Sanders: U.S. Foreign Policy Should 'Seek Partnerships' Instead Of Put 'America First'

Sep 21, 2017

Sen. Bernie Sanders says the United States needs to adopt a progressive approach to foreign policy if many of the crises facing the world are to be resolved in the future.

Sanders outlined his foreign policy principles to an enthusiastic audience at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, as part of their Green Foundation lecture series. Shouts of "We love you, Bernie" preceded his formal remarks.

Back in 1946, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke during the series and unveiled "the Iron Curtain" as a way to describe the arrival of a cold war with Russia.

More than military action

In his speech, Sanders made clear his approach to foreign policy isn't limited to military action.

"Foreign policy must take into account the outrageous income and wealth inequality that exists globally and in our own country," Sanders said. "This planet will not be secure or peaceful when so few have so much and so many have so little."

Sanders said the global war on terrorism has been a "disaster" because it's focused solely on a military solution.

"This planet will not be secure or peaceful when so few have so much and so many have so little." — Sen. Bernie Sanders

"The war on terror has caused us to undermine our own moral standards regarding torture, indefinite detention, and the use of force around the world," Sanders outlined, "using drone strikes and other airstrikes that often result in high civilian casualties."

Sanders said former President Barack Obama's agreement with Iran to prohibit that country from developing a nuclear weapon is exactly the kind of foreign policy the United States should pursue in the future.

"[The Iran deal] removed the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon from the list of global threats," said Sanders. "That is real leadership. That is real power."

Sanders also advocated the United States take a similar approach with North Korea instead of threatening to destroy that country militarily as President Donald Trump has done.

Climate change

Sanders said that it's crucial for the international community to take meaningful, immediate steps to address climate change.

He directly criticized Trump for not recognizing the seriousness of this issue:

"This is a crisis that calls out for strong international cooperation if we are to leave our children and grandchildren a planet that is healthy and habitable," Sanders pressed.

Watch: Sen. Bernie Sanders' speech at Westminster College

"Bernie [Sanders] remains relevant — he's still a sitting U.S. senator, he still can cast his vote in the U.S. Senate, he still matters," says Garrison Nelson, a political science professor at the University of Vermont.

Nelson says Sanders' speech highlights the reality that the Vermont senator has become the unofficial head of the liberal wing of the Democratic party.

"[Climate change] is a crisis that calls out for strong international cooperation if we are to leave our children and grandchildren a planet that is healthy and habitable." — Sen. Bernie Sanders

"And while he still matters," Nelson says, "he wants to move the agenda so as they say, he has become the de facto government in exile and he is enjoying that role."

During his 2016 presidential bid, Sanders received criticism about his foreign policy experience. Nelson suspects Thursday's speech at Westminster could be a way for Sanders to combat such attacks in the future.