Hillary Clinton hopes to be elected President by emphasizing her experience and Donald Trump’s negatives. She is trying hard to divert attention from her dismal track record as secretary of State. She failed as secretary because she shared Obama’s liberal/progressive approach to foreign policy and because she is not an independent thinker with her own world view. She says and does what her handlers, aides, and coaches tell her to say and do, and rarely appears in public without her every word being carefully scripted. A president who cannot think for herself will be a dangerous and ineffective president.
The “Never Never Land” liberal/progressive foreign policy strategy of the past eight years has left the world a mess. It is based on idealism rather than realism, or “realpolitik.” There is no part of the world that Obama and Clinton can point to and say it is in better shape than when they took office.
They hold an unrealistic belief that international organizations will solve the world’s problems and international law will govern the actions of countries and non-state actors. In their world, it is not necessary to use military force, so it is not necessary to have a robust military. They naively believe our worst enemies will treat us the way we treat them. If we coddle and placate our enemies, the bad actors such as Iran will change their behavior and become good world citizens. Obama and Clinton lack the wisdom to understand that when we do this, our enemies perceive us as weak and take advantage of us.
Liberal progressives such as Clinton and Obama tend to view the U.S. as the bad guy in the international arena. Almost everything wrong in the world seems to be our fault. To make up for our past sins, Clinton and Obama consistently apologized for the wrongs they believed America committed as a country. This projected weakness to the world and put us on the defensive. During the last eight years, our enemies such as North Korea and Iran were emboldened. Today, China does as it pleases in the South China Sea and Russia as it pleases in the Ukraine.
Under the leadership of Clinton, foreign policy got too caught up in promoting democracy and American values, including religious freedom and human rights. This led us to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries to an extent that we, as Americans, would never tolerate by a foreign power in our country. Along the way, she simply lost sight of doing what is in America’s best interest.
Clinton worked with others in the Obama administration to change the leadership in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. She supported efforts to push out autocratic leaders long ensconced in power, based on her belief that democracies would blossom in their place. That was wishful thinking. These countries and their citizens are significantly worse off today and the world less stable because of her intervention. None of them are flourishing democracies. She also was a key player in the decision to press Hosni Mubarak to resign in Egypt. The Egyptian people are the victims of her intervention, the Egyptian economy is in shambles, and America lost a long term, loyal friend in Mubarak.
When she had the chance, Clinton failed to lead at critical times, such as the decision to abruptly withdraw our troops from Iraq. Obama arrived in office determined to pull our troops out of Iraq to please his base and for his legacy. When efforts to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq stalled, Obama, rather than getting personally involved to break the stalemate, jumped on the opportunity to bring our military home. Clinton, through surrogates, has tried to get word out that she opposed the troop pullout decision. It however takes more than words to lead. Clinton failed to persuade Obama to get personally involved and to allow more time for us to negotiate with the Iraqis. Had Clinton asserted herself, many believe we would have obtained an acceptable Status of Forces Agreement and retained a troop presence in Iraq.
The lack of a residual U.S. military force on the ground in Iraq left a vacuum for the Shia majority under the leadership of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to purge the Sunni minority from leadership positions in government and the military. By abruptly pulling our troops out, Obama and Clinton gave al-Maliki free rein to do as he pleased. This was despite the fact we and others, including the Saudis, strongly disliked and distrusted him. Al-Maliki’s actions fractured the Iraqi government and opened the door for ISIS to take control of parts of Iraq with the support of the disenfranchised Sunni population.
Our foreign policy was weakened by Obama and Clinton’s strong distrust of our military and aversion to the use of military force. The White House consistently ignored the professional advice of our senior military advisers and tried to do the job of the military by second guessing them and dictating to them how to wage war. We can’t effectively lead in the world if there is a lack of trust between the White House and our military. Their attitudes toward the military drove their desire to pull our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan prematurely and Obama’s relentless push to reduce military spending. Our military today is the least ready and the least resourced that it has been in many years.
Worse yet, they wore their distaste for the use of the military force on their sleeves for our enemies to see. This and the cuts in military spending telegraphed weakness to our enemies. Once the enemy knows our leadership does not have the stomach to use military force, it is less inclined to compromise and to work toward a diplomatic solution and more inclined to pursue its foreign ambitions. It simply is not smart negotiating strategy to tell the enemy in advance that the military option is off the table, which Clinton and Obama did consistently.
Liberal/progressives hold a utopian vision of a peaceful world governed by international organizations, treaties, and international laws. In this world, we don’t need a military, so we unilaterally disarm. This is naïve thinking. International organizations such as the United Nations are dysfunctional and ineffective. There is no international law, at least none that works. Russia and China comply with international laws and treaties only when it is clearly in their self-interest to do so. North Korea and Iran simply ignore them. For international organizations, treaties, and laws to work, countries need strongly shared values and beliefs and a way to enforce compliance. Both are lacking in today’s world. A strong military thus is necessary to keep the peace and to back an effective foreign policy.
The world is in far worse shape today than Clinton found it when she became secretary of State. It is in worse shape because of her pursuit of a liberal progressive foreign policy agenda and her weak leadership. She would not get hired in the private sector based on her job performance as secretary of State, yet some think she is qualified to be president of the United States.
John P. Waterman lives in Marion.