Vanity Foreign Policy

Anyone who thinks a President Hillary Clinton would be less of a hawk than was Senator Hillary Clinton might want to take a look at Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview of her. Yeah, I know, its Jeffrey Goldberg. And a lot of what HRC is saying here is obvious pre-campaign posturing and not necessarily what she really thinks. As Betty Cracker wrote,

That said, my major concern about HRC is her hawkishness. That’s why I supported Obama instead of HRC back in 2008 — he recognized the Iraq War as “stupid shit” from the beginning; she didn’t.

The remark highlighted above doesn’t tell us much about Clinton’s organizing principles. When Goldberg questioned her directly on it, her response was “peace, progress and prosperity,” which could have come from a Miss World pageant script.

Like I said, pre-campaign posturing. She’s creating some space between herself and the Obama Administration she served as Secretary of State.

Digby wrote of the interview, “This is a very scary interview. Much more hardcore than I expected.” I don’t know what to expect from HRC, but she seems to be staying in what is (to her) familiar hawkish territory, so that her opponents can’t attack her for being some kind of leftie peacenik. This ought to tell us that we can’t assume she’s not the same HRC of 2002 who voted for the Iraq war resolution.

Goldberg also wrote,

Much of my conversation with Clinton focused on the Gaza war. She offered a vociferous defense of Israel, and of its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as well. This is noteworthy because, as secretary of state, she spent a lot of time yelling at Netanyahu on the administration’s behalf over Israel’s West Bank settlement policy. Now, she is leaving no daylight at all between the Israelis and herself.

“I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets,” she told me. “Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.”

I so hope she’s not the nominee in 2016.

HRC’s prime criticism of the Obama Administration is that the current crisis in Iraq arose because the U.S. did not do enough to support Syrian rebels. However, via Booman, Patrick Cockburn makes a strong argument that just the opposite is true. HRC says that events in Syria would have turned out differently had we done more to support Syrian moderates and work with our regional allies. Cockburn pretty much says that’s a fantasy.

The foster parents of Isis and the other Sunni jihadi movements in Iraq and Syria are Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies and Turkey. This doesn’t mean the jihadis didn’t have strong indigenous roots, but their rise was crucially supported by outside Sunni powers. The Saudi and Qatari aid was primarily financial, usually through private donations, which Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, says were central to the Isis takeover of Sunni provinces in northern Iraq: ‘Such things do not happen spontaneously.’ In a speech in London in July, he said the Saudi policy towards jihadis has two contradictory motives: fear of jihadis operating within Saudi Arabia, and a desire to use them against Shia powers abroad. He said the Saudis are ‘deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shiadom’. It’s unlikely the Sunni community as a whole in Iraq would have lined up behind Isis without the support Saudi Arabia gave directly or indirectly to many Sunni movements. The same is true of Syria, where Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to Washington and head of Saudi intelligence from 2012 to February 2014, was doing everything he could to back the jihadi opposition until his dismissal. Fearful of what they’ve helped create, the Saudis are now veering in the other direction, arresting jihadi volunteers rather than turning a blind eye as they go to Syria and Iraq, but it may be too late.

I’ve been saying that the Saudi monarchy can’t possibly want ISIS to keep getting stronger, because eventually it will come after them.

But if you read nothing else today (beside this post) be sure it’s U.S. Actions in Iraq Fueled Rise of a Rebel in the New York Times. And let us be clear which U.S. actions we’re talking about. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was radicalized during the American occupation of Iraq during the Bush Administration. U.S. forces actually picked him up with other jihadists in 2004, although there is disagreement whether he was released or kept in detention.

At every turn, Mr. Baghdadi’s rise has been shaped by the United States’ involvement in Iraq — most of the political changes that fueled his fight, or led to his promotion, were born directly from some American action.

In other words, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is George W. Bush’s war baby.

Finally, we come to that other morass of shameless pandering known as Sen. Lindsey Graham

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) doesn’t think the public has been sufficiently frightened about what is going on in the Middle East. On Sunday, he urged President Barack Obama to give a speech warning Americans that the United States faces a possible terrorist attack from Iraq or Syria.

Speaking to host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Graham repeatedly insisted on addressing his answers to Obama instead.

