WASHINGTON (AP) — International rivals would be mistaken to assume he wouldn't be prepared to use military force if that's what circumstances required, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said in an interview that aired on Sunday.
The Vermont senator says the United States should have the strongest military in the world. The U.S. should be prepared to act when it or its allies are threatened or in response to genocide.
"Yes, there are times when you have to use force. No question about it," Sanders said. "But that should be a last resort."
During his nearly 25 years in Congress, Sanders' record on authorizing military force is mixed. He voted to send troops to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But he voted against going to war with Iraq in 1991 and again in 2003.
Sanders comments came during an interview that aired on ABC's "This Week." His campaign has focused on the economy and gained momentum. His chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Rodham Clinton, served as secretary of state for about four years. Sanders was asked why national security and foreign policy are missing from his campaign's website.
"In all fairness, we've only been in this race for three-and-a-half months. And we've been focusing, quite correctly as you've indicated, on the economy, on the collapse of the American middle class, on massive income and wealth inequality," Sanders said.
Sanders cited the war in Iraq as one of the "worst foreign policy blunders we have ever seen" because it led to an enormous destabilization of that region. He also said he believes his vote against the first Gulf War was correct.
"I think we could've gotten Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in a way that did not require a war," Sanders said. "... Do we need to go to war in every instance or can we bring pressure of sanctions and international pressure to resolve these conflicts?"
Sanders is among of the 31 senators who supports the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by President Barack Obama's administration and other countries.