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Forget Iowa, Clinton’s Foreign Policy Will Collide with Progressives

“She was pragmatic, and wasn’t afraid to use the tools in our proverbial toolbox, as long as it was part of a larger strategy. Her approach was always that diplomacy, development and defense were only effective if used together.” – Nick Merrill, Clinton Press Secretary [TIME Magazine]

Hillary Clinton's foreign policy history and philosophy begins to be dissected.tate Dept Image by Daniel Wilkinson / Nov 18, 2009

Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy history and philosophy begins to be dissected.
[State Dept Image by Daniel Wilkinson]

IN THE Democratic primary for 2016, progressives want an alternative to Hillary Clinton, but Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer isn’t their idea of the perfect candidate. He’s making noise in Iowa, which is getting some headlines, even if the current squawking out of the first caucus state is more about Iowans than it is about Hillary. The focus of Michael Crowley’s piece about Clinton as secretary of state is more relevant.

Even as progressives look for a challenge to Clinton from the left, Tracy Sefl, (an advisor to Clinton’s 2008 campaign) an advisor for Ready for Hillary super PAC, pointed to Crowley’s piece today as something very positive about her tenure. This split is where any primary debate among Democratic voters will reside.

What progressives are all too eager to use against Clinton is represented in this quote from Crowley’s piece.

“The Democratic party has two wings—a pacifist wing and a Scoop Jackson wing. And I think she is clearly in the Scoop Jackson wing,” says former Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman, now director of the Wilson Center.

The huge challenge facing progressives is that Democratic voters don’t vote on foreign policy. They vote on the candidate they believe in and who they think can win. Finding someone that can best the stature of Clinton, if she runs, isn’t easy, as they’re already finding out.

No one reading here needs to be reminded about Clinton’s position on Iraq. The first chapter in my book, The Hillary Effect, deals with all the what ifs. The new memoir of Robert Gates is a reminder of just how strong her relationships with the Pentagon is, which should be seen as a plus, especially since multiple reports reveal President Obama’s is not. The quote below from Crowley’s piece is from James Jeffrey, who was once the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad:

“Hillary Clinton was a very strong supporter of a residual troop presence and effectively backed my and the military’s views several times with others in the administration,” says Jeffrey. “At times when I felt I was being pushed around at levels below the President and Biden, she was a good person to go fix it,” Jeffrey adds.

President Obama would have left a residual troop presence of around 3,000 troops, but there was no way to get an agreement from Iraq politicians that the U.S. could accept.

Secretary Hillary Clinton was always for a strong presence in Afghanistan. She backed General Stanley McChrystal’s request for an additional 40,000 troops in mid-2009.

“Clinton argued forcefully that withdrawing the surge [before the end of 2012] would signal we were abandoning Afghanistan.” – Robert Gates, in Duty

Not only did Hillary Clinton support intervention in Libya, but she was instrumental in making it happen, through her relationships and good standing with the Arab League. As Robert Gates writes in his book, “Hillary threw her considerable clout behind Rice, Rhodes and Power,” confirming the earlier accounts of the female “hawks” behind the bombing.

Together with C.I.A. director David Petraeus, Clinton devised a plan to arm the moderate Syrian rebels, which they presented to President Obama. The Administration rejected it, because no one in the White House wanted to get involved. The polling didn’t faze Clinton, or her husband, who disagreed with Obama, too, saying, “Some people say, ‘Okay, see what a big mess it is? Stay out!’ I think that’s a big mistake.”

When it comes to Iran, Hillary Clinton will always be the Senator from New York. Her comment to “totally obliterate Iran” if they would attack Israel got a rise out of candidate Obama in 2008. But anyone who thinks the American president, whoever it is, wouldn’t rain hell down on Iran if they did attack Israel doesn’t understand national security or foreign policy, let alone presidential politics.

On the SEAL Team Six raid to kill Osama bin Laden, Robert Gates and Vice President Joe Biden were against it. Hillary was for it. Clinton has also showed her hand on drones. As Crowley points out in his TIME piece, Clinton’s State Department legal advisor, whom she personally hand-picked, gave a strong legal defense that supported Obama’s drone policy.

There are many progressives that will use Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy credentials to oppose her in a Democratic primary. Brian Schweitzer has been doing that lately, with this just the beginning of period of assessment of Clinton’s record on foreign policy during her time as secretary of state.

Candidate Barack Obama bears little resemblance to the man whose leadership since becoming president has surprised his most loyal fans and supporters, who thought he would walk into Washington a ring change down on the system’s head.

