It’s fascinating to see how Hillary Clinton, the almost Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States, wraps the past sixteen years of American Middle East policy, failures and all, into one package.
Sometimes, Clinton is a Barack Obama clone in her focus on diplomacy and devotion to alliances, along with his penchant for limited use of force (i.e. drones and jet bombers) without calling it war.
Sometimes she is more like George W. Bush in her bellicosity, full throttle support of Israel, yen to overthrow governments and somehow change the Middle East to make it nicer.
For better and probably worse, Clinton touches all the bases the past two American administrations’ policies. More establishment than that you can’t get.
Bernie Sanders, gadfly opponent for the Democratic nomination, has been fairly inarticulate on foreign policy. But what emerges from the fog is, in contrast to Hillary, he is a non-interventionist. That makes him anti-establishment if you define it as someone who will never get a fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Donald Trump, bombastic frontrunner for the Republican Party nomination, also comes off as the anti-Clinton. No talk of Hillary’s canned “smart” power comments. For The Donald, it’s just power. Or as he terms it over and over, “We’re going to win again.”
Anyway, here’s Hillary’s Obama-flavored resume:
Hillary likes remote control, surgical warfare. She told the Council on Foreign Relations last fall that to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, she would build on Obama’s policy of planes in the air and spotters on the ground, “an intensification, an acceleration” of his strategy, she called it.
She also follows Obama’s penchant for trying to persuade other countries to involve themselves in American foreign policy. “Only the United States can mobilize common action on a global scale, and that’s exactly what we need,” she said— although Obama’s efforts on that score haven’t been very successful.
She backed Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, but in the same breath said she would do everything possible to stop Iran’s “continued aggression” across the Middle East. No details on she plans to do that now that, per Obama’s nuclear deal with Tehran, Iran is getting out from under international sanctions.
For some reason (maybe for fear of an anti-immigration backlash?), Clinton repeats Obama’s untruth that the US has no “religious test” for admitting refugees, therefore tossing in Christians, expelled from their homes in Iraq, with refugees from everywhere.
In fact, US and international law make the well-founded fear of persecution on religious grounds a clear qualification for political asylum. Clinton (and Obama) should stop hiding behind the unrelated issue of “religious test.” “Religious test” is a constitutional phrase that prohibits adherence to a particular religious belief as a qualification to hold a federal office or job. If they don’t want to let Christians in, they should just say so.
Here are Hillary’s Bush-style resume items:
If anything, much of what Clinton has said on the Middle East is Bush-esque, except for her reluctance to put massive numbers of troops on the ground and avoidance of unilateralism.
She wants to expand US involvement in Syria by setting up a no-fly zone in northern Syria protected by US air power and others. That would give her a chance to bomb troops fighting on behalf of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, cut off arms routes to the Islamic State and give refugees a place to camp out. Like Bush’s demand of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein back in 2003, Clinton says Assad must go or no political settlement.
Clinton says she wants to reform the Middle East. The United States must help US “partners” do “the steady work of empowering moderates and marginalizing extremists; supporting democratic institutions and the rule of law; creating economic growth that supports stability; working to curb corruption.” Doesn’t note that those governments (Egypt, say), by supporting democratic institutions and the rule of law, would effectively put themselves out of power.
Hillary has acknowledged that Saudi Arabia is responsible for letting citizens funnel money to violent extremists, but like Bush, she doesn’t throw them in the same basket of regional troublemakers as Iran. She just hopes the Saudis “will be more willing to be involved” in helping the US bomb the Islamic State.
Clinton supports Israel at least as fervently as did Bush. In a veiled criticism of Obama, Clinton said she would invite Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House right away. Clinton told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that Israeli West Bank settlements were “damaging actions.” That’s all she said about that. Even Bush called settlement construction an impediment to peace.
At AIPAC, she took a swipe at Trump, who said the US should be neutral in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. This used to be called acting as an “honest broker” in the conflict, but there was none of that flavor in Clinton’s comments. Instead, it’s all about helping Israel maintain a military edge over its neighbors, suggesting that critics of Israel are anti-Semites and keeping an eye on Iran.
With her promotion of the war in Libya, the overthrow of Moammar Gaddafi and failure to think through what might occur afterwards, Clinton channeled Bush’s Iraq pugnacity and lack of foresight.
Bush said history will decide on the wisdom of his Iraq adventure, though history will show that al-Qaeda showed up in Iraq soon after the invasion. Clinton told the Council on Foreign Relations that, “I think it’s too soon to tell” how Libya will turn out, but it’s not too soon to note that the Islamic State has planted itself there.
So that’s it. The Hillary Middle East Doctrine is in place: Some things old, nothing new, and lots of things borrowed from Barack W. Bush. Anyone blue?