and Americans concerned about the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region, should consider a presidential candidate who approaches America's foreign policy that reflects American priorities, values domestic policy, and is mindful of Islamophobic culture perpetuated by Frank Gaffney, candidate Ted Cruz's foreign policy advisor.
- Reason 1: Focusing on U.S. domestic challenges reduces the push for foreign intervention.
Mistrust of Money in Politics
Take for example one of the most challenging political economy issues in the U.S.: 1) 'shadow banking'--a term coined by economist Paul McCulley, and the international Monetary Fund, to describe the growing American practice of involving credit intermediaries for banking without banking oversight --and 2) 'money in politics' where corporations and outside interest groups provide large amounts of money to influence politics and public policy. (Follow #MoneyinPolitics in social media to share your thoughts). Watchdog groups and I would argue that 'money in politics' does not just mold domestic American policy, but has molded its footprint in American foreign policy and its relations with the MENA region.
During the Democratic Debate, former Secretary Clinton stated that she would focus on shadow banking since the average American taxpayer expresses concern with Wall Street banking and its penalty-free business culture. As in previous debates, she cited legislation, like Dodd-Frank, to address this concern. Likewise, Senator Sanders expressed his shared disapproval, but went one step further:
and this contributes to income-inequality, which insulates the "one-percent". Although both candidates rightfully call for accountability, only one of the presidential candidates has consistently cited specific examples of Wall Street malfeasance and attracted support from the Occupy Wall Street and Democracy Spring movements. (Note the similarity of the "Democracy Spring" movement echoing the populist, social-justice oriented movement in the Arab Spring that began in Tunisia.) In the 2008 financial crisis aftermath, JP Morgan Chase's CEO settled out of court, only to receive a 74 percent raise in 2014.
However, Clinton made no mention of the Panama papers' implications on shadow banking. Why insert the Panama Papers when no American power-players have been, yet, mentioned? Perhaps it worth mentioning that one of her biggest campaign "bundlers", the Podesta Group, lobbies a Russian bank, which is listed in the Panama Papers. They also lobby for Saudi Arabia, who is a top contributor to the Clinton Foundation. The Panama leaks triggered global concern leading to at least two resignations of high ranking politicians in advanced economies -- just how Wikileaks triggered Tunisia's revolution.
Foreign "money in politics" has left an awkward American footprint in the MENA Region that has generated more anti-American sentiment (Iraq), according to Zogby's 2015 poll, "The U.S. role in combating extremism is viewed as extremely negative in every country, " which does not serve the U.S. interests.
How does money in politics backfire on the U.S.? Take for example Yemen: U.S. arms to Saudi Arabia increased conflict. Six defense companies donated over 8 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation. Within five years, these companies profited from sales to 17 countries that also donated to the Clinton Foundation and required approval from the U.S. State Department. As a result, MENA countries that demonstrate poor human rights records (Algeria, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia) received approval for more arms. Bryan Schatz reports:
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 state, 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.
Meanwhile, one presidential candidate has brought the U.S. closer to Saudi Arabia as it increased financial support to the Clinton Foundation. As a result, U.S. polarization with Iran increased. Sanders take on Iran contrasts with Secretary Clinton's more polarizing view of the region by rewarding Saudi Arabia and echoing Israel's stance on Iran, which does not always consider American priorities and opportunities to offer a "carrot".
21st Century American Foreign Policy Doctrine
One could argue that Senator Sanders crusades against the income-inequality, shadow banking, and 'money in politics' challenges are not simply just domestic concerns, but represent some challenges in U.S. - Middle East & North Africa relations that serve as Senator Sanders' lens in his foreign policy approach. Senators Sanders argues getting money out of politics, as it distorts policy formulation and putting American taxpayers first. Therefore it is no surprise that political scientist at Northwestern University, Ian Hurd, calls this the "Bernie Doctrine":
Hurd is not alone in his observation that a Bernie Doctrine may better serve American taxpayers. "Veterans for Bernie" also remember when Senator Sanders voted against the Iraq War. With over 15,000 followers, they tweeted:
"Giving George Bush authority to invade Iraq was the biggest foreign policy blunder in modern history."~ Veterans For Bernie @Vets4Bernie
Since 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. has spent more than 818 billion dollars in what was initially supposed to cost 60 billion dollars. Consequently, by 2015, the Congressional Research Service reported that American taxpayers had spent over 1.6 trillion dollars destroying and rebuilding the infrastructures of Iraq, Afghanistan -and other Global War on Terror operations -- while our own infrastructure could be rebuilt, according to Senator Sanders.
The Downside of Different
The downside for the Bernie Doctrine is institutional: whoever will control the Congress--Republican or Democratic--both parties lean "hawkish" to engage more on the ground-- despite the end of the Cold war.
- If one supports campaign finance reform, then this should extend to addressing the undue influence of "dark money" and foreign interest groups;
- if one supports an agenda to address disproportionate police brutality, and the injustice of the U.S. Patriot Act against a segment of American civilians that perpetuates Islamophobia, then this should extend to addressing disproportionate state brutality against Palestinian civilians; and
- if he was the first to speak out against Israeli Prime Minister's address to the U.S. Congress, then it should be no surprise that his judgement voted against invading Iraq, supporting a peace-building deal with Iran, and not succumbing to foreign pressure to escalate tensions with Iran at American expense.
If all politics are local, and he voted against war and promoted social justice for all--minorities in the U.S. and abroad--then his global politics will hurt us less in the MENA region.