For those who think a perpetual political campaign is detrimental to getting the nation’s business done, sorry. The presidential race of 2016 is already underway.
If you’ve been hiding under a rock, the past week has seen a barrage of “Hillary for President” ads, masquerading as puff-piece journalism from the usual suspects. As the Clinton machine revs up, expect much more of the soft-focus same. We will be treated to hours of breathless coverage of Hillary’s groundbreaking achievements as a FEMALE! SECRETARY! OF! STATE! So it’s worth reminding everyone that she wasn’t the first. That was Madeleine Albright. The second was George Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Hillary is the third.
Her accomplishments mirror those of the Obama Administration, meaning they are few, small and perilous for our national interests abroad. Even the most fawning coverage stretches to list her “outreach” to Burma, her emphasis on economics as part of our foreign policy and her “people-to-people” programs. And her incessant cheerleading for our effort to oust Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
A centerpiece of Secretary Clinton’s “economic component” in foreign policy was the U.S. use of sanctions to achieve foreign policy ends, most prominently against Iran and its nuclear program. One may judge for one’s self the effectiveness of this approach as Iran marches steadily toward development of a deliverable nuclear weapon and, together with their cronies in North Korea, a reliable intermediate range ballistic missile to deliver it.
“People-to-people” programs have at their base a theory that “democracy,” including free elections, will cure most, if not all ills in international relations. This proposition was sorely tested with the election of Hamas to the government of Gaza when Dr. Rice was Secretary of State: what does one do when a popularly-elected government takes the position that opposition to the United States is “a religious duty?”
That lesson was not learned, so when Egypt posed a similar problem for this administration it misplayed its hand badly, dithering and mouthing platitudes to such an extent that both sides in the conflict now think that we back their foes. To clarify: our relationship with a key Middle Eastern country is failing. This is not a good thing.
An equally significant failure has played out in Syria, where a civil war continues to rage, slowly transforming into a sectarian conflict that will engulf neighboring countries and eventually, a large part of the region. Because the Obama administration did not recognize the conflict for what it was — an opportunity to forestall Russian ambitions and to deal Iran a major setback — the world was treated to two years of slaughter opposed by American … chiding. Although there is a place for diplomacy, we can only guess at the size of ego required to believe that one’s words alone are sufficient to stop red-handed tyrants like Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Bashar al-Assad from doing as they please. And it is a peculiar sort of blindness that persists in that belief for years, in the teeth of evidence to the contrary.
Then there’s Libya, useful both as a contrast to Syria and as a gauge of ex-Secretary Clinton’s feelings toward those who do the nation’s bidding in difficult and dangerous situations. The image of the United States forcing “regime change” on a weak and marginalized Arab country, while avoiding involvement with another, more powerful one is ugly and unhelpful — nobody likes a bully. And Hillary’s cavalier dismissal of pointed Congressional questions about the incompetence and lying surrounding the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, including the first U.S. ambassador to be murdered abroad in 30-plus years, tore away the mask of congeniality. “In the end, what difference does it make?” she snapped.
It makes a lot of difference. It makes a difference that the administration strove mightily to sell the American people a lie about the origin of the attack on our diplomats. It makes a difference that the secretary, perforce, had to be involved in this pitch. It makes a difference that, to this day the administration refuses to release all the facts about these murders, or the coverup which followed. And it makes a difference that Hillary doesn’t think any of that makes a difference.
In her defense, much of the above probably wasn’t ex-Secretary Clinton’s fault; she was just saying what others thought expedient. As in l’affaire Lewinsky, she was following the lead of the men in her life - interestingly, both of them presidents. So perhaps being dutiful and carrying water for others is the greatest accomplishment in the arc of her political career. Whether this qualifies her as presidential material, is another question.
One we all ought to ask. It makes a difference.
Morgan Liddick lives in Summit County and pens a column every Tuesday for the Summit Daily News.