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Buttigieg’s Foreign Policy Address

It has become conventional wisdom that 2020 Democratic presidential candidates don’t talk about foreign policy, or that they don’t have much to say when they do. This wasn’t [1] true [2] before [3] now [4], and it definitely isn’t true now that another candidate has spoken at length about it. Pete Buttigieg delivered a lengthy, fairly detailed address [5] on this subject earlier today at Indiana University [6]. The South Bend mayor made [7] a few important commitments and offered a generally thoughtful outline of what he thinks the U.S. should and shouldn’t be doing in the world. Whatever one thinks of his views, Buttigieg offered a cogent, well-organized explanation of where he stands.

Buttigieg said some encouraging things about the need for Congress to reclaim its role in matters of war and the need to set a high bar for the use of force abroad. Like many other 2020 candidates, he pledged to take the U.S. back into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and he called [8] for ending our country’s endless wars. These were all good, albeit obvious, positions for any Democratic candidate to take. His position that the U.S. should repeal the 2001 AUMF is a welcome one. His insistence that the U.S. should “replace” it with a new authorization is much less so.

Buttigieg has been fairly criticized [9] for being too reflexively “pro-Israel.” In this speech, he was willing to call out Netanyahu and came out against annexations in the West Bank. It wasn’t as much as he needed to say, but it was a start. He called for criticizing the Saudis for their human rights abuses. He begins talking about it here at 48:00 in the video [6]. I was watching the speech online, and I was expecting him to say more than that about the U.S.-Saudi relationship, but he didn’t. He dispenses with addressing Saudi abuses in less than a minute, and then moves on. Tellingly, he did not mention the war on Yemen or the Congressional effort to end U.S. involvement in that war. It is a big omission, and all the more so when we consider the important role that many of his 2020 competitors have had in challenging the administration’s despicable Yemen policy. Opposing Trump on Yemen should be a lay-up for a Democratic presidential candidate, and Buttigieg didn’t even try. The omission was all the more noticeable when he kept returning to the theme of defending American values and interests throughout the speech. The debate over the war on Yemen offers a clear example of the need to defend our values and interests against an outrageous policy that tramples on both, but Buttigieg didn’t mention it. That was at best a missed opportunity and at worst a sign that “Mayor Pete” really doesn’t understand that a lot of Democratic politicians and activists believe ending the war on Yemen to be a major priority and a moral imperative.

If Buttigieg was initially one of the candidates least interested in offering policy specifics, he made a serious effort to remedy that with a foreign policy speech that was at least as comprehensive as anything that most candidates in previous cycles have offered much later in the process. The idea that Democratic presidential candidates are afraid of talking about foreign policy is nonsense, and if the mayor’s speech kills off this narrative he has done everyone a service.

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3 Comments To "Buttigieg’s Foreign Policy Address"

#1 Comment By TomG On June 12, 2019 @ 8:51 am

I appreciate Mr. Larison giving some credit where credit is due for Buttigieg’s drilling down on foreign policy which for sure we need all candidates to do. And for pointing out such a pathetic oversight on Yemen. Let’s hope he hears enough from those rightly concerned for this and opens his conscience to a call for action.

#2 Comment By SteveM On June 12, 2019 @ 12:51 pm

BTW, from the link:

“Perhaps Buttigieg’s most specific proposal was to quadruple federal government funding for research and development on renewable energy technology, to at least $25 billion.”

More naive and stupid throwing money at a problem before knowing what he’s talking about. Has Buttigieg done even a smidgen of research on on-going energy R&D programs?

I provided program support to the DoE office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The simple fact is that there are a limited number of ideas and programs that deserve funding. Throwing good money at bad ideas makes no sense. A $25 Billion annual budget for energy R&D is a license for DoD scale waste. Buttigieg here is just mouthing typical Political Nitwit stupidity.

And I’m sorry, on top of wanting a new AUMF, proposing incremental change to a foreign policy that’s totally busted and with no comments from Buttigieg related to the massively expensive National Security State will give him a seat at the political lightweight table.

I’m waiting for a politician who points to the foreign policy sections of President Washington’s Farewell Address as the governing ideal and who knows that just throwing other people’s money at problems is a ticket to wasteful failures.

#3 Comment By rayray On June 12, 2019 @ 2:12 pm

@SteveM
Worth noting, the entire planet is at a fulcrum point in terms of how we use energy. Would love to see the US “throw money” at something that might put us at the spark end of what could be an explosive and game changing industry, rather than sinking more money into the tar pit that is the military and the Pentagon.