ABC Democratic presidential debate transcript: Bernie Sanders’s remarks on regime change

Partial transcript of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s remarks on regime change at the ABC News Debate in Manchester, New Hampshire on Dec. 19, 2015:

…I have a difference of opinion with Secretary Clinton on this. Our differences are fairly deep on this issue.

We disagreed on the war in Iraq. We both listened to the information from Bush and Cheney. I voted against the war.

But I think – and I say this with due respect – that I worry too much that Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be.

Yes, we could get rid of Saddam Hussein but that destabilized the entire region.

Yes, we could get rid of Gaddafi, a terrible dictator, but that created a vacuum for ISIS.

Yes, we could get rid of Assad tomorrow but that would create another political vacuum that would benefit ISIS.

So I think yeah, regime change is easy, getting rid of dictators is easy. But before you do that, you got to think about what happens the day after.

And in my view, what we need to do is put together broad coalitions to understand that we’re not going to have a political vacuum filled by terrorists, that in fact we are going to move steadily and maybe slowly toward democratic societies.

In terms of Assad – a terrible dictator.

But I think in Syria the primary focus now must be on destroying ISIS and working over the years to get rid of Assad. That’s the secondary issue.

Hillary Clinton:
That is exactly what I just said and what I just described.

And that is important because now we have a U.N. Security Council that will enable us to do that.

And with all due respect Senator, you voted for regime change with respect to Libya. You joined the Senate in voting to get rid of Gaddafi and you asked that there be a Security Council validation of that with a resolution.

All of these are very difficult issues. I know that. I’ve been dealing with them for a long time.

And of course, we have to continue to do what is necessary when someone like Gaddafi, a despot with American blood on his hands is overturned.

But I’ll tell you what would have happened if we had not joined with our European partners and our Arab partners to assist the people in Libya, you would be looking at Syria.

Now, the Libyans are turning their attention to try to dislodge ISIS from its foothold and begin to try to move together to have a unified nation.

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