This is the second in a series of essays to be written by Left Flank Daily Kos users providing substantive critiques of Hillary Clinton. Today's entry comes from koNko —Armando
U.S. presidents enjoy special powers in the domain of foreign policy. These powers are not unlimited or absolute, but as commander-in-chief and head of an executive branch containing the apparatus and instruments of foreign policy, presidents set principles of doctrine that guide policy and action, and largely pre-determine policy and treaties put forward to Congress. They also exercise personal judgment taking executive actions that have expanded since 9/11, now including such controversial powers as authorizing increased electronic surveillance at home and abroad and the use of drones to execute people on foreign soil without due process, arguably, acts of war.
In these roles, presidents have great powers to do good or harm, setting wheels in motion not easy to brake, and often taking actions with unforeseen or unintended consequences for the nation and the world. To call it a grave responsibility is understatement.
Why then is the public so often careless and disengaged from foreign policy debates until events poke us in the eye to remind us how these complex policies, actions and events directly affect our lives, sometimes profoundly? And why do we so often put blind trust in leaders we assume to share our interests and possess the knowledge and judgment to make wise decisions absent evidence of either? Should we not be more critical?
After the fold, let's consider the positions and credentials of Hillary Rodham Clinton, declared candidate and presumed Democratic front-runner in the 2016 presidential election.
Partisan supporters of Clinton often take her expertise and judgment in foreign policy as an article of faith. Was she not a globetrotting first lady, senator and then secretary of state?
Perhaps, compared to her Republican opponents, she is a towering figure, but that may not translate to advantage in a campaign where Clinton, for lack of Democratic challengers to her Left, would present a clear target for attacks from the Right she would face as the majority opposition in one or both houses if elected, forcing her to tack Right as candidate and president.
To the Left, Clinton is a conservative figure often compared to Scoop Jackson where foreign policy factors: economic and trade positions that favor Wall Street over Main Street; ties to the military-industrial complex and advocacy of assertive U.S. military policy closer to John McCain than John Kerry; support of women's rights that finds inconvenient political limits; a professed belief in American Exceptionalism and a manifest destiny to lead the world on a collision course with the reality of 21st Century geopolitics and defense budgets.
Assuming Clinton as Democratic primary front runner and likely president, we should consider how her beliefs, temperament and political baggage would factor as a candidate and commander-in-chief. Evidence suggests she will distance herself from Obama and run to the Right on foreign policy while triangulating to appease the Left, so let's consider her record, positions and accomplishments, and some of the key issues that intersect foreign policy.
The First Lady Wore Pantsuits
If Jackie Kennedy's designer chic as first lady branded a generation of young, sophisticated Democratic leadership in the '60s, Hillary Clinton put the stamp of feminism on it in the '90s.
Unquestionably, Clinton changed the role of first lady as she advocated to put women's rights and family interests at the top of the domestic agenda.
After a bruising and unsuccessful campaign lobbying Congress for healthcare reform, she retreated to a more traditional role supporting the president, but continued networking at home and abroad, visiting 79 countries as the most traveled first lady, with notable stops in India, Pakistan, Bosnia and the Middle East.
However, one event in this period would elevate her internationally: her Sept. 5, 1995, address to the UN's Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing, China. In this speech, Clinton articulated for an international audience what failed to resonate at home; that "Women's Rights Are Human Rights" and as women go, so goes humanity. It made a powerful impression that persists for many. And a versatile, durable trope.
Little Rock on the Hudson
As the domestic balance of power in the Clinton White House shifted late in the second term, Hillary became the first of first ladies to run for political office when
Arkansas New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan announced he would vacate his seat. The alien life form faced accusations of carpetbagging as she embarked on a "Listening Tour" of the state, but gained traction in the polls as Rudi Giuliani's marriage disintegrated and a clueless Rick Lazio invaded her force field during their debate.
Soon after, the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks would scar the American public and touch the inner hawk Clinton had become under the tutelage of Sandy Berger and Madeline Albright. She who disdained "splendid little wars" would soon try her hand in Afghanistan and Iraq, largely based on her unquestioning support of executive powers.
