While probably inadvertent, Barack Obama has significantly undermined Hillary Clinton’s candidacy in an interview with Jeffery Goldberg being published this week in The Atlantic. Despite Goldberg’s own hawkish views, problems with Clinton’s policies can still be seen regardless of Goldberg’s spin on matters.
While Secretary of State, Clinton generally advocated a far more hawkish approach than Obama, supporting a continuation of the neoconservative policies of the Bush years. Despite the manner in which she now invokes Obama’s name in the same manner that Republicans speak of Ronald Reagan, she previously attacked Obama’s “Don’t do stupid stuff” approach to foreign policy.
Obama and Clinton had major differences of opinion over Syria, with Clinton proposing military intervention which would have probably made the situation far worse:
Hillary Clinton, when she was Obama’s secretary of state, argued for an early and assertive response to Assad’s violence. In 2014, after she left office, Clinton told me that “the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad … left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.” When The Atlantic published this statement, and also published Clinton’s assessment that “great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Obama became “rip-shit angry,” according to one of his senior advisers. The president did not understand how “Don’t do stupid shit” could be considered a controversial slogan. Ben Rhodes recalls that “the questions we were asking in the White House were ‘Who exactly is in the stupid-shit caucus? Who is pro–stupid shit?’ ” The Iraq invasion, Obama believed, should have taught Democratic interventionists like Clinton, who had voted for its authorization, the dangers of doing stupid shit. (Clinton quickly apologized to Obama for her comments, and a Clinton spokesman announced that the two would “hug it out” on Martha’s Vineyard when they crossed paths there later.)
While Clinton supported early military intervention, Obama deserves credit for stepping back from the brink of war. Clinton opposed this decision:
For some foreign-policy experts, even within his own administration, Obama’s about-face on enforcing the red line was a dispiriting moment in which he displayed irresolution and naïveté, and did lasting damage to America’s standing in the world. “Once the commander in chief draws that red line,” Leon Panetta, who served as CIA director and then as secretary of defense in Obama’s first term, told me recently, “then I think the credibility of the commander in chief and this nation is at stake if he doesn’t enforce it.” Right after Obama’s reversal, Hillary Clinton said privately, “If you say you’re going to strike, you have to strike. There’s no choice.”
This is a classic example of Clinton’s poor judgment. We should go to war only based upon security considerations, and only as a last resort when diplomacy will not work. To make someone who thinks we had no choice in such a situation Commander In Chief is a terrifying prospect.
One of Obama’s biggest mistakes as president was to take Clinton’s advice on Libya. He admits it was a mistake:
But what sealed Obama’s fatalistic view was the failure of his administration’s intervention in Libya, in 2011. That intervention was meant to prevent the country’s then-dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, from slaughtering the people of Benghazi, as he was threatening to do. Obama did not want to join the fight; he was counseled by Joe Biden and his first-term secretary of defense Robert Gates, among others, to steer clear. But a strong faction within the national-security team—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, who was then the ambassador to the United Nations, along with Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and Antony Blinken, who was then Biden’s national-security adviser—lobbied hard to protect Benghazi, and prevailed. (Biden, who is acerbic about Clinton’s foreign-policy judgment, has said privately, “Hillary just wants to be Golda Meir.”) American bombs fell, the people of Benghazi were spared from what may or may not have been a massacre, and Qaddafi was captured and executed.
But Obama says today of the intervention, “It didn’t work.” The U.S., he believes, planned the Libya operation carefully—and yet the country is still a disaster.
Obama also calls Libya a “shit show” ” in part because it’s subsequently become an ISIS haven.”
While Obama admits “It didn’t work,” Clinton continues to defend the policy. She has not learned from her mistakes in Iraq or Libya.
The neoconservative policies advocated by Hillary Clinton have been a disaster. A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for war.