Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Speech

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.

36 thoughts on “Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Speech

  1. “Wow. Hammer, nail, head.”

    Now, enough!

    Bernie’s about done. And it’s not like he was a foreign policy savant.
    He’s not, and never was.

    We have two choices right now.
    tRUMP v. Hillary.

    For all of her faults, she’s still – BY FAR – the better candidate!

    I love ya, maha, but I’m getting weary of hearing all of this anti-Hillary commentary.

    I know, as do you, and all of the commentators here, that she’s far from perfect. But she’s going to be the only one standing between tRUMP and the Oval Office – and a collection of morons, sycophants, and stooges, that will aid in the destruction of the USA, and possibly, the world.

    Hopefully, we little folks can help shape her.
    If not, then maybe Obama can help. Or, “triangulating” Bill.

    But I’m getting weary of the constant Hillary bashing.
    Sure, she’s NOT Sanders. But who the hell is he, when it comes to foreign policy? Or anything else?
    He’s had 30 years to think about domestic economic policy, and he still can’t give any specifics?
    Unless his “Revolution” includes huge Democratic majorities in Congress, his dreams and wishes are nothing but farts in a hurricane!

    Sure, she sucks!
    But she’s what we’ve got to prevent a total lunatic from having the nuclear launch codes at his tiny fingertips.


    Them’s my $0.02 worth.

    • gulag — She still scares me. Yes she’s better than Trump, but if a day of reckoning doesn’t come pretty soon that gives us leaders who are not neolibs or neocons, I fear for the future.

  2. As do I, maha.

    But this year, the choice is clear!
    And we non-bigoted, not mentally-incapacitated people, have only ONE choice!:
    Maybe in the coming decade, there’ll be some other more progressive/liberal candidates to choose from.
    But THIS year, ain’t that “Dream” year!
    The “Purity Police” had a field-day with Obama, because HE wasn’t PURE enough.
    He’s only the best POTUS in my 58 years in this country, and on this planet!
    But, to some, he wasn’t PURE enough.
    Who is?

    You want some pure liberal candidate?
    Then work from the bottom, up!
    I love Bernie, and I supported him. But, he wasn’t prepared enough. Hillary was. Yes, with the help of DWS and the rest of the clowns in the DCCC and DNC.
    But, if Bernie was, “All THAT!”, then he’d have prepared in a different way. He didn’t…

    The choice is, a fucking nightmare – in tRUMP – or, at least going to bed, sleeping restlessly, but knowing that some Cheetos-colored maniac isn’t pissed-off enough to decide to launch nukes, because some other world leader got under his micron-thick skin!

    We Democrats need to start working together.
    Enough bitching and whining.
    We need to get to work, NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Bernie’s done. He had his chance – against ALL odds, btw!
    I’ll take my chances with Hillary, thank you, now that she’s almost certainly our candidate!

    If we keep sniping at one another, tRUMP could win.
    And then, all Hell might – WILL – break loose!

    Let’s put these other issues – which we can deal with, AFTER the election – aside, and help Hillary defeat that bigoted Fascist, Donald tRUMP!!!


    • gulag — I’m not talking about the choice in November. I’m talking about what happens next year, and the year after.

  3. ” why is Israel the one country we’re “morally” obligated to defend?”

    Because they are the only moderately sane country in the region?

  4. maha,
    Again, so am I talking about the next few years – PLUS!!!!l

    But before we get some “Dream” candidate(s), we gotta deal with the here and now….

  5. For what it’s worth (my 0.02 cents) I really believe the good ol’ USA is in a decline and no matter who is president can stop the process. It’s nothing to be scared about, just nature taking its course. May not be pretty or easy but we will get through it and adjust. And if humans become extinct because of stupid actions, the cosmos will not care. This might be just me being negative or my way of dealing with the reality of the situation of the world, I’m not sure but it is honestly how I feel. I will do what I can and leave the rest to the higher powers. I do believe in divine intervention.
    As for why it is thought we are morally obligated to defend Israel, I believe that comes from the evangelical Christians and their interpretation of the Bible. The same kind of thinking that says we are a Judeo/Christian nation. Want to make it clear that is not my view.

  6. The polls don’t reflect it now, but she’s going to take him apart like a cooked crab.

    My opinion, FWIW, is just the opposite: He’s going to skewer her like a fat pig. She has no new ideas, has nothing to say to the great downsized mob whose jobs have left these shores, other than to deny that there’s anything wrong. Right wingers constantly taunt “what has she accomplished”, and the article above basically says “not much”.

    Trump will certainly roll his eyes are her great foreign policy missteps. Because she does’t have a clue that America is No Longer as Great as it Was – in terms of take home pay – and because Trump promises to Fix All That, I’ll go even so far as to say Hillary is toast.

    Remember, this is the country that elected George W Bush, not once, but twice.

  7. Waiter!

    A double arsenic on the rocks – with a large Draino chaser, please!

    Oh, and put it on my tab…………

  8. Nothing that I heard her say deviated in any way from her hawkish record of recommending bombing at every opportunity.”

