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Clinton Learned Nothing From the Iraq War

Hillary Clinton’s memoir/campaign book is predictably not interesting or informative. She explains her support for invading Iraq this way:

She “got it wrong,” she writes of that vote. “Plain and simple.”

No kidding. This is what Clinton knows she’s supposed to say now, and so this is what she says, but it doesn’t suggest that any real learning has taken place. No doubt Clinton claims that she has learned from the mistake of backing the Iraq war, but there isn’t the slightest evidence from any subsequent debate about the use of force that this is the case. One might think that a supposedly chastened Iraq war supporter would be considerably more skeptical about pursuing regime change overseas or more reluctant to support the use of force after having erred so badly on the biggest foreign policy vote of her Senate career, but that hasn’t happened. In every internal administration debate, Clinton sided with the hawks that wanted the more aggressive policy, and this also conveniently aligned her with whatever the purveyors of conventional wisdom in Washington thought ought to be done.

Like so many other Democratic hawks, Clinton has discovered that she can avoid revisiting any earlier assumptions about U.S. foreign policy or her views about the U.S. role in the world as long as she disavows past support for the Iraq war. So she does the bare minimum to adapt to the changes in her party and in the country while retaining the same bad hawkish and conventional instincts that led her to support the invasion in 2002. Clinton hasn’t learned anything important from getting the Iraq vote wrong, and we have every reason to expect that her future foreign policy decisions would be marred by the same hawkish mistakes that have characterized her record up until now.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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