Her vote for the Iraq war resolution would later become the pivotal issue in her 2008 primary campaign against Obama and one she remains ambivalent about, pleading innocence by dint of GOP deception but not accepting responsibility for a bad call despite her admission she failed to read the National Intelligence Estimate provided to Congress that contradicted Rice-Bush assertions about Iraq's role in 9/11 and the state of its weapons of mass destruction programs.
She would also take hawkish positions on Iran, the Middle East conflicts and Cuban embargo. On foreign trade she was a mixed bag, continuing to support the North American Free Trade Act while voting against the Central America Free Trade Agreement and protecting upstate N.Y. candlemakers.
Her tenure as senator would establish two important New York political constituencies that continue to influence Clinton's political destiny: the strongly pro-Israel Jewish community and Wall Street bankers, both of them political retainers that pull strings and are now potential political liabilities to manage in a long, expensive campaign.
Madame Secretary's Difficult and Exciting Adventure
December 1, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama confirmed rumors announcing his nomination of Hillary Clinton for secretary of state, remarkably, choosing a former rival he defeated largely on the basis of her foreign policy misjudgments. An initially reluctant Clinton later recalled:
"He said I want you to be my secretary of state. And I said, "Oh, no, you don’t'" Clinton recalled. “I said, 'Oh, please, there’s so many other people who could do this.''
Won over, she accepted a single four-year term, perhaps her wisest decision as secretary. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee took up confirmation hearings before the inauguration and Clinton was confirmed by the Senate 94-2 on January 21, 2009, resigning the Senate that day and taking the oath of office to join Obama's "team of rivals".
Assessments of Clinton's tenure as secretary are mixed at best. While again setting travel records in a quest to rehabilitate the U.S. reputation and promote her version of "Smart Power"—something she was partly successful at with allies but less so with rivals—Clinton was long on influencing agendas and short on delivering lasting results.
To be fair, this was partly the result of inheriting a Bush-induced mess of neglected foreign policy and declining influence, and struggling to find a voice in an administration where she did not enjoy a close relationship with Obama (she was never Obama's Kissinger or Zhou Enlai).
However, despite pundits' frustration defining a "Clinton Doctrine" and "Clinton Legacy", she left enough fingerprints on the crystal for us to examine.
If there is a Clinton Doctrine, her mid-term thesis "America's Pacific Century" published in Foreign Policy contains it. While the shift in strategic focus to Asia was predestined by shifts in global economics and not a Clinton invention, her vision to accomplish this "Pivot to Asia" as it was dubbed, reveals much about her beliefs and the hazards they encapsulate.
Short Version: The United States is an exceptional and indispensable nation destined to lead the world in the 21st Century by virtue of its moral superiority and unique ability to exercise power to do good; a privilege it earned. In other words, it may be your field but it's our ball so we make the rules and you follow if you want to play. Altogether, an incredible claim for a country then mired in post-NAFTA economic recession after a disastrous military adventure in Iraq, both fiascos Clinton herself had a hand in.
Perhaps sensing a credibility gap, Foreign Policy counter-balanced with The Myth of American Exceptionalism by Stephen M. Walt in the same issue, which dissects some the myths Clinton advertises. A reading of both elaborates what I leave unsaid.
However, an interesting point of Clinton's take on "smart power" was her partnership with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (a relationship and rivalry they would litigate in competing books after leaving office) and her appropriation of the DoD's Quadrennial Defense Review, initiating the State Department's Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the means by which congressional budgets are justified (where Gates and Clinton offered mutual support).
A Partial Record (timelines blur)
Clinton hit the ground running, embarking on trips to Asia, Israel and Europe in February-March 2009. Notably, in Japan she reaffirmed U.S. commitment to their alliance, (while otherwise talking-up China), announced an intention to send envoys to Syria while visiting Israel, and proposed a summit on Afghanistan to NATO in March. She would continue to use her first six months productively to reorganize and stake political territory.
Afghanistan Reinforcements and Surge
After taking office, Obama found the "good war" he inherited wasn't going well at all, and he was pressed by Gates and Petraeus to consider committing an additional 30,000 troops to reverse Taliban gains in the south.
