TIME politics

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Bernie Sanders Is the Commander in Chief We Need

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders wave to supporters during a campaign event in Miami on Tuesday, March 8, 2016.
El Nuevo Herald—TNS via Getty Images Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders wave to supporters during a campaign event in Miami on Tuesday, March 8, 2016.

He knows when not to unleash U.S. military power

The commander in chief of the world’s most powerful military must have the sound judgment to know when to use America’s military power and, just as important, when not to use that power.

To his credit, President Barack Obama has displayed throughout his presidency an instinctive reticence to launch military strikes. The most disastrous foreign policy decisions during the Obama years as commander in chief occurred when he trusted the advice of others over his own instincts.

While President Obama agonized over whether to use force to overthrow Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, it was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s impassioned and persistent arguments in favor of military action against Gaddafi that tipped the scales in what has been described as a very close 51-49 Obama decision to use force.

Five years later, President Obama describes Libya as “a mess.” A failed state, Libya is now a haven for terrorist organizations including ISIS fighting for control of the country.

In Syria, where Secretary Clinton has repeated her advocacy of military intervention to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad, President Obama is roundly criticized for having drawn a “red line” in the sand—threatening that the U.S. would bomb Syria if Assad were to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people—and then failing to follow through on that threat a year later when it was reported that Assad had in fact used chemical weapons on his own people.

Ironically, it took tremendous courage and character for President Obama to back down on his threat to launch a military attack on Syria. There should never have been a “red line” drawn, but after it was drawn and then crossed, there were but two choices: launch a bombing campaign against Syria or back down and endure harsh criticism both at home and overseas.

The decision to not create yet another completely failed state in the Middle East and open the door to a takeover of all of Syria by ISIS and other terrorist organizations is one that some say may have cost him credibility, but I believe it may have been one of President Obama’s finest moments as commander in chief.

This episode in Syria underscores a pivotal decision we as a nation must make when choosing our next commander in chief: Will we elect a president who has the judgment and foresight to refuse to be drawn into unnecessary and counter-productive wars of regime change? Or will we elect a president eager to intervene in other countries and cavalierly use U.S. military power to overthrow foreign leaders we don’t like?

This is not to say that we should be anything other than strong and determined to do what it takes to defeat those who wage war against America. But at this time in American history, we need a commander in chief who has the courage to reject the flawed and wasteful foreign policy of interventionism, regime change and unnecessary war.

I’ve endorsed Bernie Sanders to be our next president and commander in chief because I’m convinced he is the only person running for president who has the intelligence, foresight and good judgment to make sound decisions when it comes to the issue of war and peace.

We need a commander in chief who will end the illegal and counter-productive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad. Sanders has promised that as President he will end that war in Syria and focus on defeating those who threaten our safety—groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. In contrast, Clinton favors an escalation of that war and advocates a “No Fly Zone” in Syria that would cost billions of dollars, require tens of thousands of ground troops and a massive U.S. air presence, while also risking a head-to-head confrontation with Russia.

Similarly, while Sanders understands the need to defeat al-Qaeda, ISIS and other terrorist organizations that attacked America on 9/11 and who continue to wage war against us, he has made it clear that he will not waste American treasure and lives on interventionist wars of regime change and so-called nation building.

In both Clinton’s record and her campaign rhetoric, she has made it clear she will do the opposite—that she favors a continuation of the counter-productive and horribly expensive foreign policy of intervention and regime-change.

In this election, we have an opportunity to express our national will. Who are we as a nation? Where are we headed? What kind of world do we want to leave for our children and their children?

We could vote for Clinton and continue to spend trillions of dollars on interventionist regime-change wars and so-called nation-building overseas. Or we could vote for Sanders, end these costly, counter-productive wars and use our precious taxpayer dollars to rebuild our own nation.

The choice in this election could not be more clear.

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