    Yeah, that’s just a little diplomacy trick she picked up from Uncle Henry.. “Bomb them back to the peace table!”

  9. I’m involved in other pursuits right now, and I doubt that I could add anything to what’s already been said. But, if you take A number of the recent articles from this blog, with the comments, they form a very good summation of where we are politically and historically along with the problems that face us.

    It seems that most of us agree that we are in decline and that we might or might not pull ourselves out of it. For me, we are an old dog that is capable of learning new tricks, but has chosen not to.

    The thing that might save is the dissolution of the old political parties and a reformation.

    Anyway, I need to get moving.

    • “It seems that most of us agree that we are in decline and that we might or might not pull ourselves out of it. For me, we are an old dog that is capable of learning new tricks, but has chosen not to.” It’s impossible to know where the point of no return is, and I suspect we’ve already passed it. I believe we may still salvage the U.S. as a decently functional representative democracy, but this election represents a step backward, and I fear that two terms of Hillary Clinton will put “decently functional representative democracy” beyond our grasp for generations.

  10. I may go back to watching Deek Jackson again. Sadly we have no good choice this time. With the neocons on one side and the neoliberals on the other, it appears we actually have a constant core creature with a shape shifting ability. And the beat goes on.

  11. After reading the comments here, it’s fairly easy for me to have higher hopes for the coming years. I don’t expect the apocalypse. Perhaps we are a nation in decline. Okay, I can accept that; we’ve done that to ourselves (electing W and then re-electing him, really? Yeah, we did that–we did it). What’s going on right now that interests me, though, is that folks are starting to expect more from our public servants and to be more vocal about it. I’m confident that HRC can be shaped by our expectations, and positive that Trump cannot. Sorry that I don’t see HRC as entirely antithetical to the public good, but I don’t–I have two daughters who will live much better lives if HRC is the next President. The more important question for me is, will we remain engaged in the greater dialogue or will we slink off and draw the window shades? I hope that Sen. Sanders continues his campaign long after the convention and the election; go, Bernie, go! With the situations as it is, though, I’ll take the candidate who will listen to my daughters’ voices. Simple choice, really.

    • JBM, I respect your views, and maybe Clinton will surprise me. I’m pretty much resigned to her being the next POTUS, whether I like it or not.

  12. This election does have the air of the proverbial rock and hard place. To tell the truth, I am not very optimistic either. Once in a while, something raises my hopes and faith in young people, after a few nanoseconds, something else brings me back to reality.

    A few years back we seemed to have a pretty good escape plan. Now, I’m not so sure. But, I don’t want to get too depressed. All the stores close early on Sunday over here, so, no wine. On top of that, the people who designed medieval cities totally screwed up on traffic circulation and vehicle parking. That can really raise your blood pressure.

  13. Goatherd: When medieval cities were planned, there were no vehicles. They were designed for walking. That’s what makes them so charming. So take a deep breath and lower your BP.

  14. “As for why it is thought we are morally obligated to defend Israel, I believe that comes from the evangelical Christians and their interpretation of the Bible. The same kind of thinking that says we are a Judeo/Christian nation.”

    Yes, and the selectivity of what we are “morally obligated” to do is at the heart of the hypocrisy of it all. I am no biblical scholar, but am hard pressed to recall any Bible passages that call for a defense of Israel as a Christian and thus “moral” obligation. On the other hand, there is no mistaking the call for caring for the poor, the least of us, and yet that is something the same right-leaning “christian” aspect of the political establishment tries all its might to cast as somehow ungodly. There are other things we would be morally obligated to do as a so-called Judeo-Christian nation, such as caring for the planet, that are also somehow anathema to the political establishment.

    Truth be told, there are a few reasons for the defense of Israel: first, the money to be made in the arms industry, and use of Israel as sort of a user acceptance testing (in IT parlance) for new weapons systems. Second, the territorial foothold Israel provides in the region, as well as a military proxy. Thirdly, and much worse, this idea of the “religious” right that Israel be kept around in order to fulfill a biblical Armageddon so as to fulfill the prophecy of the return of a warrior Christ. Fits right in with their other obsession, guns and the “godliness” of defending oneself of from the slightest of provocations with guns.

  15. As for Clinton, I don’t think a disservice is done by all the reporting and commentary on this site that is unfavorable to her, as it has been based in fact and truth. This is information voters should know, and in the end consumers of it can make up their own minds. There is this human tendency towards optimism and the need for “positivism” to allow one to ignore obvious problems to feel better about a choice that can’t be avoided, and to shoot the messenger when reality invades on that comfort zone. But the situation is what it is; so is Hillary.

    That said, one would hope though, that the unthinkable prospect of a Trump presidency would be enough for rational voters to conclude that, although Hillary is actually a very comfortable creature of an increasingly corrupt political system that tends to negate democracy and work exclusively for those who are able to contribute not just votes but extremely large sums of money (what in any honest treatment would be called bribes) there is a far worse outcome that is a Donald Trump presidency.

