The New York Times Magazine features an article on How Hillary Clinton became a warmonger, although they are a little gentler with her, just calling her a hawk. The article began by pointing out how Clinton supported more aggressive military intervention than Obama when she was Secretary of State. She often sided with Robert Gates where others in the Obama administration were less militaristic, surprising Gates as to how conservative she was on foreign policy:
The two quickly discovered that they shared a Midwestern upbringing, a taste for a stiff drink after a long day of work and a deep-seated skepticism about the intentions of America’s foes. Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence analyst who conducted Obama’s initial review on the Afghanistan war, says: “I think one of the surprises for Gates and the military was, here they come in expecting a very left-of-center administration, and they discover that they have a secretary of state who’s a little bit right of them on these issues — a little more eager than they are, to a certain extent.
While Clinton has probably flip-flopped on more issues out of political expediency than any politician other than Mitt Romney, that is not the case with her foreign policy views: “Clinton’s foreign-policy instincts are bred in the bone.” The article ran through Clinton’s biography as related to military matters, including one embarrassing episode:
In March 1996, the first lady visited American troops stationed in Bosnia. The trip became notorious years later when she claimed, during the 2008 campaign, to have dodged sniper fire after her C-17 military plane landed at an American base in Tuzla. (Chris Hill, a diplomat who was onboard that day and later served as ambassador to Iraq under Clinton, didn’t remember snipers at all, and indeed recalled children handing her bouquets of spring flowers.)
The article makes it clear that in any discussion of foreign policy, Hillary Clinton is the most hawkish person in the room, and will be to the right of the GOP candidate should she win the Democratic nomination:
Clinton’s foreign-policy instincts are bred in the bone — grounded in cold realism about human nature and what one aide calls “a textbook view of American exceptionalism.” It set her apart from her rival-turned-boss, Barack Obama, who avoided military entanglements and tried to reconcile Americans to a world in which the United States was no longer the undisputed hegemon. And it will likely set her apart from the Republican candidate she meets in the general election. For all their bluster about bombing the Islamic State into oblivion, neither Donald J. Trump nor Senator Ted Cruz of Texas have demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has.
While there are other issues where Clinton is preferable to Trump and Cruz, the president has far more direct control over whether we go to war than matters such as reproductive rights. Clinton’s foreign policy views, along with her corrupting ties to big money in politics, could be the deciding factor which keeps many Sanders supporters from turning out to vote for Clinton in the general election if she is the nominee.
Kevin Drum, who I have often found to ignore other major faults in Clinton, was disturbed by her foreign policy views:
And Landler doesn’t even mention Libya, perhaps because the Times already investigated her role at length a couple of months ago. It’s hardly necessary, though. Taken as a whole, this is a portrait of a would-be president who (a) fundamentally believes in displays of force, (b) is eager to give the military everything they ask for, and (c) doesn’t believe that military intervention is a last resort, no matter what she might say in public.
If anything worries me about Hillary Clinton, this is it. It’s not so much that she’s more hawkish than me, it’s the fact that events of the past 15 years don’t seem to have affected her views at all. How is that possible? And yet, our failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere apparently haven’t given her the slightest pause about the effectiveness of military force in the Middle East. Quite the opposite: the sense I get from Landler’s piece is that she continues to think all of these engagements would have turned out better if only we’d used more military power. I find it hard to understand how an intelligent, well-briefed person could continue to believe this, and that in turn makes me wonder just exactly what motivates Hillary’s worldview.
On the right, Daniel Larison, whose foreign policy views are far preferable to what is commonly accepted by conservatives, adds:
In virtually every foreign policy debate, Clinton can be counted on to endorse the more aggressive option available, and she is the least likely to favor making significant changes to the way the U.S. acts overseas. Her judgment has been reliably bad because she buys into conventional, wrong assumptions about the U.S. role in the world and the ability of the U.S. to “shape” events in other countries, and when Obama has come around to her view he has made some of the worst mistakes of his presidency. One would be hard-pressed to find a single instance from her time as Secretary of State when Clinton was on the winning side of a major internal policy debate that didn’t produce poor or disastrous results. If Obama had always sided against Clinton’s preferred course of action, he would have had fewer foreign policy failures and embarrassments.
The article also goes into some depth about her relationship with Gen. Jack Keane. Among other things, it was a briefing from Keane on establishing a “no-fly zone” in Syria that won Clinton over to that reckless position. This is one of Clinton’s main weaknesses: she typically assumes that military options are more efficacious and capable of “solving” problems in foreign conflicts than they are, and it doesn’t seem to take much persuading to get her to endorse an aggressive policy. Clinton normally errs on the side of using force or threatening to use it, and because of that she repeatedly takes the wrong side in debates over whether the U.S. should intervene in another country.
Both assessments above are accurate. Another recent article provides an even scarier insight into how Hillary Clinton thinks about foreign policy. Although it was not Obama’s intention, his discussion of Clinton in an interview in The Atlantic definitely shows that Clinton is unfit to be president and certainly does not consider war to be a last resort. While many thought it was a good thing when Obama was able to negotiate a way to avoid military intervention in Syria, Clinton was one of those who disagreed:
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.”
No Hillary, if you have a way to accomplish your goals without going to war, you should not go to war. And if you cannot accomplish your goals without going to war, it might be time to reexamine your goals.