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  • Hillary Clinton

    Hillary Clinton | Photo: Reuters

Published 29 October 2015
A look at what can be expected from a Hillary Clinton foreign policy?

A Hillary Clinton presidency would shatter the glass ceiling for women in the United States, but it would leave intact the ol’ boys’ military-industrial complex that has been keeping our nation in a perpetual state of war for decades.

As senator, Clinton voted for the Iraq war because she thought it was politically expedient—a vote she certainly came to regret when the war turned sour and Senator Barack Obama surged forward as the candidate opposed to it. That disastrous war plunged Iraq into chaos and opened the way for the Islamic State group to emerge. But Clinton didn’t learn the main lesson from Iraq. Instead of embracing diplomacy, she continued to champion ill-conceived military interventions as secretary of state.

In 2011, when the Arab Spring came to Libya, Clinton was the Obama administration's most forceful advocate for overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi. She even out-hawked Robert Gates, the defense secretary first appointed by George W. Bush who was less than enthusiastic about going to war in Libya.

While House Republicans recently spent 11 hours relentlessly drilling Clinton about Benghazi and her personal email account, the larger disaster by far is the post-war chaos that left Libya without a functioning government, overrun by feuding warlords and extremist militants.

When it comes to Syria, Clinton has called for greater military intervention in that nation’s civil war. Back in 2012 she advocated for arming Syrian rebels, long before the Obama administration agreed to do so. In her presidential bid, she has broken ranks with the White House on Syria by joining Republican Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham in supporting the creation of a no-fly zone. Clinton’s position is not only at odds with President Obama but also with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who warned that a unilateral U.S. no-fly zone in Syria could “get us more deeply involved in that horrible civil war and lead to a never-ending U.S. entanglement in that region.”

On Israel, Clinton has distanced herself from President Obama’s feud with Netanyahu over the prime minister’s efforts to derail the Iran nuclear deal and his comments opposing the creation of a Palestinian state. Referring to Obama’s policy toward Netanyahu, Clinton said that “tough love” is counterproductive because it invites other countries to delegitimize Israel. She has indicated to wealthy Jewish donors that she will be a better friend to Israel than President Obama. However, being a “better friend” to a regime that is occupying Palestinian lands and repressing the Palestinian people is no feat to brag about.

To the dismay of some of her major donors, Clinton did end up supporting the administration’s Iran nuclear deal, but her support came with a history of bellicose baggage. Back in April 2008 she warned that the U.S. could “totally obliterate” Iran in retaliation for a nuclear attack on Israel. Ever since her days as secretary of state, she has insisted on keeping the military option on the table. Even after the nuclear agreement was sealed, she struck a bullying tone: “I don’t believe Iran is our partner in this agreement,” Clinton insisted, “Iran is the subject of the agreement,” adding that she would not hesitate to take military action if Iran attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon.

Clinton has also criticized the Obama administration for not doing more to confront Russia since the 2014 annexation of Crimea. At a California fundraiser last year, she reportedly compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. At a meeting earlier this year with London Mayor Boris Johnson, he said she faulted European leaders for being “too wimpy” about challenging Putin.

Contrast Secretary of State Clinton with Secretary of State Kerry. It was only after Clinton resigned as secretary of state and was replaced by Kerry that the agency moved away from being a Pentagon appendage to a body that seeks creative, diplomatic solutions to seemingly intractable conflicts. President Obama’s two signature foreign policy achievements—the Iran deal and the groundbreaking opening with Cuba—came after Clinton left.

There was a very telling moment about Clinton’s attitude during the first Democratic debate when Anderson Cooper asked, “Which enemy are you most proud of?”

Alongside the NRA, Republicans, and health insurance companies, Clinton listed “the Iranians” — which could mean either the Iranian government or the nation’s 78 million people. In either case, it wasn’t a very diplomatic thing to say while her successor and former colleagues are trying to chart a new, more cooperative relationship with Iran.

When it comes to war and peace, it might not matter too much if a Republican or Hillary Clinton wins the White House. In either case, the winner will be the military-industrial complex President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about.

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