The thing about Hillary Clinton is that she’ll use all avenues to progress, starting with public and private partnerships, diplomacy through economic means, including anything she can do to tilt the balance of countries to empower women, which is a way to get beyond conventional military action. Her prowess as a diplomat will go a long way in negotiations with countries during conflicts. Clinton won’t try to change the system, with her intent likely to be to work it instead.

The country won’t support what it once did under Bush-Cheney, with what’s been revealed on NSA spying in the Obama era, also leaving a new playing field for the next White House occupant.

The judgment Hillary Clinton has used is all in line with presidential leadership, including fighting for a larger budget for the State Department when she was in charge. A firm believer in diplomacy, she’s tough, unflinching, and at this point in her life knows her own mind and how she wants to lead.

What you see is what you’ll get from her as president, if she chooses to run. What you are unlikely to get are any surprises.

In August, the New Republic asked John McCain whom he would support in a matchup between Clinton and the Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a fulsome critic of American military interventions. “Tough choice,” McCain replied. [TIME magazine]

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19 Responses to Forget Iowa, Clinton’s Foreign Policy Will Collide with Progressives

  1. Ga6thDem January 14, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

    Nominating Rand Paul would probably be good for the GOP in a lot of ways–it would definitely be throwing the Cheneys and the Bushes under the bus and rolling over them a few times. That being said his stance on social issues is positively 19th century and he has a lot of crackpot ideas he has signed onto but then all republicans are going to have the burden of the Duck Dynasty mentality dragging them down.

    • Taylor Marsh January 14, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

      Ga6thDem – The “war on social issues” is over. That’s not to say there won’t be atrocious rulings, laws & other insanity, because the laps gasp of any extremism is always ugly. Newer generations will take care of the rest. Sen. Rand Paul is fine in the Senate, useful at times, but in the White House or appointing judges, it’s an adamant “no” for me.

      • Ga6thDem January 15, 2014 at 7:54 am #

        I wouldn’t vote for him simply because I don’t agree with about 90% of what he stands for. I also think he can wallow into crackpottery pretty easily but he would probably break the neocon grasp on foreign policy within the GOP. The problem as I see it is the GOP does not realize the culture war is lost.

        • Taylor Marsh January 15, 2014 at 8:38 am #

          The establishment would love to move on from culture war, but the crank Duck Dynasty base won’t let them.

          It’s why my brother, a former Republican conservative MORE senator is an independent!

          Rand Paul ‘ s filibuster, I supported.

  2. mjsmith January 14, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

    Abandoning the Powell Doctrine “You break it, you own it” is Libya has only brought the worst results. I am not sure what “moderates” in Syria exist. Not only are “progressives” against her foreign policy, conservatives, moderates, and pretty much everyone else is against her foreign policy as well. Replacing the current Syrian government with some sort of “moderate” government was never ever an option that was on the table.

    • Taylor Marsh January 14, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

      As you know, mjsmith, I was against the Libyan intervention. The people who could matter are progressives, but it’s simply false to say “everyone else is against her foreign policy as well.”

      • mjsmith January 14, 2014 at 11:21 pm #

        Not everyone else, almost everyone else. She will get her side out and respond to the harsh criticism. It is great to want to get rid of some dictatorship and replace it with something better.

        I know that I use harsh words to describe her strategy on Syria. I never saw anything but another Libya.

        I do not think it was wise to cu off aid to Egypt. They are working with Israel to do the best they can in the Sinai. Yes, Morsi was democratically elected. He also removed the constitution the he was elected under and replaced it with his own constitution. This is neither democratic or helpful to anyone, except his own group.

        • Taylor Marsh January 15, 2014 at 8:46 am #

          Libya was not a strategic concern Syria remains. The human rights violations worthy of the Hague.

          On Egypt, the omnibus bill just passed restores funding to Egypt at $1.5 B.

          It also gives Obama power to pull it if they don’t continue treaties w Israel, support human rights, & reform towards democracy.

          • mjsmith January 15, 2014 at 9:20 am #

            Foreign leaders can not be tried in The Hague Court because they have diplomatic immunity.

            It would be odd to see an Arab leader tried for defending his country against terrorists and never Israel. The Courts like this should never be used to forward some sort of political agenda.

          • Taylor Marsh January 15, 2014 at 11:01 am #

            Making the case against Israel versus Syria is myopic analysis, and I’m being kind.

            As for the Hague, that is absolutely false.

