Hillary Clinton: The Imaginary Non-Interventionist
By Daniel Greenfield – BarbWire guest contributor
Ever since Hillary broke with Barack over the virtues of doing stupid stuff, the editorial columnists have been pretending that she has some new and exciting foreign policy.
The left has been denouncing her as an interventionist, the second coming of George W. Bush. They just can’t explain how Hillary is any more of an interventionist than her old boss who bombed Libya, is bombing Iraq and wanted to bomb Syria. Other places he’s bombing include Yemen and Pakistan. And all that is without taking account of his attempt to implement the Arab Spring’s regime changes across the region with tragic and disastrous results.
The closest thing to a disagreement between them was over Syria, and considering that Obama was days away from getting into Syria, that’s not much of a firewall.
Hillary took a cheap shot at Obama. The media spent so much time discussing the cheap shot and their hugging summit that it completely ignored the fact that it was a cheap shot with no substance to it. Hillary and Obama have the same ideological DNA and get their ideas from the same narrow circles. Hillary doesn’t have a better or worse foreign policy. They both have the same foreign policy.
Underneath the manufactured political reality show drama that happens when a candidate of the same party as a lame duck administration tries to explain why she’s so different than the miserable failure now holding down the job is the sober reality that they’re both reading from the same scripts.
How could they not?
Hillary Clinton is trying to distance herself from the foreign policy of an administration in which she served as Secretary of State. Hillary is trying to distance herself from her own approach to international relations That’s a level of schizophrenia that is a bit extreme even for a woman who sheds accents, identities and sports team affinities the way that a snake sheds its skin.
Hillary isn’t disavowing Obama. She’s disavowing Hillary.
The newly reinvented Hillary is suddenly pro-Israel after spending years berating the Jewish State. She suddenly realized the importance of having a coherent foreign policy after having the same confused position on Iraq as John Kerry. She is suddenly full of the wisdom that was missing until last year. And she’s somehow more of an interventionist than Obama even though they were both intervening in the exact same places.
Hillary is an interventionist. But so is Obama.
The non-interventionist, like the pacifist, is a mythical woodland creature who appears in the fables of many cultures. He isn’t however to be found in the vicinity of Washington D.C.
Break down the arguments of the non-interventionist and you will find a set of conspiracy theories explaining why every previous intervention was motivated by bad faith, secret agendas and racism. The non-interventionist doesn’t reject intervention; instead he contends that every previous intervention failed because it was carried out at the behest of the banks, the military-industrial complex, the CIA, the Jews, American arrogance and the oil industry.
But the non-interventionist who makes it into the White House is free to intervene as much as he likes because his motives are pure. He isn’t trying to build oil pipelines secretly or put money into Haliburton. He won’t be a unilateral cowboy launching new crusades for no good reason. And so he becomes the non-interventionist interventionist, the multilateral unilateralist, the good invader.
The fake interventionist is a lot more dangerous than the real interventionist because he thinks that he has learned all the lessons from history when all he has done is filled his head with idiotic conspiracy theories. By assigning evil underhanded motives to all his predecessors, he passes up the opportunity to actually learn from their example and instead operates under an unrealistic sense of self-confidence in his own judgement. Because he is certain that they were evil and he isn’t, he believes that he can do no wrong.
A true non-interventionist would reject intervention wholesale. Our fake non-interventionists turn up their noses at it when their political opponents do it. But once they have the power, they intervene out of entirely pure motives such as helping the Muslim Brotherhood take over entire countries.
Obama is a non-interventionist because he spends a lot of time hesitating and apologizing for each intervention. He doesn’t however bother getting permission from Congress or even UN approval.
Why should he? His motives are pure. Process is a way of slowing down men with impure motives such as George W. Bush. But pacifist saints can bomb as many countries as they want without the requirements of process getting in the way.
Hillary’s crime is that she currently sounds somewhat less apologetic and uncertain about intervention, but that’s not policy, that’s pose. Hillary’s husband boasted on the day before September 11 that he passed on killing Bin Laden because of the collateral damage. And Bill Clinton is, if anything, more of a hawk than his wife.
Anyone who thinks that Hillary is a hawk has forgotten how American personnel in Benghazi were left in a precarious security situation on her watch. It’s quite possible that Hillary might decide to bomb Syria. But don’t expect her to bomb in defense of American national interests.
She’s not that kind of interventionist.
Hillary knows that many voters are unhappy about American weakness. They don’t actually want war, but they want someone in the White House whom Putin will take seriously. And they know that isn’t Obama.
Hillary is temporarily talking tough to win them over encouraging them to forget her Reset Button pandering to the Russians and instead convince them that she’s the woman to make Vladimir respect America again. And to do that she has to sound more assertive in foreign affairs than Obama.
That doesn’t mean that Hillary Clinton can stand up to Putin any better than Obama. Or that she will. But she needs uncertain Democrats to believe that the new boss will be different than the old boss, when the new boss is really the old boss in a pantsuit and with worse posters.
Unfortunately Democrats and Republicans don’t currently differ very much on foreign policy. Where they differ is orientation. And that’s more significant than it sounds. Both Obama and McCain would have backed the Arab Spring, but McCain would have done it out of a misguided sense that it was in America’s national interest, while Obama did it to undermine American national interests.
The significance of the difference is not so much in the outcome as in attitude and in the tools that they use.
Obama and McCain would have both bombed Libya, but Obama holds the military in contempt and treats it that way. Obama and McCain would have both endorsed the Arab Spring, but Obama did it in a way that signaled American weakness. That is why Obama’s approach has weakened America even more than the actual outcome of his policies.
A country can survive bad policy. We’ve had bad foreign policy for much of the 20th century. But a leader who communicates that the bad policy is a symptom of national weakness is a disaster on a whole other scale. Both Carter and Reagan made mistakes, but Carter and Reagan sent two very different messages about American power even while they made their mistakes.
Leadership isn’t always about what you do. It’s about how you communicate your priorities and values.
Hillary Clinton is trying to package her old Obama policies with a new attitude, but underneath the attitude is the same old lefty radical who smooched Arafat’s wife, brought a Reset Button to Russia and apologized to Pakistan for a YouTube video.
We’ve already seen Hillary’s foreign policy on display in Pakistan, Russia and Benghazi. All the cheap shots at Obama won’t change the fact that Hillary’s foreign policy is another Obama rerun.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.
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