Boy, is this confusing. This from an NPR story about a town hall meeting outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did with an international audience today:
[REPORTER]: A questioner in Nigeria raised the common critique that the Obama administration has led from behind in Libya and now in Mali.
SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON: We believe that, of course, the United States remains the paramount military and economic power in the world. But the future we want to see are more nations taking responsibility and playing a role. And I think that is visionary leadership.
The US Secretary of State said that other nations should take care of their own problems, and rely less on the US to sort them out. That’s great! I approved of that general approach.
Elsewhere on the radio today, journalist Fred Kaplan spoke to Dave Davies about his new Petraeus book:
DAVIES: What were some ways that Afghanistan’s reality was just so different from his Iraqi experience and that that presented problems?
KAPLAN: Well, you know, he knew this. This book that we mentioned earlier by David Galula called “Counterinsurgency Warfare,” which he and others frequently took off the shelf and consulted, there is a chapter in that book called “Prerequisites For A Successful Insurgency.” It listed the factors that were prevalent in a country where an insurgency would be likely to win, and it included things like a corrupt central government, a largely rural illiterate population, mountainous terrain along the borders, a neighboring state that can serve as a sanctuary for insurgents. I mean, you add it all up it was a description of Afghanistan. Yeah. It was a – and so this should have been seen from the beginning as very unlikely terrain. And I think – and what Obama finally did after that 18 month deadline was he called it off. He said OK, that’s the end of the surge. We’re withdrawing all the troops. We’re reverting to a less ambitious strategy. We’re going to turn – gradually turn things over to the Afghan population.
Now, he could portray this as a victory because in the meantime, you know, we had killed Osama bin Laden, we had decimated the Taliban army on the ground, so he could portray it as a victory, but in fact, he was retreating from the broader counterinsurgency strategy and adapting really the strategy that his vice president Joseph Biden had advocated all along, had been the only one in the room to advocate, which is namely, let’s accelerate training of the Afghan army, let’s go after the militants on the border, and – but we shouldn’t get involved in this nation-building business.
DAVIES: And use the drones for specific attacks.
KAPLAN: Use drones, use commando raids, that sort of thing, which wouldn’t have involved as big a surge as President Obama advocated. I think, you know, some people often wondered why he relied so much on Biden. You know, some people viewed Biden as kind of a blowhard. Afghanistan is a good case in point why President Obama values Biden greatly. He asks devil’s advocate questions and the devil’s advocate positions often turn out to be right.
Biden as the only one in the president’s inner circle to say that we have no business nation-building. Go Biden!
So I was feeling rather pro-administration on foreign policy this afternoon, and wondering why Republicans aren’t as sensible as Clinton and Biden. And then I heard this Fox report:
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says he will block Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearings for secretary of defense until outgoing Secretary Leon Panetta testifies about the fatal attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
Graham has been among the most vocal and persistent Republican lawmakers in calling for answers about the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on a U.S. outpost that killed four Americans, including U.S. ambassador were killed.
“I’m going to block Hagel from going forward until (Panetta) does,” the South Carolina senator said Monday night on Fox News’ “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.”
The president may not be able to have a cabinet officer of his choice, not because there is anything particularly wrong with the nominee, but because one Republican senator is threatening to hold up the nomination until he compels an outgoing cabinet officer to say uncle? Really?
What kind of way is this to run a government? This is the party I should want to run defense and foreign policy? For me, it’s weird as hell to think the Democrats are more serious, practical, and trustworthy on foreign and defense policy than the Republicans. I think there’s a lot this administration gets wrong, but on foreign policy, I’d much rather have it in charge than the GOP.