Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, June 4th, 2016.


Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Speech

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Democratic Party, Sanders and Clinton

Hillary Clinton gave a foreign policy speech in San Diego a couple of days ago that got some good reviews. Indeed, her supporters seem to think it was the greatest  foreign policy speech since Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” address, assuming they know about Churchill and the Iron Curtain.

The speech largely consisted of calling out Donald Trump for being an idiot.  In her next appearance she’s going to go for broke and shoot some fish in a barrel.

If you read the speech, most of it is pretty banal.  Here’s a representative sample:

Trump says over and over again, “The world is laughing at us.” He’s been saying this for decades, he didn’t just start this year. He bought full-page ads in newspapers across the country back in 1987, when Ronald Reagan was President, saying that America lacked a backbone and the world was – you guessed it – laughing at us. He was wrong then, and he’s wrong now – and you’ve got to wonder why somebody who fundamentally has so little confidence in America, and has felt that way for at least 30 years, wants to be our President.

The truth is, there’s not a country in the world that can rival us. It’s not just that we have the greatest military, or that our economy is larger, more durable, more entrepreneurial than any in the world. It’s also that Americans work harder, dream bigger – and we never, ever stop trying to make our country and world a better place.

I’m so done with the American exceptionalism rhetoric. Rah-rah doesn’t fix the potholes.

I can’t argue with anything she says about Trump. It’s when she wanders into her own ideas that she gets into trouble.

Steve Chapman wrote for the Chicago Tribune,

Hillary Clinton has been wrong on one foreign policy issue after another, from the war in Iraq to the war in Libya to the war in Syria. She is secretive, averse to transparency, habitually deceptive and arguably corrupt. She is a risk to lead us into another messy conflict.

Donald Trump has said some things that don’t sound bad. He recognizes the invasion of Iraq and the bombing of Libya as mistakes. He vows to refrain from nation-building. He says he’d make our allies do more to defend themselves.

So let me be clear: If I had only these two choices of whom to be in charge of U.S. foreign policy for the next four years — or five minutes — I would pick Clinton in a heartbeat.

Clinton is a bad option, in the way that Salisbury steak at a roadside diner is a bad option. Trump, however, resembles a tuna sandwich left out on the counter for days: definitely harmful and possibly fatal.

Yeah, pretty much sums it up.

I also like these comments by Ian Bremmer in Time:

First, her remarks were intended for the foreign policy establishment, the people who care about foreign policy details and America’s role in the world. These are not the people she needs to reach. She must speak directly to those who feel globalization has stolen their livelihoods and don’t see why Americans must carry heavier and more expensive burdens than others do. Some of those people are persuadable.

Second, she spent too much presenting herself as the plausible alternative to disaster. Her own foreign policy record is not sterling. She was an active secretary of state, but President Obama didn’t deliver his finest foreign policy accomplishments—striking the Iran nuclear deal, lifting the embargo against Cuba, negotiating the Transpacific Partnership—until Clinton had moved on. She deserves credit for helping to bring Iran to the nuclear negotiating table, but it fell to her successor to complete the deal. Her attempt to “reset” relations with Russia was a farce from start to finish. The “pivot to Asia” and agreement on the Transpacific Partnership were her biggest successes, but she has backed away from both while running for president. In short, Clinton is long on foreign policy experience, but short on foreign policy successes.

But she’s so qualified! And she has all those accomplishments (that few can name if you put them on the spot to name any)!

Patrick Smith wrote at Salon:

Clinton’s people advised the press beforehand that, major or not, this presentation was not intended to break any new ground—no new positions, no new policy initiatives or ideas. This hardly had to be explained, of course: Hillary Clinton has no new ideas on American foreign policy. That is not her product. Clinton sells continuity, more of the same only more of it because it is so good. In continuity we are supposed to find safety, certainty and security.

I do not find any such things in the idea that our foreign policy cliques under a Clinton administration will simply keep doing what they have been doing for many decades. The thought frightens me, and I do not say this for mere effect. In my estimation, and it is no more than that, the world is approaching maximum tolerance of America’s post–Cold War insistence on hegemony. As regular readers will know, this is why I stand among those who consider Clinton’s foreign policy thinking, borne out by the record, the most dangerous thing about her. And there are many of us, by the evidence.

The critique that most needs to be read, though, is by William Astore at Huffpo.  (Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and history professor, blogs at Bracing Views.) Really, read the whole thing. Here are the juiciest bits:

1. The speech featured the usual American exceptionalism, the usual fear that if America withdraws from the world stage, chaos will result.  There was no sense that America’s wars of choice in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. have greatly contributed to that chaos.  …

2.  Hillary mentioned we’re electing “our” next commander-in-chief.  No, we’re not.  The president is a public servant, not “our” commander-in-chief.  The president serves as the civilian commander-in-chief of the military, and the military alone.

3.  Hillary mentioned the US has a “moral obligation” to defend Israel.  Why is this?  Sure, Israel is an American ally, but why is Israel the one country we’re “morally” obligated to defend? There’s only one country we’re morally obligated to defend, and that’s the USA, assuming our government is actually honoring the US Constitution.

4.  The speech had no new ideas.  It was a laundry list of neo-conservative principles about making America stronger, safer, and so on.  As a friend of mine put it, “Nothing that I heard her say deviated in any way from her hawkish record of recommending bombing at every opportunity.”

And here is the grand finale:

Hillary Clinton reminds me of the grey leaders in the USSR before Gorbachev.  She’s like a Brezhnev or an Andropov. A cookie-cutter product of the system with no fresh ideas.

For many people who are leery of a Trump presidency, Hillary’s hawkish and colorless conformity to the Washington system is more than enough to qualify her.  If she wins the presidency, she will be much like Brezhnev and Andropov, senior apparatchiks of an empire in denial of its own precipitous decline.

Wow. Hammer, nail, head.

But according to Clinton supporters this was a brilliant speech, and it got very good reviews in a lot of the media. Rave reviews, says Business Insider. I’ve said before that she got lucky with Trump as an opponent. The polls don’t reflect it now, but she’s going to take him apart like a cooked crab. And media will have so much fun watching her do it she’ll get a pass on her own record and policies.

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