Opinion: Any blue will do — except Tulsi Gabbard
Richard Martin makes his case.
With nearly one year to go until the official start of the Democratic primaries, there are already 16 major candidates who are officially running and another six who are likely to announce a run of their own. As always, there are policy disagreements between the candidates. Yet, whatever differences the Democratic candidates have on policy, nearly all would be, at least, a decent president, which is a vast improvement over the incumbent. I say nearly all because there is one glaring exception — U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)..
Gabbard represents Hawaii’s second district in the House of Representatives and is an active member of the Army National Guard. Before her election to Congress, Gabbard served in the Hawaii State Legislature and in combat in Iraq. Gabbard is a self-described progressive who supports medicare for all, the Green New Deal, expanding the social-safety net, protecting civil rights, reversing Trump’s tax scam and discontinuing American military intervention abroad. Gabbard’s domestic agenda is relatively innocuous and is reasonable for the most part. Her foreign policy, however, is dangerous, and should disqualify her from the presidency
The president has always been delegated broad powers in foreign policy, going back to George Washington’s administration. Any candidate’s foreign-policy positions are, in some sense, more important than his/her/their domestic positions because, as president, he/she/they will have more power to implement his/her/their agenda, thanks to the constitution and the unmatched strength of the American military.
It is noteworthy, then, that Gabbard has pledged to pull out of Afghanistan immediately; cease American involvement in Syria; renege on our commitments to our allies both inside and outside of NATO; and reconfigure our defense posture to defend America from its shores.
While I strongly disagree with such an approach, I can understand Gabbard’s consistent opposition to military intervention. She served in Iraq — service for which I and the rest of the country should be grateful — but she saw firsthand the most spectacular failure of military intervention in American history.
Unilaterally withdrawing from Afghanistan would likely send that country into chaos. Either China will deploy their military to stabilize Afghanistan or terrorists will regain their footing there, from which they can threaten America and our interests. American military and intelligence assets provide critical support for secular rebel forces in their campaign against the Islamic State and the Assad regime. Abruptly halting that support would gift Assad with more latitude to continue waging total war, regardless of civilian casualties; allow Russia and Iran to expand their influence in the Middle East; and signal to other actors on the world stage that the U.S. will accept the use of chemical weapons against civilians.
Perhaps more telling than the aforementioned positions, though, are the values from which these positions are inspired. As a member of Congress, Gabbard felt it appropriate to meet with Bashar Al-Assad after the dictator had gassed his own people. Since that meeting, Gabbard went on to claim that Assad was “not our enemy.”
Such statements and actions indicate something deeper and more troubling than the simple naiveté of a non-interventionist novice. They point to an ignorance toward American values that is unacceptable for anyone trusted to serve in elected office, much less as commander-in-chief.
What makes the U.S. unique is that it was born from an idea — not shared blood and soil. Our military is obligated to defend more than just American territory: We must use the tools at our disposal to defend democracy, humanity and the rule of law.
This includes both diplomatic and military implements. Without the credible threat of the use of force, diplomacy is practically useless when confronting tyranny.
At the surface, pulling out of international entanglements isn’t completely unreasonable. Intervention is expensive, has a mixed record of success at best and has proven to result in blowback. In a perfect world, without rising authoritarian powers eroding American power, pulling out of foreign wars would make perfect sense.
But, we don’t live in a perfect world; we are far from it. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are giddily awaiting America’s exit from center stage. Only then will both be able to maneuver forces and, ultimately, shape events in congruence with their authoritarian values and interests.
Gabbard’s foreign-policy logic amounts to a poorly constructed iteration of radical anti-imperialism. Like all up-and-coming politicos of my generation, I grew up seeing the dangers of having a reckless hawk as president. Equally dangerous, however, is a reckless dove who is so committed to the principle of “leading with love” that the consequences of global withdrawal don’t register. Tulsi Gabbard is one such dove.
Richard Martin is a senior at the university and is the Director of Political Communications at College Democrats at UD. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.