“So Mr. President, you have never once spoken directly to the American people about the threat we face from being attacked from Syria, now Iraq. What is your strategy to stop these people from attacking the homeland? They have expressed a desire to do so,” he said.

No one with any actual knowledge of what’s going on in the Middle East thinks “these people” are capable of “attacking the homeland,” even if they have expressed a desire to do so. “Expressing a desire” and “capability” are two things our adventures in Iraq ought to have taught us to be clear about, since the current threat happened because the Bush Administration insisted Saddam Hussein was a direct threat to the United States at a time when there was actually not much left of him but bluff and bluster.

In short, if we hadn’t let the Bushies frighten us into invading Iraq we wouldn’t be talking about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi now. And I suspect Lindsey Graham is bright enough to know that. But like many other righties he has built his political career on bluff and bluster, so if he wants to keep his job he’s got to keep fanning the flames.

And wouldn’t it be nice if our foreign policy could be based on something beside shameless pandering and posturing to gain election advantage at home? If it could be based on, you know, what is actually true of those troublesome foreign places? This may be representative democracy’s greatest weakness — it’s easier to get elected by stoking ignorance than by being honest.

25 thoughts on “Vanity Foreign Policy

  1. After having read that, I’m even less of a Hillary fan than I was before.
    Obama’s take on the Iraq War & Occupation, was why I backed, and worked for, his campaign.

    Having said all of that, Hillary is probably posturing because, as a woman, she can’t look weak on defense and military engagement.
    And, if she’s the candidate, I’ll do whatever I can to support her.

    The alternative, a Republican administration, is unthinkable at a time when that party is completely batshit insane – and we’d be involved all over the Middle East again, making still more enemies who the Republicans will use to scare the stupid and ignorant into still more military engagements.

  2. There’s an interview of Obama by the Economist, that Digby linked to a couple days ago. Free-ranging, relaxed, you really get a sense of just how intelligent, and cool Obama is about many different topics. “Stupid shit” indeed. I bookmarked it, because 1) I never really got a sense of this, even with him being in office for 6 years now, and 2) I am really going to miss him should someone like Hillary and her vapid Republican-Lite bromides, or worse a Tea Party knuckle-dragger wins in 2016. Obama’s in the position of being the smartest guy in the class, presiding over a bunch of idiots who can’t appreciate him, and who despise him.

    I often run into wingnuts who are all lit up over the extremists’ rhetoric that they want to establish an Islamic caliphate and bring Sharia law to the USA. They just can’t get the difference between stuff that people say, versus what they’re actually capable of. This is so common, that I suspect it’s giving Lindsey Graham too much credit for being able to discern the difference. It’s part of the standard wingnut mentality. It’s like children who can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality, a common characteristic of people on the right.

    A psychotherapist friend likes to recount just how crazy and immature the USA was after 9/11. He said you had people in Oklahoma, thousands of miles away from the attacks, running out into the streets in panic, fearing that the terrorists were coming after them. These are the same types who hear the extremist rhetoric, and take it literally and uncritically.

  3. “She offered a vociferous defense of Israel”

    Well if going your to run for anything above dog-catcher in this country you pretty much have to say those words. The Israeli lobby has a stranglehold on our media, look at what they have done to our current secretary of state for suggesting the massacre of children in a UN school might be less than favorable? Hillary would be a disaster for the democratic party and the country as a whole. She voted for and then offered vocal support for GWB invasion of Iraq, she stood by as her husband erased the financial regulations that led to the crash in 2008. I will not support her at any level not even for dog-catcher!

    “and we’d be involved all over the Middle East again”

    Gulag, did you listen to what Hillary is saying now, no doubt she would have boots on the ground all over the middle east? Maybe your right that she is just posturing (lying) or maybe she means what she says (telling the truth). So either she is not credible or she is a hawk, either way looks bad to me.

  4. uncledad,
    And how would a Paul or Cruz Presidency be more peaceful and less economically devastating?

  5. Hillary would be a real hold-your-nose and vote situation. One of the things I learned from reading the Obama interview, is that, to paraphrase Dick Cheney’s pal, Don Rumsfeld, you have to go with the army you’ve got. Obama isn’t my ideal president, but he’s the best we have at this point. Hillary shows small signs of learning, but at 70 years old, and two decades in the DC bubble, I suspect she’s going to make the same stupid mistakes we’re all too familiar with, while glossing it over with her version of Reagan’s smarmy charm. And yet she – if she’s the nominee – is the best we’ve got.