            The latest proving you are incorrect is the ICC’s actions against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.

            The trial has been postponed & the Africa Union is fighting the trial, even threatening to withdraw African countries from the Rome Statute, as reported by Fareed Zakaria, but they have been charged and are set to be tried in February.

          • mjsmith January 15, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

            In that case, lets put the leaders of Israel on trial for their crimes. Let’s also look at Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar for their crimes as well. The Syrian government never invited, trained, armed, supplied, financed, or in any other way supported terrorists to come in and destroy the country. The situation in Syria was the cause of criminal foreign intervention. Hillary Clinton supported this. Hillary Clinton also supported Morsi, even after he changed the democratic constitution of Egypt. She condemend the Egyptian military when they removed Morsi. She supported the decisions that got us where we are today in Libya.

  3. Lake Lady January 14, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

    Great piece Taylor~ Thank you so much for your informed discussion of Hillary’s foreign policy. I look forward more of it in the furture.

    She is much more of a hawk than I am but what do I know? I mean really what do any of us fairly well informed commentors really know? She knows. I trust her to take care of us and to make sure we are using our power for the right reasons. Gates also said he found her idealistic as well as pragmatic. It is that core idealism that I have faith in when it comes to Hillary. I strongly believe that it is there.

    • Taylor Marsh January 14, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

      Appreciate that LakeLady.

      She knows. I trust her to take care of us…

      That quote from you above… I must say to you, be careful. That’s an awfully large statement, including a whole lot of things and I simply cannot agree with its premise.

      Knowing who we are electing is the only armor the citizen can claim. It’s not a job for the besotted, though plenty of people with that affliction are charged with it. That’s what makes for dangerous outcomes.

      I’m of the John F. Kennedy contingent of being skeptical of the brass who trusts Mrs. Clinton so throughly. Frankly, I don’t find any compliment coming from Robert Gates comforting.

      Clinton has the strength, the experience and the national standing to compete with anyone, here and around the globe. That’s quite different from approving or agreeing with all she would do, which isn’t possible for me. We simply do not know what kind of president she might be. I do, however, think it’s worth chancing to find out.

  4. Lake Lady January 14, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    Another thought. As I understand it so far
    Gates said that the president was mistrusting of the Generals. Well, I don’t blame him, he probably should have been. He had no relationship with them and did not know them as individuals before becoming president. He was viewed as a left winger by the conservative military at the beginning. Where was the basis for trust?

    With Hllary it is a whole different story. I have no trouble imagining her holding her own with them in any situation.

    • Lake Lady January 15, 2014 at 10:46 am #

      I knew you would give me that warning Taylor and I understand why you did. I did not mean to give the impression that I would uncritically accept anything that Hillary says or any decision she would make either in foreign policy or domestic. In fact, my greatest fear of her becoming president is that she will greatly disappoint me.

      I also fear her idealism because I wonder if she really realizes our country’s limits. We are not who we were when she was developing her core. She has lived in a world of high achievement and close association with the people who have hurt the middle class. It all worries me.

      Yet, I still have this faith in her groundedness and her ability to get things done. Much as I admire Elizabeth Warren and would love to vote for her for president some day I don’t think she has the same ability to force the arc down to the people ,yet. I have always found Brian Switzer (SP) entertaining but I don’t see him having the ability either and I mistrust some of his western thinking on land use etc.I don’t see him as a potential VP either. I do see Mallory of CT that way.

      • Taylor Marsh January 15, 2014 at 11:08 am #

        Oh, I know, LakeLady, with you and I having a good understanding of each other.

        As for Senator Elizabeth Warren, as I’ve stated, she’s very important in the Senate, even more so if Clinton would be president.

        I’m not a great believer in Warren for national office at this point, because there is no evidence whatsoever of any foreign policy philosophy that can be analyzed. This matters to me, if not to the activist Democratic base, of which I’m not a part, as you know.

        Gilibrand is in a much stronger position, should Hillary not run, even if her Middle East stance would come under scrutiny, as would any NY legislator.

        • Lake Lady January 15, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

          I really like Gilibrand and agree Warren is needed in the Senate.You make a very good point about Warrens current FP chops.

  5. fangio January 14, 2014 at 11:15 pm #

    Regardless of his relationship with the generals ; he tried to take care of the troops. I believe he actually cared ; which is saying a lot for him.

    • Taylor Marsh January 15, 2014 at 8:35 am #

      No argument there and that’s his job, it should be noted.

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong