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Bernie Sanders Wins the Foreign Policy Debate

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The Democrats had a brief but substantive foreign policy debate Wednesday night—and Bernie Sanders gave it scope and meaning by centering Palestinian rights in a way major presidential candidates rarely do.

Joe Biden seemed ready to dominate with his “this guy has no idea what he’s doing…” critique of President Trump’s relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and with his rumination on how North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un had said Biden should be “beaten to death with a stick.”

“Other than that you like him,” joked Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. “Other than that I like him,’ replied the former vice president, who remains the frontrunner in most polls. It was a pleasant exchange, of the sort that usually concludes the moment when a Democratic debate turns toward international affairs.

But then Sanders got serious. He interrupted another of the former vice president’s recitations of his international bona fides and turned the discussion to Biden’s 2002 vote to authorize war with Iraq. In so doing, he won the debate within the debate. 

“One of the big differences between the vice president and myself is he supported the terrible war in Iraq, and I helped lead the opposition against it,” declared Sanders. “And not only that, I voted against the very first Gulf War as well. And I think we need a foreign policy which understands who our enemies are that we don’t have to spend more money on the military than the next ten nations combined.”

Responding to a question about whether he would negotiate a deal with the Taliban in order to get the United States out of Afghanistan, Sanders argued that the time has come to “rethink the entire War on Terror.”

“I think it is time, after spending many trillions of dollars on these endless wars which have resulted in more dislocation and mass migrations and pain in that region, it is time to bring our troops home,” said Sanders. “But unlike Trump, I will not do it through a tweet at three o’clock in the morning. I will do it working with the international community, and if it’s necessary to negotiate with the Taliban, of course, we will do that.”

Sanders seized every opportunity to frame out foreign-policy alternatives in the fifth round of Democratic debating. Joining several of the candidates in calling out President’s Trump’s approach to Saudi Arabia, he declared: “Saudi Arabia is not a reliable ally,” and he said, “We need to be rethinking who our allies are around the world.”

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