In February Obama authorized 3,000 troops under an existing Bush plan, and then put to debate the balance; Clinton, siding with Gates and Petraeus, ultimately prevailed against Biden who resisted the demand. On Feb. 18, Obama announced 17,000 reinforcements would be sent.
Throughout the summer, the debate continued in the executive branch whether to commit to a surge escalating a war Obama promised to wind-down. Clinton continued to side with Gates, Petraeus and Gen. Stanley McChrystal (who had taken command), often arguing a novel human rights rationale—that they were protecting women (a somewhat disingenuous argument since women, disproportionately, are the majority of civilian casualties in modern wars).
Again, the Clinton-Gates axis would prevail, and on Dec. 2, 2009, Obama announced authorization of a 30,000 troop surge, controversial for its provision of a September 2011 withdrawal.
The actual draw-down would be one year later. Clinton had earned her stripes and would wear them for the remainder of her term, consistently advocating military action.
"Reset" with Russia
Championed by Obama and discouraged by Clinton, her first foray into high stakes diplomacy provided much-needed comic relief when she hit the wrong button on her pocket translator (apparently).
Despite Clinton's well-founded skepticism about Russia and the eventual falling out over the Crimea, the arms treaty it produced, opposed by Clinton, survived, and laid a foundation for U.S.-Russian cooperation on Syrian chemical weapons after she left the administration.
US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue
In April 2009 the US and China initiated semi-annual dialogues on strategic and economic tracks, with Clinton and Timothy Geithner, respectively, representing the USA from inception.
While often contentious, the regime has proven durable. For her part, Clinton made a good start laying the groundwork for Obama's first visit to China in November 2009, which was well-received.
Subsequent friction between Clinton and Chinese leaders would reduce her effectiveness from mid-2010 onward while the scope of talks and participants expanded.
Honduran coup d'état
In June 2009, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was arrested and exiled from the country, an act initially condemned by the USA.
July 7, an ambitious Clinton met with Zelaya agreeing to back negotiations with coup leaders to return him to office and announcing the suspension of U.S. economic aid to Honduras. Subsequently, the United States would reverse its position and ultimately back the November election of strongman Porfirio Lobo, leaving Zelaya and rule of law hanging. It did not end well for Hondurans.
Copenhagen Climate Negotiations
In December 2009, as the COP 15 climate talks unraveled under pressure from activists and developing nations, Clinton and Obama made a last-minute trip to salvage a deal by offering an aid package to emerging nations contingent on terms already rejected in the general congress, thus shifting blame to the BASIC nations group for the failure of the talks.
Subsequently, the pledges made under the aid deal were not upheld and the divisions between developed, developing and emerging nations articulated in subsequent sessions.
U.S. congressional inaction has continued to undermine U.S. leadership efforts while the recent U.S.-China agreement may prove to be a breakthrough action at the next COP session in Paris later this year. Clinton, like Obama, favors an "all of the above" approach to energy/climate.
Google v. China, Clinton v. Wikileaks and U.S. v. Manning
It is unusual that a secretary of state becomes embroiled directly in the commercial affairs of a company, but Clinton did so when Google decided to leave China. Using the occasion to make an impassioned and controversial speech about internet freedom, Clinton said:
"We stand for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas ... even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable ... The more freely information flows, the stronger societies become."
This touched off a terse, then escalating diplomatic exchange between the United States and China.
Clinton would express less enthusiasm for internet freedom, discovery of new facts and government accountability when in June, Wikileaks released video of a US Gunship mowing-down civilian reporters in Iraq leaked by (then) Bradley Manning, followed by a massive leak of U.S. State Department Cables in partnership with The Guardian, Der Spiegel and The New York Times.
Ultimately, against the advice of P.J Crowley, her former spokesman, Manning would be convicted and sentenced to a 35-year prison term as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange remains in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and under investigation by the U.S. government.
A final irony: Google stalls. Don't be evil, Bros!
