Does Foreign Policy Experience Matter In A Bernie Sanders Candidacy?

Bernie Sanders may not have the sweeping foreign policy experience of Hillary Clinton. But he says what he lacks in experience, he makes up for in judgment and foresight. Clinton and her surrogates are taking advantage of this and hitting him hard.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright appeared at an event for Clinton over the weekend and blasted Sanders for his lack of foreign policy experience. In an interview with NBC News, Albright made her opinion of Sanders clear.

“We have to have a president that is ready on Day 1 to deal with problems. I have never sen such a complicated international situation, and we can’t afford learning on the job.”

When she was asked for her opinion on his claim that he has better judgment in foreign policy matters, Albright said it was a “strange statement.” She doubled down on her belief that Sanders simply doesn’t have the experience in foreign matters to be president.

Does all of that really matter in the greater scheme of things? President Obama was much less experienced in foreign and domestic policy when he was elected in 2008. In the last eight years, he has repaired the United States’ reputation among friendly nations, has refused to get the U.S. too entrenched in the boggy mess of Middle Eastern conflict, and dispatched one of the world’s most dangerous men: Osama bin Laden.

This country has a habit of electing presidents with very little foreign policy experience under their belts. G.W. Bush, Reagan, Carter, Clinton, Obama. None of them had extensive foreign policy knowledge upon election. What matters most, then, is the people each president chooses to advise him or her regarding matters of international policy and, as Sanders has said, what judgment the president displays in making these types of decisions.

Sanders has a reputation in Congress for reaching across the aisle and finding common ground on issues, both domestic and international, to find a mutually acceptable solution. Sanders had the foresight to predict that invading Iraq would cause traumatic instability in the Middle East, which eventually happened.

In a debate last October, he eschewed the idea that he is a pacifist. Rather, he wants to avoid getting entangled in foreign conflicts whenever possible.

“I am not a pacifist: I supported the war in Afghanistan, I supported President Clinton’s effort to deal with ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, I support air strikes in Syria. I happen to believe from the bottom of my heart that war should be the last resort. But yes, I am prepared to take this country into war.”

In the last debate between Sanders and Clinton, both candidates discussed the most pressing international threat to the United States. Hillary Clinton believes that “belligerent” Russia is the United States’ biggest threat. Bernie Sanders, conversely, suggested that “isolated” North Korea is our biggest threat.

“I worry very, very much about an isolated country. that’s what makes me nervous. Russia lives in the world. China lives in the world. North Korea is a very, very strange country because it is so isolated, and I do feel that a nation with nuclear weapons…they have got to be dealt with.” He noted that he believed that China might help in that regard.

Just a few days later, North Korea launched a long-range missile in a show of aggression toward the United States and the rest of the western world.

No president will have complete knowledge of everything going on in the world. This is why a every president has a policy of relying on experts in various fields. It is why a good president is willing to listen to others and work toward a common goal. In a 2012 article in Forbes, Mike Myatt makes the case for this.

“Want to become a better leader? Stop talking and start listening. Being a leader should not be viewed as a license to increase the volume of rhetoric. Rather astute leaders know there is far more to be gained by surrendering the floor than by dominating it…Show me a leader who doesn’t recognize the value of listening to others and I’ll show you a train-wreck in the making…”

In the greater scheme of things, then, a president willing to listen to both sides and exercise sound judgment may be more important than how much foreign policy experience they bring to the table. And Bernie Sanders may be that candidate.

[Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty]