At Democratic Debate, Candidates All Basically Agree On Foreign Policy

The Democrats took to the stage on Saturday night for their second debate of the primary season to talk differences in their platforms. However, when it came to foreign policy, the Democrats were basically in agreement. The US needs to play a role in resolving geopolitical conflicts, they agreed. But it can only do so by building regional coalitions, not acting unilaterally. They also agree that terrorism isn’t the result of “radical Islam,” and that foreign intervention can often have unforeseen consequences. Well, good! Glad we’ve settled that.

A day after the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, the second Democratic debate opened with a section on foreign policy. It became clear early on that the candidates, though sometimes desiring to go toe-to-toe with one another, didn’t disagree on all that much in the way of policy. Hillary Clinton, when asked how she felt about the term “radical Islam,” said she didn’t want to paint the entire religion with a broad brush, and that “violent extremists” was a better term for terrorists. Martin O’Malley agreed, explaining that ISIS is “perverting the name of a great world religion.”

On the issue of US intervention in the Middle East, Bernie Sanders said that “these invasions, these toppling of governments, regime changes, have unintended consequences.” He presented this as a difference between him and Clinton, and yet Clinton said within moments that “just because we’re involved, and we have a strategy, doesn’t mean that we’re going to be able to dictate the outcome.” Earlier, O’Malley said that combatting terrorism isn’t “just about getting rid of a single dictator;” similarly, Clinton remarked that “we’ve got to understand the complexity of the world that we are facing, and no place is moreso than the Middle East.”

And so on. This isn’t to say that the exchange was a waste of time, of course; it’s helpful to know where all of the candidates stand on foreign policy. What we know now is that they all stand roughly in the same place.