South American Tours
In February and then June of 2010, Clinton ventured out on her first visits to South America creating some controversy by inserting herself between Argentina and the UK on the Falkland Islands dispute, an unwelcome overture quickly rebuffed by London. In her subsequent trip, she stuck to a script of routine diplomacy.
2010 ASEAN Speech and SE Asian Repercussions
As a prelude to the pivot to Asia, Clinton and Gates made trips there in 2009 and 2010 seeking to renew strategic relationships neglected under Bush and shop for new client states, reinforcing the U.S. military hegemony extant since the end of World War II and reasserting its supremacy in the face of rising regional influence by China.
The United States employed a classic divide-and-conquer strategy by seizing upon the long-standing and complex territorial disputes in East Asia and inserting itself as "peacemaker" (successfully negotiating arms deals in the process).
In an "observer nation" speech to the ASEAN meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, Clinton declared "strategic U.S. national interests" in the South China Sea, igniting a diplomatic war of words between Washington and Beijing. Although Clinton eventually walked-back some of her more controversial assertions, it inflamed these disputes with repercussions that persist.
In an effort to revive stalled negotiations in September, Obama sent Clinton to lead in negotiations after she convinced Palestinians to return to the table, raising her international profile but putting her reputation on the line. Notably, she took the issue of settlements head-on, putting her negotiation skills to the test. Like others before her, she would not succeed.
Tunisian and Egyptian Uprisings
In late December 2010, The Jasmine Revolution was born when street protests spontaneously escalated in Tunisia, leading to the unexpected ouster of long-time President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on Jan. 14. In response, Clinton visited Yemen, Oman, The United Arab Emirates and Qatar in mid-January, and speaking at a conference in Doha, bluntly said:
"In too many places, in too many ways, the region's foundations are sinking into the sand. The new and dynamic Middle East that I have seen needs firmer ground if it is to take root and grow everywhere."
However, in late January as demonstrations spread to Egypt, Clinton rallied to support President Hosni Mubarak stating his government was "stable" and "looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people" raising criticism that she was out of touch and behind the curve of events. In the days that followed, Clinton would scramble to respond to the rapidly changing situation as the U.S. position evolved.
As a friend of Mubarak for 20 years, Clinton would find herself in the uncomfortable position of negotiating the terms of his departure Feb. 11 as violence escalated turning demonstrations to revolution.
Running defense, Clinton backed the emerging government while avoiding U.S. commitments. This marked the most significant foreign policy decision failure on her watch. Speaking later to the BBC, she called it "a perfect storm." Bahrain would be next. A defeated Clinton said "No. No. No.".
Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami
In the midst of the Middle East chaos, a March 11, 2011, a 9.0 (Richter scale) earthquake struck off the coast of Japan.
The most powerful quake in its modern history and the fourth strongest ever recorded, it triggered tsunamis up to 40.5 meters (133 feet) high in coastal regions of Iwate Prefecture that traveled up to 10 km (6 miles) inland, causing widespread devastation and leading to the meltdown of nuclear reactors 1, 2 and 3 at the Fukushima Dai Ichi site.
Ultimately, the toll would be 15,891 deaths, 2,584 missing, 6,152 injured and 228,863 displaced persons. The USA, among other nations, provided emergency response and ongoing assistance for more than a year. Nature continues to impress.
Libyan Civil War and Military Intervention
As the "storm" spread to Libya and civil war broke out in early 2011, a remarkable battle ensued in Washington when three female foreign policy hawks, Clinton, Rice and Power, faced-off against three male defense doves, Gates, Donilon and Brennan, in a debate to persuade a reluctant leader to go to war. The women won.
On March 19, a coalition of the willing began a "military intervention" authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1973 after several rounds of intense diplomacy to turn Russian and Chinese votes from vetoes into abstentions.
For Clinton, it would turn political defeat to victory as surgical air strikes from a Donald Rumsfeld wet dream (minus the NATO command) pounded Libyan positions to enforce a no-fly zone as arms poured in to rebels.
After the death of Mummer Gaddafi on Oct. 20, a "Mission Accomplished" was declared on Oct. 31, and as in Iraq, the end of the war was the beginning of an insurgency.
