Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders just gave an interview for the New York Daily News and the immediate reports following the interview were that Senator Sanders had, “bobbled,” the foreign policy part and seemed, “unsure,” of himself and that this would play directly to Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy experience.
It is true that Senator Sanders seemed a little unsure and there is no doubt that foreign policy is a secondary thought in his campaign. However, if one were to look back at reporting on Senator Sander’s foreign policy an observer would see a common storyline: Senator Sanders is just not that experienced with foreign policy. He does not see the complexities and harshness of the world, but that is where the media and much of the foreign policy community live in an echo chamber of falsehoods. Sanders might not be 100% sure of himself, but his instincts are far more realist and reasonable for national interests than those of the supposed experts.
Interestingly enough, former presidential candidate and current Republican Senator Rand Paul suffered from the same perception; that somehow he just does not get it. He is not serious or experienced in foreign policy. The media frequently asked, “Will he be able to overcome the foreign policy hurdles?” This question was framed against candidates like Marco Rubio who were held up as foreign policy experts. The media often reported that foreign policy played to Rubio’s, “strengths.” Yet, any reasonable analysis of Senator Rubio’s or most of the presidential candidates foreign policy, including Hillary Clinton, would find that their policies, both in practice and rhetoric are far less reasonable and serving of the interests of America than Senator Sanders or Senator Paul’s. Most of the candidates and indeed, most of Washington DC has been, “bobbling,” foreign policy for years and yet, the media has fed the narrative that some of the biggest, “bobblers,” are some of the biggest experts. Instead of questioning, the media often just echo what the politicos and self – anointed expert think tanks state.
Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Rand Paul are about as far apart as one can get on the political spectrum, so what is the common theme that binds them? It is their opposition to reflexive interventionism. Reflexive interventionism is the foreign policy status quo; a status quo that President Obama complained about in a recent Atlantic interview with Jeffery Goldberg. Any policy that does not reflect interventionism whether it be muscular, or a, “we just have to do something,” attitude is downplayed and not taken as seriously. Action and escalation are seen as serious. Any attempt to deescalate or non – action is seen as a lack of experience and leadership as well as isolationism. Yet, such a view is ridiculous.
Not every situation or crises requires action or intervention. Even the foreign policy situations that do exist do not always require escalation. One does not have to be a peacenik to see that. True leadership and experience requires the ability to understand the subtleties of the world and its currents. Not every crisis is Munich 1938. Anyone who thinks that has no business being in foreign policy leadership. It would be like a doctor proclaiming that every sniffle or fever is cancer and therefore requires chemotherapy. Obviously, such a policy would be very detrimental to patients. And not being reflexively interventionist does not negate the use of force when appropriate. However, the press and the so – called, “experts,” often frame it in terms of, “either – or.”
The interventionist echo chamber not only reflects a false reality in practice, but voters see it as increasingly false as well. This is not a, “turn inward,” as often described by the echo chamber, but simply a reasonable assessment by voters that foreign policy does not equal interventionism in every situation. Most voters and even a candidate like Senator Bernie Sanders are quite comfortable with doing what it takes to beat a real and true foe like ISIS. However, a decreasing number of voters have the appetite to carry out regime change in the Middle East, fight with Russia over land that is in their sphere of influence, and carry on the fight against whatever other boogeymen bounce off the walls of the echo chamber. Despite the conversation that is going on outside, it seems that the echo inside the chamber is still too loud for the experts and the press to hear anything.