Clinton’s Reliably Bad Foreign Policy
David Rothkopf is pleased by the foreign policy implications of Hillary Clinton’s drearily inevitable victory in the fall:
For these reasons, it is not unreasonable to assume that the manic, funhouse-mirror qualities that have made campaign 2016 so memorable and, at times, deeply disturbing are likely to be followed in 2017 by America returning to the most traditionalist, solid, dependable, foreign policy it has seen since the administration of George H.W. Bush and the fall of the Soviet Union.
It is fair to say that Clinton can be expected to conduct a thoroughly conventional foreign policy that will satisfy many people in Washington. That doesn’t mean that her foreign policy will actually be “solid” or “dependable” except in the sense that we can rely on it to be reliably misguided. One of the more remarkable things about the 2016 election is the extent to which Clinton has been allowed to get away with having such a lousy record on foreign policy. This should be a much bigger problem for a former Secretary of State than it has been for her. She has the distinction of having supported every U.S. military intervention of the last twenty-five years, which may make her the most consistently hawkish Democratic nominee since Lyndon Johnson.
Her primary opponents have criticized her some of the time for this, but they weren’t successful in making her record of poor judgment into a liability with voters. Because her Republican opponents are usually prone to saying even more reckless and outlandish things, her dangerous support for establishing a “no-fly zone” in Syria mostly escapes scrutiny. Clinton’s support for the Libyan war should be very damaging to her candidacy if she were being judged on the results of the intervention, but many liberal hawks remain committed to the fantasy that the war was a success. Many Democratic foreign policy professionals give her the benefit of the doubt or don’t want to antagonize the person likely to be the next president.
The public barely notices the aftermath of the Libyan war and isn’t inclined to hold it against her or anyone else. Many Democratic voters are reluctant to fault Clinton for bad judgment when she was at State because it would also fault Obama for the Libyan war and for making a bad choice in selecting her for the position. As Rothkopf’s column shows, many in foreign policy establishment circles can scarcely wait to have her in office, because they reasonably expect her foreign policy to be in line with their preferences. They’re not wrong, but considering how bad so many of those preferences are that’s bad news for the country.
No doubt there are many bad and reckless clients that will be pleased with a Clinton victory. Israel and Saudi Arabia will be happy to have a president showing them even more deference and indulging their worst behavior with less criticism than the current president. Hawks everywhere will be reassured that there is once again an American president that is prepared to launch unnecessary wars without any pretense of caution. Allies can have confidence that the U.S. will be led by someone who has been on the wrong side of almost every major foreign policy issue of the last twenty years. The rest of the world can continue resenting and fearing the irresponsible exercise of American power. Unfortunately, that is what getting back to a “traditionalist” foreign policy means in practice.