Scott Beauchamp notes that Clinton’s apology for her Iraq war authorization vote doesn’t tell us very much:
But Clinton has never explicitly said what, exactly, she did wrong. From Clinton herself, there has been a demand for nuance in discussing her vote, a clarification of her intentions, and plenty of blame heaped on the Bush administration. But without a clear explanation of what her mistake was and how she plans to avoid repeating it, what does an apology actually mean?
I have assumed that Clinton’s belated acknowledgment that she was wrong to vote for the 2002 authorization was driven by political expediency. She refused to admit her error in 2007-08, and that was one of the things that dragged her down and prevented her from winning the nomination. This time around, she wasn’t going to make the same political mistake, and so she made a concession to war opponents in her party by admitting that she had been wrong in supporting the invasion. However, there is no indication that Clinton was chastened by that experience when it came to making foreign policy decisions later, nor does the Iraq experience seem to have made her more skeptical about the desirability of forcible regime change or less likely to believe in the efficacy of hard power. It hasn’t made her question the wisdom of going to war in the name of opposing proliferation of unconventional weapons, and in general it hasn’t made her more cautious about entering new conflicts. It certainly hasn’t made her more wary of preventive war and wars of choice: she was a leading supporter of the intervention in Libya, and has repeatedly said that attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities remained an option prior to the nuclear deal and could be one again. It usually goes unmentioned because Clinton was not in government at the time, but she was also on board with bombing Syria in 2013.
At the “Commander-in-Chief” forum the other night, she claimed that she views “force as a last resort, not a first choice,” but her record shows that this isn’t true. Bombing Libya in 2011 wasn’t a “last resort,” and the U.S. knocked down every attempt made to negotiate a cease-fire. Bombing Syria in 2013 couldn’t possibly have been a last resort, and it would have been illegal. The same would go for bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities. It’s not possible for a war of choice to be fought as a last resort, and Clinton’s record is filled with support for wars of choice. Clinton has not seen a proposed military intervention in the last twenty years that she thought was unwise or unnecessary, and acknowledging that she was wrong to vote to authorize the Iraq war hasn’t changed that.