Ryan Lau | @agorisms
Already, the 2020 election cycle is beginning to heat up. After a 2016 rift in the Democratic Party, the political party is seeking to reunite against President Trump. Yet, eight candidates have already declared their own shots at the presidency. One of these candidates is Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard.
A veteran of the Iraq War, she claims to be of the non-interventionist wing of the party. In many ways, she hopes to cater to those who voted for Bernie Sanders in 2016. Gabbard does happen to be like Sanders in many ways, but this only reflects her deceit and double-sidedness.
Is Tulsi Gabbard Really Antiwar?
One of Tulsi Gabbard’s biggest talking points so far is that she opposes wars. In particular, she has criticized continual actions on the part of the United States in Syria and Afghanistan. However, it would be foolish to equate these limited responses with truly opposing the practice on its face. There is a clear difference between opposing a particular war and opposing the very concept of war.
An excellent place to begin searching for Gabbard’s true position is her voting record. But rather than portraying the 37-year-old congresswoman as a dove, it suggests that she is more mixed on the matter. Admittedly, she did oppose two key defense funding bills in 2018. Yet, the same is not true for the bill that would appropriate this funding.
On September 26, 2018, Tulsi Gabbard voted in favor of a key defense appropriations bill that, quite frankly, had some absurd elements. First of all, it appropriated a grand total of $670 billion for the military in 2019. Though she seemed to oppose gargantuan spending levels previously, it appears Gabbard had no problem voting for it the next time it came through.
Moreover, the bill prohibits any funding to be used for the release or transfer of individuals at Guantanamo Bay. Amnesty International has long since called the detention camp “The Gulag of our time“, and the inhumane modes of torture that the base forces on its prisoners are no surprise. Even the United Nations, an organization in no way fervently dedicated to peace, has tried to get the United States to close Guantanamo Bay. Tulsi Gabbard, though, voted for an appropriation bill that would make it much more difficult to remove those detained from the subhuman conditions that the camp does little to hide. Such a move shows blatant disregard for human life, a value generally necessary to truly be antiwar.
A Hawk on Terrorism
In addition, it is worth noting that Gabbard has even admitted to not unilaterally opposing war. Particularly, she proudly supports wars against terrorism. In 2016, she told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that “When it comes to the war against terrorists, I’m a hawk”.
The interesting thing about this statement is that it undermines her very opposition to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria. Without a doubt, there are active terrorist groups in both of those areas. By her own definition, therefore, she logically favors wars in the Middle East that fight terrorism. Yet, these have had disastrous effects. In particular, our actions in Afghanistan led to a surge in Al Qaeda membership. At the time of 9/11, the group only had about 400 members, but at the height of the war, they boasted tens of thousands.
Wars against terrorists, and specifically, the War on Terror, usually lead to the terrorists winning. And considering that the definition of terrorism is violence for political gain, it is unclear just at what point Gabbard’s own military interventions would qualify as acts of terrorism. Being a hawk against terrorists is not an admirable trait.
In Favor of Drone Strikes
Furthermore, Tulsi Gabbard has very clearly stated that she favors the use of drone strikes against military opponents. Admittedly, this is preferable to supporting an all-out ground war, but it is also a far cry from being anti-war. It appears that her concerns more closely are for the lives of exclusively Americans. This position blatantly disregards the lives of the many foreign civilians that American drones kill every year.
In this way, Gabbard appears to more closely mirror the tactics of Presidents Trump and Obama. After all, Obama’s drone strikes have killed many civilians in eight countries. There is absolutely nothing that indicates that Gabbard’s use of drones against “terrorists” (I use the term in quotations because they are the ones defending their homeland, while the American military ravages their cities) would produce a noticeably different result.
All in all, it appears that Tulsi Gabbard is not truly opposed to war. Though she may be slightly less hawkish than some other candidates, this is an easy task; it does not, in any meaningful way, show a real dedication to peace. Do not let her words fool you, and do not expect a sudden policy of peace if she wins the presidency in 2020. Tulsi Gabbard, through her support of wars and drone strikes, is little more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing.