Some far left critics of Hillary Clinton would have voters believe that she would rush the nation to war and that she is too "hawkish" in the foreign policy realm. Such criticism, of course, ignores Donald Trump's comments about disbanding NATO and loose talk about using nuclear weapons - apparently against Middle East foes. As a piece in Vox argues, Clinton is not the hawk that some would paint her to be and, like Obama, she has had to deal with the disastrous aftermath of the Iraq War and other fool's errands launched by Bush/Cheney before Obama ever was sworn in as president. Moreover, given Trump's purported agenda, Republican neocons supporting Clinton really have nowhere else to go than to support Clinton. Their motivations and policies should not automatically be attributed to Hillary Clinton.Here are article highlights:
Donald Trump has found ways to alienate some members of all factions of conservative politics, but neoconservative intellectuals, operatives, and policy hands have been the most heavily represented element in the ranks of anti-Trump Republicans.That’s largely because unlike social conservatives or free marketers, Trump hasn’t even tried to court neoconservative support. On the contrary, he’s gone to substantial lengths to exaggerate the extent of his historical differences with them, pretending to have opposed regime change operations in Iraq and Libya that he in fact supported.
Under the circumstances, it’s natural that Hillary Clinton would fish in these waters as she seeks the broadest possible coalition of support against Trump. But things like leading neoconservative Robert Kagan organizing a fundraiser for Clinton gives pause to liberals in ways that Clinton garnering support from Republican businesswoman Meg Whitman doesn’t.
When Obama became president, he tapped Clinton to serve as secretary of state, in which capacity she served as a de facto leader for more hawkish elements of the administration, as opposed to officials such as Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes who’d backed Obama in the primary.
During Clinton’s 2016 primary campaign against Bernie Sanders, Clinton ran clearly to the left on a range of domestic issues to lock down interest group support in her favor. On foreign policy, where there is little in the way of interest group pressure, she did not — choosing instead to praise Henry Kissinger and hit Sanders from the right on Iran and Cuba.
This record raises suspicion that there is more at work than an alliance of convenience, with the Intercept’s Rania Khalek writing of a “Clinton-neocon partnership” that “has grown steadily over time” for reasons that go beyond Trump.
But despite the fears of her left-wing critics, Clinton is no neocon. Nor is there really much evidence to back up a broad-brush notion that Clinton is especially “hawkish” in a generic sense. Clinton’s record overwhelmingly reflects continuity, for better or for worse, with longstanding aspects of American foreign policy.
Critics of the status quo will find plenty to dislike, but there’s no reason to believe her administration would represent any kind of dramatic departure in foreign policy — not just in the Middle East but around the world.
Neoconservative thinkers and politicians such as John McCain and Marco Rubio favor a coercive approach to North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, confrontation with leftist regimes in Latin America, and a ratcheting up of American involvement in proxy conflicts with Russia in former Soviet republics. Last but by no means least, they endorse a hard line on China, seeing toughness and resolve as likely to succeed in intimidating China into good behavior.
It’s simply not the case that Clinton shares this worldview.
Were she running against a conventional Republican rather than Vladimir Putin’s favorite American politician, her dovish approach to Russia — and Putin’s ultimate spurning of her overtures — would be a key GOP talking point.
Nonetheless, she continues to support diplomacy with Russia aimed at reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles, and has generally stood by Obama’s reluctance to provide lethal assistance to the Ukrainian military.
Clinton favors a diplomatic approach to the North Korean nuclear issue, addressed Chinese adventurism with quiet (and effective) multilateral diplomacy, and worked publicly and privately on behalf of the Obama administration’s diplomatic opening to Cuba. And Clinton, like Obama but unlike any Republican, regards fostering international cooperation on climate change as an important foreign policy priority.
She’s not an ardent anti-imperialist, obviously. But she is not a neocon in Democrats’ clothing. She’s a wonky mainstream Democrat who has a lot of respect for America’s military and diplomatic professionals, who sees foreign policy as about trying to use the full range of tools to advance a wide range of objectives in a complicated world.
Clinton does differ from Obama in at least one important specific way — her view of the alliance system prevailing in the Middle East. The US–Saudi Arabia alliance has always had an odd-couple dynamic to it due to the massive gap between US and Saudi ideological commitments, but during Obama’s time in office it’s become a truly bad marriage. Obama and his core team of longtime advisers have been increasingly vocal about their discontent with the Gulf monarchies.
The Obama administration sees these countries as engineering a fundamentally irresponsible regional policy that helps fuel international terrorism and then deploying their considerable financial resources to push a political agenda inside the United States rather than to solve problems constructively. Obama’s statement in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg that the Saudis need to learn to “share” the region with Iran was a strikingly bold on-the-record remark, but entirely consistent with things he’s said more quietly for years.
The Saudis, for their part, have grown increasingly paranoid that Obama secretly dreams of orchestrating a reversal of alliances that would see the United States partner with Iran.
In the immediate past, this friendlier disposition to America’s traditional Gulf allies has, operationally, lent a “hawkish” cast to Clinton’s record. It made Clinton one of the members of Obama’s team who was most eager to intervene in Libya, and it’s left her consistently to Obama’s right in terms of eagerness to be involved in anti-Assad military action in Syria.
But this is a consistent difference in assessment of America’s allies, not a consistent difference in assessment of the merits of regime change.
[A]ll of this cannot be evaluated without considering the context of Clinton’s opponent. Donald Trump is not a particularly “dovish” thinker on national security issues. He’s promising a large, unspecified US military buildup, a policy of routine torture, and the use of military force to plunder foreign natural resources. In a sense, he’s clearly well to the right of George W. Bush or any other major contemporary politician in terms of embracing violence as a solution to problems.
But at the same time, his proposal (if you can call it that) to abrogate the terms of NATO and turn it into s
The fact that stepping completely outside the bounds of longstanding bipartisan US foreign policy consensus would lead some foreign policy–focused Republicans to support Clinton shows that she is broadly inside that consensus, not that she’s some kind of super-hawk.
The consensus itself, of course, is by no means above criticism and has long had its critics on the left. They’ll find plenty of reason to be unhappy with Clinton. But once Trump fades from the scene, so will the conservative hawks who’ve spent the past seven years hammering the Obama administration and are now flocking to Clinton more out of desperation than anything else.