On Sept. 11, 2012, the word Benghazi entered the American political lexicon where it remains as a political liability for Clinton.
Osama Bin Laden Assassination
On May 2, 2011, President Obama announced that Osama Bin Laden had been shot dead in his hideout in Pakistan during a covert operation by Navy SEALs.
Across the United States, and in many other parts of the world, spontaneous crowds took to the streets to celebrate the death of the world's most notorious terrorist after evading capture for almost 10 years.
Questions were raised about the legality of the operation conducted on foreign soil without the knowledge or permission of its government (Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani called the killing "a great victory") but the conditions of Osama's burial were challenged widely among prominent Muslim scholars, but by the time it was announced it was fait accompli.
As reported, Bin Laden's body had already been stripped, DNA evidence taken and verified, and his body wrapped and dumped in the sea—certainly not less legal than a drone strike. Clinton was present in the White House War Room to witness the video feed of the assault on the hideout from outside the Bin Laden compound, and in Hard Choices writes:
"Contrary to some news reports and what you see in the movies, we had no means to see what was happening inside the building itself. All we could do was wait for an update from the team on the ground. I looked at the president. He was calm. Rarely have I been prouder to serve by his side as I was that day. "
Pivot to Asia (Burma)
In November, Clinton spoke at the East-West Center declaring "America's Pacific Century" in advance of the Foreign Policy article. On Nov. 30, she landed in Myanmar (aka, Burma) for a historic three-day visit that would open the door to lift Western sanctions and warmer relations with the military government.
In diplomatic terms, it was a personal triumph for Clinton and could prove to be her most enduring accomplishment as secretary since it was a policy change she championed against opposition inside and outside the administration.
It was also a trip with cinematic moments; meetings with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, an opportunity to stump for women and democracy, to smite China, and on the way home, a call for gay rights as human rights (excluding marriage—that would wait), a sweet end to her annus horribilis.
Myanmar remains a work in progress with significant ethnic, religious and class divisions, and widespread poverty; however, Clinton played a brief but important role by opening a tightly closed door.
2012 Syrian Civil War and Chemical Weapons
In early 2012 as the Syrian Civil War intensified, the United States sought a UN Security Council resolution urging President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power to a vice presidential level to allow formation of a coalition government, which was vetoed by Russia and China.
Clinton strongly reacted, calling the veto a "travesty," and at a Friends of Syria meeting, the actions of Russia and China "distressing" and "despicable."
Later that summer, Clinton developed a plan with CIA Director David Petraeus to supply weapons to Syrian rebels that gained support from Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, but was vetoed by a reluctant Obama although he later relented.
Subsequently, after Clinton's departure, Obama would issue a "red line warning" on the use of chemical weapons and seek congressional approval for military action, then put on hold as Secretary John Kerry successfully negotiated a plan in partnership with Russia to dispose of Syria's chemical weapons unanimously passed by the UN Security Council. Remarkably, the weapons would be removed on schedule and destroyed at sea in record time. One bullet dodged, another hits.
On the evening of 22 April 2012, Chen Guangcheng, barefoot lawyer and reproductive rights activist, jumped a stone wall surrounding his house in Dongshigu, Shandong and (having broken his foot) stumbled some miles, fording the Meng River and touring the countryside to meet a friend, thereby escaping house arrest. Then, with the aid of friends, Chen traveled to Beijing where he sought residential asylum from U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke.
Over the next month, U.S. and Chinese diplomats would negotiate a solution to the "diplomatic quandary", eventually convincing Mr. Chen to leave China (not his intention) and take residence in the United States under a student visa. May 19, Chen, his wife and two children left China for Greenwich Village, New York, where he joined New York University as a visiting scholar.
Clinton personally interceded at one point to salvage the deal.
Did I mention Chen is a blind, Christian, anti-abortion crusader?
Abu Yahya al-Libi/Defence of Drone Strikes
In June 2012, the drone assassination of Libyan-born Abu Yahya al-Libi in Pakistan, a suspected ai Qaeda leader, again raised a debate about the legality and morality of drone strikes. Clinton, having previously faced such questions on a 2009 visit to Pakistan, defended them on the occasion:
During a live broadcast of an interview before a predominantly female audience of several hundred, Clinton struggled to avoid describing the classified U.S. effort to target terrorists, and still try to explain the efforts of American foreign policy.