  6. Rumor is, Gregory’s out at MTP, and UpChuck Toad is in!
    He can’t possibly be worse than Gregory.
    But, then, that what I said when Russert died, and Gregory took over.

    • Gregory was shockingly bad. It’s hard to imagine how somebody who is allegedly bright and knowledgeable about politics could have been that bad. Todd can be clueless too, sometimes, but let’s hope he’s not that bad.

  7. “And how would a Paul or Cruz Presidency be more peaceful and less economically devastating?”

    Well I’m not sure either of those whacko-birds is going to get the nomination? I think her presidency would be more tolerable for liberals but the results would be similar. If I take her at her word she has no daylight between her and Ted (Canadian anchor baby)Cruz and she is to the right of Randy on foreign policy. What I say is that I will not support her period, offering tacit support or confirming that you’ll hold your nose and vote only encourages her now and deflates whatever momentum that is building against her. If she is going to be stopped it has to happen soon and she will only be stopped by vocal and well-funded opposition.

  8. Whoever is the Republican candidate will be a whacko-bird – even Rand Paul.
    That boy’s about as sharp as a pound of wet liver.

    I’d love to have another viable Democrat who I think would be elected – but if it ends up being Hillary v. any Republican, I’ll be holding my nose, and voting for her!

  9. Burger-Flipping Robot could put Fast Food Workers Out of a Job

    The company’s robot can “slice toppings like tomatoes and pickles immediately before it places the slice onto your burger, giving you the freshest burger possible.” The robot is “more consistent, more sanitary, and can produce ~360 hamburgers per hour.” That’s one burger every 10 seconds.

    …Momentum Machines cofounder Alexandros Vardakostas told Xconomy his “device isn’t meant to make employees more efficient. It’s meant to completely obviate them.” Indeed, marketing copy on the company’s site reads that their automaton “does everything employees can do, except better.”

    Only a few people on the left really talk about this sort of thing, the end of jobs, period.

  10. Can that feckin’ robot BUY AND EAT the burgers?

    If not, then who’s going to have the money to buy the burger companies “Unhappy Meals?”

    • c u n d gulag: who’s going to have the money to buy the burger companies “Unhappy Meals?”
      masters of the universe: D’oh!

  11. “Todd can be clueless too, sometimes, but let’s hope he’s not that bad”

    Anyone who gets that gig is going to be “that bad”. They just repeat what is on the teleprompter. All the Sunday shows are funded by the chamber of commerce crowd, just look at who advertises, American Petroleum Institute, Archer Daniels, Boeing, etc these are not consumer based ads whose products can be boycotted, they are corporate propaganda and MTP will say and act as they are told to keep those ads, it’s been this way for decades. I don’t waste my time or blood pressure meds on any of the Sunday morning garbage, it’s the weekend for Christ sake!

  12. Ok, maha, then the joint’s going to have be selling a burger for $10,000, to make a profit.

  13. I’m with you uncledad. Im not voting for her. I will vote third party first. I pray they nominate ted cruz. Please do. Most fun election eva! I’m done voting for the lesser of the two evils. Never again, for any reason. I have no fear of the rightistas or what they do. If it’s truly horrible, the majority of the country that would first have to vote for them would also be effected, which is the end of the rightisas, so I win either way. 🙂

  14. “I’m with you uncledad. Im not voting for her”

    I said I will not support her in any way, if it is between her and Ted (Canadian anchor baby) Cruz, well that is not a real decision now is it? If you take her at face value and judge her by what she says now and her record she is really no different that say Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, etc. She talks nice to progressives but she is a pro-business, anti-labor, Israel first neo-con plain and simple. So having her instead of the GOP standard bearer’s only hurts the Democratic Party, the country is fucked either way!

    • In at least one area HRC would be preferable, and that’s in the area of women’s reproductive rights. I don’t think she’d sell us out on that one.

