Hey, at least Hillary's better than Condi

We all know that Hillary Clinton voted for the resolution authorizing the war on Iraq. And when Barack Obama objected to the use of nuclear weapons against terrorists, she replied, “I don’t believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or nonuse of nuclear weapons.”

Surely though, as secretary of state, she would do President Obama’s bidding. Not necessarily, according to the dean (if only due to his tenure) of political writers, the Washington Post’s David Broder. In his already much-commented upon Wednesday column, “A Force for Good – but Not at State,” he wrote:

What Obama needs in the person running the State Department is a diplomat who will carry out his foreign policy. He does not need someone who will tell him how to approach the world or be his mentor in international relations. … The last thing Obama needs is a secretary of state carving out an independently based foreign policy.

Then the money line:

He needs an agent, not an author.

Still, however strange it is to choose a secretary of state whose area of expertise is domestic, would her hand pressing Obama’s at the foreign policy helm be disastrous? To give Hillary the benefit of the doubt, weren’t her Iraq and Iran statements just flukes?

During the campaign Stephen Zunes of Foreign Policy in Focus worked up in-depth rundowns (like this one) of each candidate’s foreign policy. Here, as I wrote during the campaign, is some of what most of us don’t know about Hillary. . .

  • Of her White House days, Zunes writes that “when President Bill Clinton and others correctly expressed concerns that bombing Serbia would likely lead to. . . ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, Hillary Clinton successfully pushed her husband to bomb that country anyway.”
  • She also defended the bombing raid on the Sudanese chemical-weapons-plant-that-wasn’t. (If you’ll recall, it was a pharmaceutical plant.)
  • Hillary supports military aid, including missiles which can be nuclear weaponized, to Israel, Pakistan and India, all of which have refused to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. She even voted to end restrictions on US nuclear cooperation with such states.
  • After defending Israel’s right to occupy Palestinian territory, not to mention its erection of the Wall, she denounced the International Court of Justice for calling on Israel to abide by international humanitarian law.
  • Besides supporting her husband’s bombing of Iraq, Hillary, Zunes writes, “has expressed pride that [his] administration changed underlying U.S. policy toward Iraq from ‘containment’ to ‘regime change.'” Bet she wish she could take that one back.
  • During the Senate debate over the resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq, Clinton was the only Democrat to accept all of the Bush administration’s claims about Iraq.

As if the above weren’t troubling enough, Hillary’s stances and votes on international law are downright chilling.

  • In 2002, she voted in favor of an amendment by Senator Jesse Helms (yes, you read that right) prohibiting the United States from cooperating with the International Criminal Court. In other words, when it comes to prosecuting for genocide in Darfur, don’t look at us.
  • After Israel’s 2002 offensive in the West Bank, Hillary opposed UN efforts to investigate alleged Iraqi war crimes by Israeli occupation forces. Even more startling, she criticized President Bush for calling on Israel to pull back.
  • Finally, she refused to support the international treaty to ban land mines. Then she voted down a Democratic-sponsored resolution restricting U.S. exports of cluster bombs to countries using them against civilian-populated areas. Just keeping defense donors happy or are these legitimate weapons to her?

Still, it’s not as if she’ll be worse than previous secretaries of state. Check out this list going back to Nixon: Rice, Colin Powell, Madeline “We think it was worth it” Albright, Warren Christopher, Lawrence Eagleburger, James Baker, George Shultz, Alexander “I’m in control now” Haig, Ed Muskie, Cyrus Vance, and, of course, saving the best for last, Henry Kissinger.

The only ones who didn’t seem to be predisposed to military force are: 1. Muskie. 2. Vance, with his interest in arms reduction and who resigned in protest against the mission to rescue hostages in Iran. 3. Schulz, who urged Ronald Reagan to go all in for nuclear disarmament at Reykjavik.I think we can safely say, that besides Condi, Hillary is an improvement over at least Madeline Albright, Alexander Haig, and, of course, Henry Kissinger.

If that’s something best filed under “thank goodness for small favors,” remember that, during the Bush administration, there were no favors whatsoever.

8 replies »

  1. Tweety: What do you make of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State? Mr. Hitchens…

    Hitch: Look, this is the woman who played the race card on Barack Obama {snip} This is the woman whose foreign policy experience consisted of making a fool of herself and fabricating a story about Bosnia

    I see the upside to not having Hillary in the Senate. She’s popular and would be mucking about with domestic legislative issues from a potentially meddlesome spot with no reason to restrain her own agenda. Now that Obama has won the election and Hillary has been seen to have stumped her pantsuits off on his behalf, it may not be the case that (as a Senator) their interests would always coincide. As Sec. State, her powers (whatever they are) would be directed by the Oval Office – Hillary Clinton would have no domestic agenda beyond Thanksgiving dinners with Chelsea.