One woman asked Clinton how she would define terrorism. "Is it the killing of people in drone attacks?" the woman asked.
Then she asked if Clinton considered both the U.S. missile strikes and militant bombings like the one that killed more than 100 civilians in the city of Peshawar earlier in the week as acts of terrorism.
“No, I do not." Clinton replied.
Speaking to the conference in Istanbul, Clinton elaborated:
The strikes by the remotely piloted unmanned craft have also angered Pakistan's government and contributed to unrelenting tension between Washington and Islamabad, which says they kill civilians and violate its sovereignty.
"We will always maintain our right to use force against groups such as al Qaeda that have attacked us and still threaten us with imminent attack," Clinton said in Istanbul.
"In doing so, we will comply with the applicable law, including the laws of war, and go to extraordinary lengths to ensure precision and avoid the loss of innocent life," she told the Global Counterterrorism Forum, a U.S.- and Turkish-chaired group.
So saying, Clinton recites a script of legal findings reminiscent of those used by the Bush administration to justify torture. Without a hint of irony, she continued:
Clinton also told the conference torture and abuse were never acceptable in combating terrorism—although she made no mention of the U.S. use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding and its lengthy detention of suspected militants without charge at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Critics view waterboarding, a means of simulated drowning, as torture.
They also reject the United States' indefinite detention of suspected militants at Guantánamo Bay and the past practice of holding suspects at secret "black sites" abroad.
"Some believe that when it comes to counterterrorism, the end always justifies the means. That torture, abuse, the suspension of civil liberties, no measure is too extreme in the name of keeping our citizens safe," Clinton said in the speech.
"This view is short-sighted and wrong. When nations violate human rights and undermine the rule of law, even in the pursuit of terrorists, it feeds radicalization, gives propaganda tools to the extremists and ultimately undermines our efforts ..."
"The United States has not always had a perfect record. And we can and must do a better job of addressing the mistaken belief that these tactics are ever permissible," she added.
She seemed to suggest torture, abuse and indefinite detention without due process are wrong under any circumstance, but drone killing legal and morally justified.
Whether she is acquainted with protocol and procedure to compile "kill lists" and authorize drone strikes established by the Obama Administration is uncertain since she has not served as president.
Laos and Egypt Visits
After her visit to Latvia in in June marking her 100th country as secretary of state, in July Clinton became the first in that high office to visit Laos since John Foster Dulles in 1955.
On July 16, when Clinton returned to Egypt to reopen the U.S. consulate office, she faced demonstrations as protesters lined the streets of her motorcade route throwing shoes and tomatoes, and chanting "Monica, Monica" and anti-American slogans. Her two days of meetings focused mainly on welcoming the new government and discussing economic aid packages.
Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi
Sept. 11, 2012, the unsecured U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked by armed militants resulting in the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three other American staffers.
In the following days, the State Department struggled to manage the response amid conflicting reports and speculation, with electoral politics adding fuel to the fire. For the second time since the Egyptian civil war, Clinton seemed to be two steps behind the news cycle and not in command.
In the months that followed, she would testify before a hostile Congress on multiple occasions, take responsibility and convene an investigation to determine the cause, but ultimately leave office with the case unsolved and situation unresolved.
It is likely to remain political fodder for Republican candidates, but could become quicksand for them should they go too far.
Pivot to Asia II (SE Asia & Australia)
In November, Clinton made a final tour of Australia and South East Asia accompanied in part by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Obama to bolster pending defense and trade agreements, and to attend ASEAN.
In Australia, following deployment of American forces to a base agreed in 2011, Clinton, supported by former UN Ambassador John Bolton, warned Australia of getting too friendly with China despite announcing an agreement to deploy military space radar. She also used the occasion to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the Australians.
