This story was written by Jack Craver, Badger Herald
With the press slathering over the likely appointment of Hillary Clinton to be Barack Obamas secretary of state, its important to not only highlight the deficiencies of Clintons record but also to reflect on the eight years her ex-boyfriend (and current husband) spent at the helm of American foreign policy.
Bill Clinton, according to mainstream analysis, had a relatively successful presidency in the realm of foreign relations. His Middle East legacy was a stunning success compared to the travesty of the most recent eight years, but for those of you who have read something in the last decade besides Bill Kristols weekly column in The New York Times, thats not exactly a compliment worthy of a plaque in the presidential trophy room.
Although Clinton worked aggressively with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to establish peace with the Palestinians, the plan ultimately fell through purportedly due to Yassir Arafats stubbornness. However, many Palestinians nevertheless supported the plan, and the United States was increasingly seen as a negotiator in the region rather than an instigator.
In Iraq, Clinton pursued a conservative policy of containment, supporting embargoes and strategic bombing that many of the neo-conservative architects of the current Iraq war actually considered immoral because of the humanitarian repercussions for the impoverished Iraqi people. Indeed, many on the left felt similarly, as my colleague Kyle Szarzynski aptly displayed when he attributed the deaths of 1 million Iraqis to the Clinton-era economic sanctions. Nevertheless, the Iraqi people were without a doubt better off during the Clinton years, and Islamic extremists in neighboring Arab countries did not have such a deliciously convincing tool to recruit disaffected Muslim youths into terrorist organizations.
In the Balkans, Clinton lead the multilateral effort to stop the ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo at the hands of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. The action represented the best of American military tradition, in which the U.S. lead its free-world allies in a struggle against brutal tyrannical oppression, but did not unnecessarily supplant the existing government with an ad hoc entity of freedom fighters. Kosovo was stabilized and guarded by U.N. peacekeepers, while Serbia was left to reform itself.
Perhaps the biggest foreign policy embarrassment of the Clinton administration was the genocide in Rwanda. Over 900,000 Rwandans were massacred by forces equipped with, as professor Jeremi Suri once put it, machetes. Indeed, the situation is being repeated in Darfur and Somalia at this moment; however, the Bush administration considers problems in Africa fundamentally unsexy if there are no WMDs to be fabricated.
Ultimately, Clinton presented a mixed bag on foreign policy. He fostered a spirit of diplomacy and decency in the State Department that the current administration has repeatedly mocked in the most painful fashion. Perhaps most appallingly is the promotion of torture and shunning of the Geneva Accords, as if there are no negative consequences as a result of such immorality.
Nevertheless, its unfortunate that Hillary Clinton is being considered the top candidate to represent that type of level-headed foreign policy in the Obama administration. All the hands Hillary has shaken, all the books shes read, all the contacts shes made theyre all overshadowed by the egregious foreign policy decisions she made during her time in the U.S. Senate.
Her record in public office has at best been deferential to the neo-conservative agenda of peace through barbarism. First, she signed off on the authorization to use force against Iraq in 2002. During her pathetic presidential campaign, she further coddled bellicose foreign policy by suporting the resolution to classify the Iranian Republican Guard as a terrorist organization, effectively giving credence to the calls for a Persian war, which the neo-con nimwits had been begging for ever since their hero, George W. Bush, stole the Top Gun outfit from Tom Cruises closet and declared Mission Accomplished in 2003.
In all fairness, Clinton was likely no, definitely tacking to the right on foreign policy for political reasons, hoping to position herself as a hawk when campaigning against whatever war-monger the GOP would put up in the general election. Remember, despite John McCains belief in an imaginary Iraq-Afghanistan border, the senator from Arizona was the only Republican candidate whose positions on international relations did not forecast World War III or, in the case of Mike Huckabee, the third Crusade. Therefore it may have been politically intuitive for Clinton, who at one point assumed victory in the primaries, to meet the GOPs thirst for Arab blood half way.
However, Clintons choices should disqualify her as the head of U.S. diplomacy. The State Department, along with MTV, is charged with the objective of re-establishing the American brand throughout the world, and it is inappropriate for the head of such an important mission to be so closely associated with the mistakes that have undeniably tarnished and very nearly ruined Americas reputation for the 21st century.