    While it does raise obvious targets at which the sputtering and grasping GOP might take aim – they do so love Clinton bashing and it would be a trip down memory lane to happier days for them, back to a time when they had a future – what, really, are they to make of it? By any application of reason, they are estopped from tacking at Hillary by their own machinations. It’s at best difficult for the people who brought us Dick Cheney and Haliburton no-bid contracts to cry foul over some shady Indonesian and Chinese contacts, especially when the domestic agenda is far more weighty and immediately pressing. It is only made more difficult by the lavish praise they heaped on Hillary during the general election as part of their knobheaded Palin play to attract PUMAs.
    Hillary Clinton is popular. Bill was popular and in the wake of Bush, he and Barack are the delicious bread on an American foreign policy shit sandwich. The world from pole to pole and from the Greenwich Meridian to the International Dateline seems quite pleased with the election of Barack Obama, and rather well disposed to giving the new boss an opportunity. Sending out the beloved wife of an immensely popular former president to help with the building of international bridges, while at the same time rebalancing the domestic scales in a way that cannot hurt and might well help…

    I want to go along with Hitchens. I haven’t forgiven Clinton for the primary campaign she ran…but I am also quite certain that, once again, Obama is just smarter than we are. When Barack Obama talks about building bridges, people tend to forget that bridges operate in both directions and not necessarily at the same time. They are commonly seen as a structure upon which folks from opposite sides might meet in the middle. It is worthwhile to note that they can be used to invite someone over. They can also be used to send someone away (rather than simply tossing them in the river).
    The more I watch this guy, the less I want to play poker with him.

  2. Well done, i don’t like the idea of her presiding over Foggy Bottom either, but i see something deeper in what Obama’s doing. Who has the president’s ear more, the SoS or the NSA? Given proximity and the host of other things that the SoS is responsible for, i’d go with NSA.

    But it does, as cousin Avi points out, neutralize her as a domestic political force. And she’d have to give up her Senate seat to do it. He put her in a bind, with only two moves (yes or no) while having to factor in many considerations. She’s already lost the historical narrative, because she could have been his first major appointment (CoS doesn’t count, that’s personal and always first). If she says yes to stoke her vanity she’ll be effectively out of the political loop. If she says no she’ll have snubbed what is being taken as a magnanimous gesture.

    Unless i’m reading waaaay too much into this, i’m seeing a man who’s a cut above when it comes to political strategy.

    More to say on all this, but i’m working on a post which doesn’t belong in the comments section of Russ’s post. I’m with Dr. Denny, good ammo for arguments.

  3. Everything Russ and Lex have noted (and I think the nullification argument is spot on), and this: she’s the ideal public pitbull for a president who wants to be seen as a peacemaker. I don’t believe for a moment she would defy a real Obama policy, but all those reasons she’d make a terrifying Commander-in-Chief make her a hell of a useful alterego for a bridge-builder… and if the shit hits the fan, she can take the blame.

    Lex is right, I think – Obama is smart, smart, smart.

  4. I believe in change when I see it happen, Gavin.

    Further, I don’t think you’re addressing a particularly fatuous crowd, here. I doubt anyone is truly expecting all walls to fall and the heavenly chorus to descend… but a soon-to-be president whose decision-making processes are actually complex (and apparently rational) enough to dissect is certainly a change from the past eight years. I’m not sure you fully grasp the depths of grating, furious humiliation Bush’s pathetic performances have put some of us through, or the baffled frustration of the 2004 election. I don’t believe that most people are habitually rigorous thinkers, but after slightly more than half of my fellow voting citizens put that congenital idiot in office for another term, I honestly began to wonder if this country was succumbing to mass insanity.

    So you’ll have to excuse the Obama fascination for a bit, I’m afraid. It’s just all so new and shiny. There will be more than enough time to rip him to shreds, and I’m sure the claws will come out soon.

  5. Russ, excellent post in rounding up Hillary’s foreign policy record. I’m not a fan of it either and touched on it during the primaries. Though I do think it will be Obama’s foreign policy; I’m not terribly worried that she’ll run roughshod over him or the influence of Biden, who is certainly no shrinking flower either. Ann, well said. I was just speaking with a friend about how refreshing it is to see so many smart, independent and capable people being selected. Change does not necessarily come with who is selected alone but how they are managed. It will certainly be interesting to watch or see the result of what will obviously be much rigorous debate in this White House. And refreshing.