There are more than 2.2 million U.S. military service members currently on active duty, nearly 3 million military family members, and over 20 million military veterans. Each of these groups faces particular challenges as they deal with the demands associated with military service including: combat deployments, prolonged separation from family, recovery from injuries, and transitioning to civilian life. As a highly active member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (he was the committee’s chairman for two years), Bernie Sanders has consistently championed responsible foreign policy, expanded benefits for service members and their families, and worked towards an overhaul of the VA health care system. These are Bernie’s key positions regarding military and veterans’ issues:
Given its staggering human and monetary costs, war should be a last resort. Exhaust all other options first, but keep a robust military at the ready.
American military personnel and families face unique challenges. Expand programs that support these Americans.
If you’re going to send American troops to war, you absolutely must take care of them when they return. Fix the VA health care system and expand educational benefits.
The Role of the United States Military
Bernie believes that while we do need a strong national defense infrastructure, we need to focus more heavily on diplomatic alternatives to war. For most of the past decade, the United States has been engaged in two separate military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bernie is concerned about the human and monetary costs of these wars, especially as the country faces grave challenges on the home front.
The U.S. military has been increasingly called upon in recent years to engage in prolonged military engagements around the world.
What are Bernie’s general views about the role of the United States military?
Bernie has stated clearly that he believes in “a strong defense system for our country and a robust National Guard and Reserve that can meet our domestic and foreign challenges.” Nonetheless, Bernie believes that military intervention should be a last resort, not a first resort, and that a bloated defense budget represents an improper prioritization of defense issues at a time when the country is plagued by pressing domestic challenges.
What does Bernie’s history as a politician look like with regard to military engagements?
Through his 24 years of service in the United States Congress, Bernie has developed a lengthy track record of voting on issues concerning the role of the United States military and armed conflicts around the world. Bernie voted against the first Gulf War and vocally opposed and voted against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Bernie voted in favor, however, of resolutions authorizing the use of military force to prevent human rights violations by Yugoslavia in the Kosovo War and authorizing the use of military force against al-Qaeda following 9/11.
What would the role of the U.S. military be with Bernie as Commander-in-Chief?
According to an analysis by Quartz: “His past votes as a congressman, and later as a senator, on issues concerning war and peace strongly suggest that a President Sanders would be highly reluctant to deploy any form of US military force, unless it truly is the last resort to a national security crisis.” Indeed, in his opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Bernie advocated for diplomatic solutions over the immediate use of military force, stating “[w]ar must be the last recourse in international relations, not the first.”
For much more detailed information on Bernie Sanders’ positions regarding the military, use of the military and veterans issues, please visit FeelTheBern.org.