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Clinton’s Aggressive Foreign Policy

Many in the foreign policy establishment are laying out the blueprints [1] for more aggressive policies overseas under a Clinton administration:

Taken together, the studies and reports call for more-aggressive American action to constrain Iran, rein in the chaos in the Middle East and check Russia in Europe.

The studies, which reflect Clinton’s stated views and the direction she is likely to take if she is elected [bold mine-DL], break most forcefully with Obama on Syria. Virtually all these efforts, including a report that will be released Wednesday by the liberal Center for American Progress, call for stepped up military action to deter President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Russian forces in Syria.

The proposed military measures include calls for safe zones to protect moderate rebels from Syrian and Russian forces. Most of the studies propose limited American airstrikes with cruise missiles to punish Assad if he continues to attack civilians with barrel bombs, as is currently happening in besieged Aleppo. So far, Obama has staunchly resisted any military action against the Assad regime.

Clinton’s predictable hawkishness is not news to me [2] or anyone reading my posts on her foreign policy over the years, but for much of the last year there have been several [3] attempts [4] to dismiss or downplay [5] Clinton’s record and her own statements about what she wants to do abroad. The presidential debates mostly ignored foreign policy, and Clinton faced very few hard questions about what she did in the Obama administration or what she would do in the White House. That the U.S. will have a significantly more aggressive foreign policy under Clinton–happily embraced by much of the foreign policy establishment–seems to be obvious to anyone that looks at the evidence, but it is one of the least-discussed parts of the election campaign.

Even though Clinton’s proposed policies [6] commit the U.S. to a larger military role in Syria [7] and potentially risk even greater escalation with Russia in the future, she has largely been given a pass for this and for endorsing more aggressive policies across the board. The problem here isn’t just that those policies are dangerous and reckless, but that she has been allowed to go through the entire campaign without having her proposals put under the necessary scrutiny and criticism that any presidential candidate should have to undergo. Clinton will be coming into office with a more aggressive foreign policy agenda that has never been seriously debated and which most voters will know little or nothing about.

Foreign policy professionals and pundits have spent the last several years paving the way for this more aggressive foreign policy with their constant complaints about America’s supposed “retreat” from the world under Obama and his alleged “inaction” in Syria. In reality, the U.S. hasn’t retreated, it is is deeply ensnared in multiple foreign conflicts, and it has been anything but inactive in Syria, but according to the fantasy version of the last seven years Obama has presided over “withdrawal” and “retrenchment.” That sets up Clinton to offer a supposed “middle ground” between Bush and Obama:

Virtually no one among the foreign policy elite is calling for a return to the Bush administration policies that led to the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the costly occupation of Iraq. Instead, they are advocating something of a middle ground between Bush’s interventionism and Obama’s retrenchment.

So Clinton’s foreign policy will strike a “balance” between Obama’s eight years of unending war in multiple countries and Bush’s very costly, illegal, and strategically disastrous debacle. The “middle ground” framing used to describe Clinton’s position is damning. It tells us that her foreign policy is supposed to be equidistant between Bush’s exorbitant and ruinous record and Obama’s largely unsuccessful but much less expensive one, and the amazing thing is that her supporters think this is something to tout. In practice, this guarantees the continuation of existing wars and it likely means the initiation of new ones somewhere down the road.

9 Comments (Open | Close)

9 Comments To "Clinton’s Aggressive Foreign Policy"

#1 Comment By Viriato On October 20, 2016 @ 3:43 pm

Very true. But at least she said last night that she would not implement a no-fly zone in Syria before getting Russia to agree to it. Assuming she keeps her word, our chances of avoiding World War III are better than good. So at least she has that going for her.

The key questions, I think, are as follows: (1) Can Clinton keep her more hawkish advisors in check? (2) Can
Putin keep his more hawkish advisers in check?

My great fear is that if we push Putin past his breaking point (in other words, to a point where his hold on power is very tenuous, due to our crippling sanctions), he will give his most hawkish advisors his undivided ear. And these people might well cause World War III.

#2 Comment By Brendan from Oz On October 20, 2016 @ 5:42 pm

I keep wondering why no one mentions the Russian Aircraft Carrier fleet currently sailing past England on their way through NATOs Mediterranean to Syria.

No Fly Zone? How about the NATO jets from 4 nations scrambled when Russia flew bombers into their air space?

Putin keeps saying he is past his breaking point and keeps on proving it. If the US or NATO fires on them, its on.

#3 Comment By crf On October 20, 2016 @ 8:15 pm

You’ve correctly criticized Obama for his war-heavy middle east policy. But one thing that surprises me is the lack of military and, especially, diplomatic engagement in Indonesia, Philippines, and Malaysia. The pivot to Asia just never happened.

