22 December 2007

Senator Clinton’s Written Words

In order to spur myself into reading and writing more during the Christmas break, I thought I would pick up something that I would probably disagree with – Senator Clinton’s essay in the November/December edition of Foreign Affairs. Disagreement is a good way to stir thought.

Senator Clinton ends her essay with the claim that if the nation is lead in her way that “we can make America great again.” This statement implies that America is currently not a great country. Her reasoning has everything to do with President Bush. In her mind, he has driven America away from allies, waged war unilaterally and neglected diplomacy entirely. Her statement also implies that just before G.W. Bush became president, the country was great. Her husband, of course, was president then.

And it is through that lens that I read Senator Clinton’s essay. Her current aspirations and plans (what there is of the latter) cannot, and should not, be separated from her two-term husband.

Senator Clinton claims that America’s “unprecedented course of unilateralism” with reference to the Iraq war was detrimental primarily because we “diverted” energies (military and otherwise) better spent in Afghanistan. She leads that paragraph with the statement that America “refus[ed] to let the UN inspectors finish their work in Iraq.” One must remember that it was President Clinton who oversaw eight years of no-fly zone enforcement, including an air-ground conflict which began in December 1999 and ended only with the invasion of 2003.

Truth be told, America had more allies with it during the 2003 invasion than it did during the no-fly zone years, particularly after the French stopped playing in 1999.

But in an attempt to at least try to let her statements stand alone and not tie everything to her husband, here’s a list of glib statements which receive no thoughtful consideration or give the reader a real understanding of how they might be achieved (my comments in italics):

1. “Make international institutions work, and work through them when possible.”
Make them work? Is she going to ask nicely, say pretty please and hope?

2. “…a rapidly growing China that must be integrated into the international system.”
I thought they were a part of the international system, with a seat on the Security Council and all.

3. “…we will have to replenish American power by getting out of Iraq…”
This statement is so counterintuitive that it makes my head spin. While Senator Clinton does later spell out a sort of plan of withdrawal, it will probably happen without her influence because of the dropping level of violence in Iraq. But saying that withdrawal equals power is a suspension of disbelief that I can not make.

4. “As we redeploy our troops from Iraq…I will order specialized units to engage in targeted operations against al Qaeda in Iraq… These units will also provide security for U.S. troops and personnel in Iraq…”
Why can’t U.S. troops provide security for U.S. troops in Iraq? Why should “specialized units” exclusively do this?

5. “Getting out of Iraq will enable us to play a constructive role in a renewed Middle East peace process…”
No, it won’t. Just as getting out of Saudi Arabia didn’t change a thing about how al Qaeda or others feel about America or Americans.

6. “That means doing a better job of building counterterrorist capacity around the world…and implement more stringent border controls, especially in developing countries.”
Somehow I don’t think she’s referring to the U.S. – Mexico border here, which is a shame.

7. “…if Iran is in fact willing to end its nuclear weapons program, renounce sponsorship of terrorism, support Middle East peace, and play a constructive role in stabilizing Iraq, the United States should be prepared to offer Iran a carefully calibrated package of incentives.”
That a pretty long “if” list. Should we really prepare for these things, or should we rather apply economic pressure on Iran? What am I thinking – if we just use diplomacy, all carrot, no stick, we can talk the Iranians into changing their trajectory.

As the reader can tell, I’m not impressed by Senator Clinton. She’s long on anti-Bush rhetoric – regardless of how it plays with the history of her husband’s time in the Oval Office – long on seemingly thoughtful, counterintuitive statements, and short on how. But I suppose inevitability can trick a person into thinking that the how doesn’t matter so much.

In her closing, Senator Clinton says, “We must draw on all the dimensions of American power and reject false choices driven by ideology rather than facts.” Indeed. And for that reason alone I reject Senator Clinton’s ideology of “trust me, I’ll do a great job – because I’m not Bush.”

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