  15. Gotta say, with respect … while I share lack of enthusiasm for HRC, and will be hoping against hope that somebody will rise up to take her place, anybody that truly believes that she would be about as equally destructive as the loon the right ends up nominating has not been paying attention to the quality of the right wing loons lately… it’s the difference between somebody who is basically competent but more right wing than any of us are comfortable with and somebody wearing a tinfoil hat and underoos standing in the middle of Times Square humming Dixie on a broken kazoo and telling passers by that he is very much enjoying playing in the London Philharmonic, as he is doing right this very instant, any appearances to the contrary being a mere left wing conspiracy to make him lose his precious bodily fluids.

  16. I think we can all agree that Obama took the job at one of the worst times in modern history, with the entire GOP wanting nothing more than to crap in the punch bowl every chance they get. You know Obama gets finished for the day and thinks what in hell is wrong with these morons? It just speaks volumes about the absence of intellect in general. I’m just glad I can come here and get some validation .
    F’in robots were supposed the create more leisure time, so said popular science magazine, when I was a kid. Folks didn’t factor in vulture capitalism and bottom lime management.
    Hillary knows what she needs to do to get the votes, she’ll have to pander to the pro Israel hawks. That right wing friend I mentioned yesterday has said he’d vote for her, but that was per Benghazi. Who the fuck knows I think I’m pretty right on when it comes to world events, but my fellow Americans continue to confound me on so many levels. It is like Orwell’s 1984 in many ways.

  17. “not been paying attention to the quality of the right wing loons lately”

    The loons serve a purpose; they are there to make the eventual establishment puppet look presidential, smart, moderate? The Loons, Cruz, Palin, Paul, Rubio etc. have about as much of a chance as Bachman, Palin, Cain, Gingrich, Perry had by which I mean zero (maybe Randy Paul has a 2% chance just because of that hair). Maha’s point about reproductive rights is about the only that would separate her from Walker, Bush, Romney. On the other hand anyone craven enough to take a very public swipe at the foreign policy of a president who made you secretary of state while he is still in office shouldn’t be trusted to hold the line on anything?

  18. Gee, Seems Hillary announced her candidacy with that interview. When does the GOP hold their primary?

    She certainly met the criteria for eligibility for the presidency. She’s over 25 years of age, she’s a natural born citizen, she’s professed Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, and she’s issued her oath of fealty to the State of Israel.

    You go girl!

  19. OK, troops. Let’s look at the whole picture. Where do you think HRC will stand on voting rights? What about Civil Rights? Women’s rights? State and ALEC sponsored attacks on access to abortion? What about sane gun regulation? What kind of judges might she appoint to the bench?

    I agree with a BUNCH of the above comments – she looks way too willing to commit the US to military intervention. Some of it might be posturing, but her foreign policy looks like Bush lite. That sucks. Every viable GOP candidate however makes HRC look like Mother Theresa by comparison. Regarding my tendency to support.. I’d like to see a progressive candidate challenge in the primaries. It’s WAY too early, but I don’t see any progressive candidate who can bump HRC in the primaries – not yet.

    Elizabet Warren is true to her ideals – and she’s a pragmatist. If she WON the nomination, it might open the door for a GOP return to the White House, because she’s more liberal than mainstream America likes. HRC (unlike EW) will tune her campaign to capture the Independent vote, which the Tea Party can’t and won’t – which makes HRC the oddsmaker’s favorite (particularly if HRC is attacked by a progressive in the primaries which will legitimately brand her as a moderate for Independent voters).

  20. Doug …It’s going to be pretty difficult for Hillary to modify her stance without coming off as being another Mitt Romney. A new campaign stop — a new position! Hillary has to own her words and live with them. I think she pretty much staked out some serious foreign policy positions with that interview, and she’s not going to be afforded the luxury of changing her positions without coming across as a serial panderer.
    I also think she’s made a big mistake by laying the blame for the current crisis in Iraq and Syria at Obama’s feet. I come away with a sense that she’s dumping shit on Obama that doesn’t belong to him only for the sake of distancing herself from him for political purposes. For whatever reason my gut reaction to Hillary’s interview left me with a feeling that I have to take a closer look at Hillary. I was getting soft for the old battle axe. but that interview renewed my distaste.
    But if it comes down to voting options as things look now. I probably have to hold my nose also. We’ll see.

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