Clinton then moved on to Singapore and Thailand. She joined Obama in Myanmar and the ASEAN East Asia Summit in Phnom Pen, her Pivot to Asia legacy sealed. The following year, as events in East Asia spun in the wrong direction and focus shifted back to the Middle East and Eastern Europe, Obama would throttle back and rebrand the "pivot" a less threatening "rebalance."
Final Trip to Middle East/Gaza Conflict
Following the re-election of Obama on Nov. 6, Clinton made a Middle East trip in an effort to stop the 2012 Gaza Conflict, visiting Jerusalem, the West Bank and Cairo where she met Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas and Mohamed Morsi individually.
November 1 she appeared with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr to announce a Gaza cease-fire agreement had been reached between Israel and Hamas.
November 22, massive demonstrations against the Morsi government broke out in Cairo that would continue until Morsi was ousted in July 2013.
Final Days in Office
In December, after contacting a stomach virus on her final trip to Europe, Clinton fainted and suffered a minor concussion requiring bed rest. Consequently, she missed a Benghazi hearing prompting John Bolton and Allen West to accuse her of faking illness to dodge the hearing.
For once, Republican leaders chastised the right-wing nuttery for speaking out of order.
Dec. 19, the Pickering–Mullen Accountability Review Board report on Benghazi was released. Highly critical, it resulted in State Department resignations and prompted Susan Rice to withdraw her nomination to replace Clinton as secretary. John Kerry would follow and was confirmed.
Clinton was hospitalized to treat a blood clot from her concussion in late December and returned to work in January, testifying at Senate Benghazi hearing one last time and taking the occasion to vent.
On Jan. 27, CBS aired a joint interview with Obama and Clinton in which he praised her in farewell. Her final public speech at the Council on Foreign Relations focused on "smart power."
Clinton resigned to Obama in a meeting at the State Department Feb. 1, 2013.
Since leaving office Clinton has laid the groundwork to run for office, including writing the obligatory memoranda, Hard Choices, networking extensively and speaking to the press occasionally.
In interviews from the 2014 mid-terms onward, notably in The Atlantic, she has obviously put some distance between herself and Obama (whose favorability in the polls was sagging) particularly on issues related to her tenure as secretary of state, generally pulling to the right and portraying herself as the harder-edged, more pragmatic of the two.
On other issues, she has diligently practiced her signature triangulation, avoiding hard commitments as she polls and tests the waters.
The recent email scandal, while revealing some troubling habits and a fair bit of evasive double-talk in response, is of concern mainly to those concerned with ... um ...transparency, accountability and security in government and is unlikely to regain political traction.
But then ... Benghazi, LOL.
My Two Cents From The Left Flank
If you have read this far you can now read my personal criticism of Hillary Clinton and have earned the right to throw pies in the comments if you wish (with citations please).
In the month since this diary was first drafted (before some technical delays), breaking events have underlined some of the issues covered, notably the moral and mortal hazards implicit in the use of drones; the escalating war of words, jockeying and hedging of positions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership now on the fast track; a reprise of frictions in East Asia that can only be further aggravated by the policy change in the military role of Japan's JDF in the US-Japan alliance with the warm embrace of the hawkish, conservative Abe government by Obama; and finally, with the announcement of Bernie Sanders candidacy and O'Malley waiting in the wings, a healthy stirring of the pot that could relieve the stagnation in Democratic politics.
Rather than update my original comments below, I leave them as originally stated; readers can add the strike-outs and fill in the blanks. Suffice it say, foreign policy matters.
These are ONLY MY OPINIONS:
Absent a disruptive challenger or event, Clinton is likely to win and become the next U.S. president. That is sad because, as she said ...
"Oh, please, there’s so many other people who could do this"
... but I'm doubtful that will happen because, in a post-Citizens United world she's the most marketable candidate to corporate contributors and has the most money behind her. That should say enough, but there is this:
- As a neighbor or a friend, I would probably like Hillary Clinton. I'm for women's rights too; it really matters to my daughter's future. So STOP WAR. I like Type A grandmothers too.
- Clinton is a diehard hawk two degrees to the Left of John McCain (regardless of what Republicans say about her) with a worldview 50 years behind the times. That is now dangerous.