Philippines President Duterte is one of the challenges Clinton will have in South East Asia. Malaysia has also seen a two decade drift in bilateral American relations, and this has left both countries worse off.

I dearly wish Hillary Clinton does emphasize Asia and minimizes Syria, Afghanistan and Israel. There is no need for the current obsession with the Middle-East.

(see: [8] )

#4 Comment By Mark Thomason On October 20, 2016 @ 9:25 pm

I call it The Hillary Wars.

It is going to be a fiasco, actually a series of them.

Her present supporters will be the first to oppose her, crying “I did not vote for that.”

#5 Comment By William Dalton On October 20, 2016 @ 11:37 pm

“Virtually no one among the foreign policy elite is calling for a return to the Bush administration policies that led to the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the costly occupation of Iraq.”

And how, by any rational measure, is this supposed to be distinguished from the call to a policy which calls openly for the toppling of Bashar Assad and the costly ground war to defeat ISIS, expel Hezbollah, neutralize the Syrian Baathists, and governing occupation of Syria which would certainly follow? Not to mention deal with the armed opposition of nuclear armed Russia, an obstable and mortal hazard which did not present itself to President Bush.

#6 Comment By William Dalton On October 20, 2016 @ 11:54 pm

“Virtually no one among the foreign policy elite is calling for a return to the Bush administration policies that led to the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the costly occupation of Iraq.”

And how, by any rational measure, is this supposed to be distinguished from a policy which calls openly for the toppling of Bashar Assad and the costly ground war to defeat ISIS, expel Iranian and Hezbollah forces, neutralize the Syrian Baathists, and the governing occupation of Syria which would certainly follow? Not to mention deal with the active opposition of nuclear armed Russia, an obstacle and mortal hazard which did not present itself to President Bush when he decided to invade Iraq? Would even George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld have been that foolhardy? Just because all the sages of the American Imperium nod their heads in agreement with these Clinton advisers, as they did with Bush’s advisers recommending war in Iraq, is it conceivable the American people can be fooled a second time?

#7 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 21, 2016 @ 12:22 am

“The key questions, I think, are as follows: (1) Can Clinton keep her more hawkish advisors in check? (2) Can
Putin keep his more hawkish advisers in check?”

There’s no reason to believe she has any intention keeping anyone in check. This attempt to straddle the regime change fence by laying claim to the policy of war without troops has already proven costly and an utter failure.

And the only reason they aren’t sending troops is because the public would be more upset than they are currently. Oddly enough, the invasion with troops in Iraq was a success. It was the occupation that ultimately undid the matter. It’s ultimate logical conundrum.

No need to invade.
Invade without enough troops.
Not enough troops to hold place together for effective regime change after the successful invasion thereby making the invasion success null and void . . .

It.s not hard to imagine why Libya, Syria etc . . . etc. are failures. Regime change minus any moral mandate or strategy that works is remains Iraq by any other name.

Keep hawkish advisers in check . . . that from the woman who wants to send heavy weapons to the Ukraine.

And liberals are questioning the “grasp of reality” of Mr Trump.

#8 Comment By Anodyne On October 21, 2016 @ 1:54 am

I guess the most optimistic thing I have to say about these papers is that they are written by people who currently don’t have jobs in the administration, were probably largely ignored, and may be ignored again. I’m not hopeful, but we seem to lack an academic foreign policy pipeline. If Bush’s policy was disasterous, insane and expensive, why would one even start there if one were thinking about “splitting the difference?” Let’s stick with less expensive (hey, we’ve moved in that direction) and then figure out what would be either less disasterous or less insane. Maybe we can’t have all three at once. Maybe we need to choose between distasterous or sanity. But why on earth would we choose to purposefully move there.

#9 Comment By Forward Looker On October 21, 2016 @ 12:29 pm

“Can Clinton keep her more hawkish advisors in check?”

She’s at least as hawkish as her advisors. In fact, it’s clear that she herself is the problem.

The case could be made that Bush II was pushed in a bad direction by advisors, but in Clinton’s case it’s all down to her own bad instincts and judgment.

She could have learned from Bush II. The Iraq disaster was a blazing, smoking lesson – and even if she was too stupid to learn from Iraq, at a basic practical political level she might have learned something from being beaten by Obama in 2008 largely on the war/peace issue.

Instead, she herself became the “bad advisor”, pushing Obama to be more aggressive, creating or involving us in more wars, oblivious to the terrible effects they were having on us and our allies.

There’s no “inner Hillary” secretly yearning for a more restrained, prudent foreign policy but hemmed in by bad hawkish advisors. There’s only the same old “inner Hillary”, the one that craves power and likes to use it, does it recklessly and incompetently, and now wants to do a lot more of it. She’s the dead hand of a discredited interventionist past grabbing for new life. And she couldn’t be grabbing for more power at a worse time for the country.