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Yes, Clinton Is a Hawk, and It’s Silly to Deny It

Clinton is a liberal hawk and has favored every military intervention the U.S. has undertaken for the last twenty years (and some that it hasn't yet done).
hillary clinton

Matt Yglesias’ post on Clinton and foreign policy doesn’t make much sense:

But despite the fears of her left-wing critics, Clinton is no neocon. Nor is there really much evidence to back up a broad-brush notion that Clinton is especially “hawkish” in a generic sense. Clinton’s record overwhelmingly reflects continuity, for better or for worse, with longstanding aspects of American foreign policy [bold mine-DL].

Critics of the status quo will find plenty to dislike, but there’s no reason to believe her administration would represent any kind of dramatic departure in foreign policy — not just in the Middle East but around the world.

It’s not credible to say that there isn’t much evidence for Clinton’s hawkishness. In almost every case for the last twenty years, Clinton has reliably sided with those favoring more rather than less aggressive measures in response to foreign conflicts and crises. She did this during her husband’s administration (“I urged him to bomb” [Kosovo]), she did it as a senator with her Iraq war authorization vote, and she did it as Secretary of State (see Libya, Syria, etc.). Unlike many presidential nominees, Clinton has not shied away from her hawkish record as a candidate. During the primaries, she touted the Libyan war as “smart power at its best” and as I mentioned earlier this week she has made no secret of her support for “no-fly” and “safe” zones in Syria that would entail a significant increase in the U.S. military role in that country.

It is true that Clinton isn’t a neoconservative and sometimes disagrees with Republican hard-liners on certain foreign policy issues, but she assuredly is a liberal hawk and has favored every military intervention the U.S. has undertaken for the last twenty years (and some that it hasn’t yet done). That isn’t at odds with her support for the foreign policy status quo. It is a direct product of it. No one argues that she would represent a “dramatic departure” from the status quo. That’s the whole point of the criticism of her record: we know she won’t depart from the status quo, including Washington’s habit of forcibly intervening in the affairs of other countries and an irrepressible urge to “shape” events on the other side of the world. This is so obvious that I don’t quite understand why some liberal writers even bother trying to deny it. There are undoubtedly hard-liners in the U.S. that are even more hawkish than Clinton, but that doesn’t mean that Clinton isn’t a hawk. You have to pretend not to understand what the label means to argue that it doesn’t apply to her.

She has carried out policies of diplomatic engagement under Obama that as a presidential candidate she had mocked as naive and pointless, but it doesn’t follow that she would pursue similar policies as president. But I don’t think anyone believes that she would have pressed for a nuclear deal with Iran as Obama did, and had she won in 2008 I doubt very much that any engagement with Iran would have happened at all. Since foreign policy was largely concentrated in the White House during the first term, it’s also a stretch to credit Clinton for first-term policies that were usually conceived of and designed by others. Yglesias even tries to claim that she “has generally stood by Obama’s reluctance to provide lethal assistance to the Ukrainian military,” but last year she called for more military aid for Ukraine:

“I do think we should do more to help Ukraine defend its borders,” she said. “New equipment, new training for the Ukrainians. The United States plus NATO have been very reluctant to do that, and I understand it completely because it’s a very sticky, potentially dangerous, situation. But I think the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian civilians who’ve been fighting against the separatists have proven that they’re worthy of some greater support.”

I think this is a bad position, and presumably liberal hawks think it’s fine, but this is Clinton’s position and it is not the same as current administration policy.

We know that in every internal administration debate Clinton was on the side of those favoring more aggressive measures whenever there was a question about initiating or escalating a conflict or sending weapons to one of the sides in an ongoing war. Since leaving the State Department, Clinton has typically sided with those calling for the U.S. to “do more” militarily in different parts of the world, and as far as we know she hasn’t seen a proposed U.S. military action in the last two decades that she thought was unwise or unnecessary. Of course Clinton is a hawk, and it is silly to pretend otherwise.