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The VP Candidates’ Bad Foreign Policy Records

Kelley Vlahos reviews the foreign policy records of the VP candidates, and it isn’t pretty:

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was an apt pupil of Bush and Cheney during the neoconservative years, voting for the Iraq War in 2002 and serving as one of David Petraeus’s cheerleaders in favor of the 2007 surge. He has since supported every intervention his fellow Republicans did, even giving early praise to Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration for the 2011 intervention in Libya.

On the other side, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine is as far from the Bernie Sanders mold as they come: a centrist Democrat who supports a muscular, liberal-interventionist foreign policy, and who has been pushing for greater intervention in Syria, just like Hillary Clinton.

Pence’s support for military action in Libya was consistent with his overall backing for interventionist policies overseas, and it is a reminder that many Republican hawks agreed with the administration’s actions in 2011. The prevailing Republican criticism of Obama on Libya for the last five years is not that he chose to intervene, but that he didn’t do more after the bombing campaign. Supporters of the war couldn’t credibly make any other criticism, and few have been tempted to try. All of the members of both 2016 major party tickets backed intervention in Libya in some form early on, and that has had the effect of protecting Clinton for her role in making that intervention happen.

Kaine is a hawk on Syria, and except for supporting the nuclear deal with Iran doesn’t have much in his foreign policy record that realists and non-interventionists would find reassuring. I would add one more thing to the report on Kaine’s record, and that is his early boosterism for the Saudi-led war on Yemen. I have mentioned it before, but it bears mentioning again. On the same day that the Saudis and their allies started bombing Yemen over seventeen months ago, Kaine issued a statement endorsing U.S. logistical and intelligence support for their operation, and urging the administration to continue that support:

I support the efforts of the region, led by Saudi Arabia and a strong coalition of ten nations, to launch airstrikes to stop Houthi military advances against President Hadi’s government. I strongly urge the continued provision of U.S. logistical and intelligence support to Gulf Cooperation Council-led military operations.

Kaine’s support for the war on Yemen is the most explicit of any of the major party candidates, but there is no reason to think that any of the others disagree with him. In light of the disaster that the intervention has created in Yemen, Kaine ought to be questioned about his early and eager backing for the Saudis’ unnecessary and ruinous war, and he should have to explain why the U.S. is helping the Saudis to bomb and starve a poor country that has done nothing to us. I know that Kaine won’t have to answer for his position since so little attention is paid to the war on Yemen, but voters should be aware that one of the major party candidates for vice president is fully on board with an atrocious war that is creating famine conditions that threaten the lives of millions of people.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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