Obama, by accident or design, kept her on a short enough leash to avoid excess damage but has spent the better part of two years repairing broken dishes she left behind, particularly in Asia (she didn't do all that much in Europe).
Clinton's war in Libya was a replay of Bush's invasion of Iraq writ small, and the outcome resembles it more by the day. Having created a vacuum for ISIS to fill, would a President Clinton spend more blood and treasure there to take care of her unfinished business?
- Clinton has some serious personal and political baggage with countries and leaders of countries that matter, small and large. She plays nice enough with friends, but with adversaries such as Russia, China or even Palestine, she is unable to get past her own vision and version of reality to deal with theirs. That would be a serious handicap as President.
Paradoxically, as a candidate, she would face the opposite problem; talking tough enough to defend a record more hawkish Republicans will call weak. She did fine in Myanmar dealing with someone she likes and respects, so under the right circumstances Clinton can be effective. Unfortunately, you don't get those opportunities very often and as president have to make them out of shit.
For example, compare her ineffective approach dealing with Russia under pressure to John Kerry's under far more adverse circumstances; I seriously doubt she would have cut the Syrian chemical weapons deal spitting in the face of Putin, someone she would have to face again as president. As much as she might personally despise Putin (and who could blame her?), as president she would have to deal with him as an adversary in Eastern Europe, and as a strange-bedfellow and nominal ally in dealing with Iraq, Syria and the DPRK (North Korea), where Russia still has significant influence. And against ISIS. [sigh]
East Asia is equally complex. Clinton and Gates went to Asia to reassert a tattered military hegemony in the face of an aging Japan and a rising China by stirring up old wounds and fear-mongering.
Mission Accomplished: They stirred up enough shit to create some dangerous confrontations that were, fortunately, sobering for Obama but lost on Clinton.
While things are slowly on the mend between China, Vietnam and Japan, the United States actually lost prestige in the process, gaining only a new airbase in Okinawa and bringing the Philippines back into the fold as a military client. As president, Clinton would need a restart with China under new and tougher leadership and much different terms than she left it. "Rebalanced" indeed.
- She comes with too many strings attached Do we really have to elaborate her deep connections to Wall Street and some of the more powerful business and special interest lobbies?
Sure, you need money to get elected but ... Does TTP concern you?
Worst kept secret: TPP is a centerpiece of her Pivot to Asia, and a treaty she called “the gold standard in trade agreements” when pitching it to businesspeople and governments, but pleads ignorance of when facing the public because "we don't really know what's in it so can't comment yet." Ha, Ha, Ha. Dear Hill : Try Wikileaks.
In fact, as an architect and advocate of TPP, Clinton now finds herself in a lose-lose position. At home, she struggles to distance herself and appear a skeptic, but abroad, if she burns the countries she enlisted to invest in the process, she would suffer a major loss of face and trust. Her only hope is for Obama to get Fast Track Authority and congressional approval before he leaves office, and to triangulate until the cows come home. O'Malley = OUCH!
- Ditto for Keystone XL. Squeeze her hard enough and crude oil drips out. Inquiring minds want to know her actual position, not what a Republican hatchet man said about conflicts of interest.
- Clinton is a politician who will say whatever she thinks will get her elected. No big surprise. Perhaps it's just a personal thing, but the insincere and saccharine pandering that has already started with the phony "populist" and "hipster" image advertising makes me cringe and want to jump out the window screaming. I pray for brilliant parody to stop me.
- I'm going to say it: She is getting old and is out of touch. She really needs a "listening tour." It's a reasonable concern considering the nature of this mentally and physically stressful job. Look at how 1.5 terms has aged Obama. She is way past that already. If she is elected, I'm pretty sure it would be a one-term affair and maybe that would be best because the system needs fresh blood and she ain't got it. Give the kids a chance. You know, the 50ish brats.
- I'm going to say it: She's better than any Republican running, or likely to run, or likely to exist. I totally get the "hold your nose and vote" shit if no better choice comes along. It's sad, isn't it?
Edited 2015.12.12 to fix numerous format conversion problems from DK4 to DK5
Edited 2018.11.16 to update some dead links in citations.