Try as she will, Hillary Clinton won’t be able to escape the taint of Barack Obama’s disastrous foreign policy. Or at least she shouldn’t be allowed to.
As the world burns, the likely 2016 presidential contender is slowly but surely attempting to distance herself from the Obama administration’s lousy international record.
“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against [Syrian dictator Bashar al] Assad — there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle — the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said in a recent interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, knocking the policy of the administration she worked for.
“You know, when you’re down on yourself, and when you are hunkering down and pulling back, you’re not going to make any better decisions than when you were aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward,” she told Goldberg at another point in the interview, criticizing Obama’s “Don’t do stupid shit” foreign policy doctrine.
Hillary is singing a far different tune than when she gave a joint interview with President Obama to “60 Minutes” right before her exit as secretary of state in 2013. At the time, Obama’s foreign policy was not yet perceived as politically toxic.
“I think there’s a sense of understanding that, you know, sometimes doesn’t even take words because we have similar views,” Hillary told Steve Kroft, describing her “warm” relationship with the president.
While conceding there were sometimes disagreements, Hillary ultimately praised “the president’s steady hand” and “thoughtful analysis as to what we should and shouldn’t do.”
What’s more, Hillary seemed to suggest that the president gave her great leeway in directing American foreign policy. She described a conversation she had with the president before she accepted his offer to be America’s top diplomat in which he supposedly intimated he would be too preoccupied with the financial crisis during the beginning of his first term to focus on foreign policy.
“I mean, because the one thing he did mention was he basically said, ‘You know, we’ve got this major economic crisis that may push us into a depression,'” Hillary said, paraphrasing the president. “‘I’m not going to be able to do a lot to satisfy the built-up expectations for our role around the world. So you’re going to have to get out there and, you know, really represent us while I deal with, you know, the economic catastrophe I inherited.'”
Now that the world is exploding, Hillary seems to be suddenly remembering many more rifts with the president over foreign policy. But while Hillary may be able to legitimately argue that she differed with the president on certain foreign policy issues — like what to do in Syria — the reality is she was a key advocate for several of the Obama administration’s worst foreign policy missteps.
Take, for instance, Libya. Hillary is credited with pushing Obama to authorize airstrikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s fiefdom. But the result of that intervention has been an unmitigated disaster. When the U.S. intervened in Libya, Gaddafi was no longer a threat to the United States, having given up his weapons of mass destruction programs in the aftermath of the Bush administration’s 2003 Iraq invasion.
Today, Libya is a mess and on the verge of total collapse. It is a haven for Islamist radicals, including those who attacked our consulate in Benghazi and killed our ambassador in 2012. The fallout of the war also helped al Qaida-linked terrorists destabilize Mali.
None of this is to say that Gaddafi was a good guy. He was a sadistic monster. But in 2011, America had a full plate of threats from a broad range of sadistic monsters. There was no need to remove one who had an interest in cracking down on the very Islamist terrorists who threaten the West.
Even the humanitarian case, while admittedly compelling, wasn’t ultimately convincing. In fact, America’s disastrous intervention in Libya may have made Obama more reticent to act in theaters where the humanitarian situation is more dire and America’s strategic interests much clearer.
Then there is Hillary’s work helping to transition Burma from military authoritarianism to civilian rule, which some consider her most notable achievement as secretary of state. But look a little closer and it doesn’t seem like much of an achievement. All is not well in Burma. As liberal New York Times Nicholas Kristof reported earlier this year, the “country imposes on the Rohingya Muslim minority an apartheid that would have made white supremacists in South Africa blush.” Hard to count that as a great success.
And how about that Russian “reset?” Remarkably, Hillary still claims that policy “worked.” With Vladimir Putin openly defying the United States and the Western world by gobbling up territory and destabilizing his neighbors, U.S.-Russian relations are at arguably their lowest point since the Cold War. You have to wonder how Hillary would define failure?
One could go on. What we are witnessing is pure Clintonian politics. When President Obama looked like a political superstar, Hillary tried to steal a bit of his shine. Now, when the president’s foreign policy is proving disastrous, she is trying to ever so carefully distance herself from him.
But the media ought not allow her to get away with it. She was secretary of state during the entirety of President Obama’s first term. Her fingerprints are all over some of the administration’s most notable foreign policy failures. This is the record she should be forced to defend if she wants to be president. She shouldn’t be allowed to run away from it.