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Why A Vote In 2002 Is A Policy For 2016

“I do not believe a vote in 2002 is a plan to defeat ISIS in 2016. It’s very important we focus on the threats we face today, and that we understand the complicated and dangerous world we are in.”

This is how, in last night’s Democratic presidential debate on PBS, Hillary Clinton justified her 2002 vote in the United States Senate to support George W. Bush’s plan to rush into war in Iraq.

Clinton simply declared that her decision to help Bush invade Iraq, without provocation, is in the past, and isn’t relevant today.

She could not have been more wrong.

Contrary to what Clinton asserted, the votes taken in 2002 on starting the Iraq War, Hillary Clinton for and Bernie Sanders against, are representative of the two Democratic candidates’ plans for foreign policy now in 2016. Here’s how:

The Bernie Sanders Foreign Policy Plan, As Demonstrated In His 2002 Vote:

– When in doubt, refrain from war.

– Look at foreign threats for what they actually are, without exaggeration.

– Calmly differentiate between urgent problems that must be dealt with immediately and less pressing problems.

– When Republicans play with the politics of fear, don’t take the bait.

The Hillary Clinton Foreign Policy Plan, As Demonstrated In Her 2002 Vote:

– When in doubt, start a war.

– Exaggerate foreign threats.

– Lump together all foreign concerns, recasting any theoretical threat in the future into an urgent threat in the present.

– When Republicans play with the politics of fear, take the bait.

– – –

These differences have profound relevance to the decisions our nation makes about how to react to the Islamic State in the next presidential term. There are some people in Washington D.C. who are eager to use the fear generated by the Islamic State as a justification for big military spending and prolonged presence of American soldiers in the Middle East quagmire. They are trying to create a sense of false urgency. These are the same people who spent 2002 loudly warning that Saddam Hussein had huge stockpiles of high tech weapons of mass destruction, and would directly attack the United States if we didn’t go to war fast.

Given what we know about Hillary Clinton’s political past and Bernie Sanders’ political past, we know that Hillary Clinton is likely to go along with the demagogues. She is likely to jump the gun and commit the American military to years of war halfway around the world. That’s what she’s done before.

We know that Bernie Sanders is likely to look at the facts soberly, and not over-react.

This distinction between Hillary Clinton’s impetuous reflexes and Bernie Sanders’ level-headed restraint matters. It matters because, if Hillary Clinton hadn’t helped George W. Bush rush the USA into an unnecessary and poorly planned war in 2002, we wouldn’t be facing the Islamic State today.

The first thing that the next President of the United States should be prepared to do is to avoid creating a foreign policy problem for the next decade by making mistakes today. For that essential work as Commander In Chief, Bernie Sanders is prepared for the job, and Hillary Clinton isn’t.

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