Bernie Sanders, Foreign Policy & The Nuclear Disarmament Option via MintPress News

While Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic nomination has once again made some Americans audacious enough to hope for progressive change, there has been a conspicuous absence in Sanders’ platform of any intention to revise foreign policy and connect it to the concern with domestic issues that has dominated his platform so far. Sanders is yet to tell the American public where he stands on a number of fundamental foreign policy questions, issues related not only to the use of the military but also to human rights and independence movements. It may not be readily apparent to the American public, but domestic problems are all deeply connected to the US role on the foreign stage over the last seventy years.


The article in Reveal about New Mexico’s economy gives an idea of what the stakes are. It also raises some mind-bending questions about the Kafkaesque absurdities that arise from the quest for security with a stockpile of 5,000 aging, operationally deployed but untestable nuclear warheads. [3] The defense labs in New Mexico are set to receive hundreds of billions of dollars for the modernization of the nuclear arsenal, but because of international agreements and belated environmental awareness, these weapons can never be tested. They just have to be maintained so that they are certain to function if they are needed. Nuclear scientists say it is like maintaining a car in perfect condition but never being able to turn the key. [4] If it ever were necessary to use the device, it would mean a global nuclear exchange had begun, which would negate the purpose of having the weapons in the first place.

Thus if it is a matter of operating a trillion-dollar economic enterprise on something that can never be used, we can ask whether this is really a massive fetish or virtual-reality game that only creates the illusion that meaningful work is being done. Since the nuclear tests actually are run only on computers, it seems that the enterprise really is virtual, and nothing but a make-work program for technocrats. They could just as well be paid their salaries for playing Second Life for eight hours a day before they return to their suburban homes in Albuquerque.


No one wants to talk about the other catastrophes developing while we are preoccupied with the climate. For example, if sea levels rise, a great deal of social disruption will ensue, and it is doubtful that there will always be competent authorities watching over spent nuclear fuel during the next century. Seventy years into the nuclear era, there is still no final disposal site for all the nuclear waste accumulated from the military and civilian nuclear programs, yet this issue is completely off the radar during election campaigns. Political commentators sometimes refer metaphorically to issues that are “too radioactive” to talk about, but in this case the meaning is quite literal.


After WWII, the US occupation forced post-imperial Japan to accept the famous Article 9 of its new made-in-America constitution, which made it, like Italy, renounce foreign military deployments. Conservative elements have fought against it ever since, and the present Abe government just succeeded in “re-interpreting” it so that Japan could join allies under attack in vague ways yet to be defined. [5]

Article 9 didn’t magically make Japan the peace-loving nation that it claims to be. It is a vassal state, dotted with American military bases and American nuclear weapons. It has rarely opposed American foreign policy or American sanctions imposed on “uncooperative” nations, and it has profited from American wars in Korea and Vietnam. During Gulf War I America asked for military support from Japan, but it was impossible to get because of the American-imposed constitution. Instead, Japan agreed to write a check to the American treasury for $13 billion. [6] When America handed West Papua over to Indonesia in 1967, Japanese corporations got a share of the natural resources.[7]

The same sorts of benefits went to other American allies who have passively stood by while the world got carved up. Being a “peace-loving” nation should entail more than just staying out of the fight while sharing in the spoils and being rewarded for cooperation. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk on imperial ventures, but then again, nations that resisted America’s plans have always paid a heavy price.

Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, flawed though it is because of the circumstances of its creation, is at least a beacon of hope, embraced by the majority of a nation that had aspirations for peace after a ruinous quest for empire. America might be able to start solving its domestic problems if it started downsizing its military, like Japan, to what is only needed for true self-defense. Some might say this is ludicrous while Russia and China supposedly pose an existential threat, but parity with these other powers would mean only having the same number of foreign military bases as them—that is, almost none. If America really is destined to lead the world, it could unilaterally start to cut its nuclear arsenal and set the example for other nuclear powers to follow. If such a transformation happened, the Department of Defense could finally be concerned with defense rather than the projection of power to all corners of the globe, and there would be no need for the Orwellian-named Department of Homeland Security.

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