    Setting aside the loonies, given that there are seemingly many otherwise sane, rational voters jumping on the Trump bandwagon, and a media all too willing to make this another horse race rather than just report the facts, there really is no choice but to support Hillary, warts and all, to prevent the utter disaster a Trump presidency would be.

    • csm –I agree that Clinton is preferable to Trump, but I also think it essential that we all be honest about who and what she is and not pretend otherwise for the sake of “unity.”

  16. I think the Clintons have learned from their Dick Morris experience. So there’s that.


    Alright. IMO there still can be a fair amount of power in this “digital nation” thing, but we need to know more about how to focus it. I’ve had success with my online neighbors dealing with an underfunded and dysfunctional county (yeah that’s local stuff solving traffic and crime but might work scaled up). With our direct communications with said officials (as high up as we can go), instead of ever speaking of the pony they rode in on, or what color of pony we favor, we focus on the competency of the official themselves – their ability to just do their job. We don’t allow them scapegoats or lame excuses. If they try to say: “but it was part of an omnibus bill” or “we don’t have funding for it” we just say: “Fuck that shit. Get it done or else.” Okay, better words than that, but numbers in force seems to work.

    However, we do give them ideas they can take credit for come re-election time.

  17. Granny, I was just joking about the vehicles and such. My “sense of humor” can get out of whack after an active day, kind of like an over-stimulated child. I love these old cities, but the villages are a little easier. Let’s just say that we are both VERY grateful for GPS. Too bad though, I guess that advertisement for the 1371 Citroen must have been a misprint.

    I know this is not an easy time for anyone. The information and misinformation overload gets even worse around election time. We feel a need to “vote our conscience,” but that means something different to each one of us. “It is impossible to know where the point of no return is,” exactly sums it up. But, in some ways that might be a good thing. It gives just us enough just enough hope to keep going. Hope can be a cruel master, but, as compared with others, it’s not so bad. One important thing is to try to grasp a sense of reality. So, I’ll support HRC. But, I don’t want to do it with a host of false expectations, if I can avoid it. So, I welcome any information that is honest and clear sighted.

    In the meantime, a miracle has happened, the sun is out, we’re off orange flood alert, and the A10 is open. I’m even starting to feel lucky about those parking spaces.

  18. Apropos of nothing, a while ago, I got into a conversation with a young professor who had just received his Ph.d. fairly recently. He made an observation that, “real history is complete chaos. We select certain elements, chop them up and put them back together in such a way that they appear to make sense.”

    I have an interest in the nature of chaos and in paradoleia. (Although, I am never sure if I’ve spelled it correctly.). So, I find this description attractive, and resonant with our current discussion.

  19. It’s almost like “The boy who cried wolf.” But, this time is REALLY different. At least to me, a NYC teacher with tenure, a strong union, a decent employment package and very little else between me and the financial abyss. One day we’re sweating the threat of our union losing 30% of its funding in September with one SCOTUS case, and a case putting tenure under threat following close behind. Then that furry little quail killer Scalia died. Threat gone. We get to teach with dignity another year or two. I have almost 10 years to retirement. One bad SCOTUS appointment can make a big difference to my quality of life. There are millions in my position. The SCOTUS thing is real to me and millions of others. Scalia’s death saved my union and ultimately my job. Get that hack Clinton into office Just for one term and at least stabilize the SCOTUS for the next decade. Get some more appointments into the circuits. Get four more years of moribund old Bush and Reagan era apparatchik attrition in the federal agencies. Then ditch Clintonism forever. It’s over. I really mean it this time.

  20. csm…….Jesus was a Jew, not a “Christian”. The formal Christian church was not established until 300 years after his death. And not by anyone who knew him or what he represented. As far as I know, and I am not a Bible expert, the Bible never mentions the word Christian. I’m sure someone will let me know if I’m wrong. But of course, one has to take into account the practice of translation and interpretation. In any event, the formal, organized Christian religion was not established until about 300 years after Jesus’s death. And what the Christians were supposed to believe was decided at that time. And because Constantine wanted to draw in the pagans, a lot of the pagan beliefs were adopted. Morality really had nothing to do with it, it was all about power.
    Goatherd…..I’m still getting used to Swami’s humor. As for the professor’s comment, I agree totally. It is the nature of the universe to go from chaos to order. It’s the movement of the Tao, yin and yang. And as far as our concept of history, I think none of us know what in the heck really happened. We just have the need to make a story out of the events. I have no idea what paradoleia is so guess I will have to look it up.

  21. goatherd…..Once again, Walla Walla is calling on the goats to clear some unwanted vegetation. I still can’t do links so if you would like to see a picture, go to wallawallawa.gov/ It will probably make you homesick.

  22. I’m not a bible scholar either Granny. That said, I recall that one of the big early controversies among the early followers was whether or not to allow Pagans in without making them become Jews first.

  23. I have no idea what paradoleia is so guess I will have to look it up.

    Short answer…Seeing Jesus in the spaghetti.

    I once saw a picture of several Guatemalan women venerating a baked on grease splatter resembling “La Virgena” on the oven window of a vintage Hotpoint stove. Probably the best description of Pareidolia that can be found.

  24. I want to amend my comment above…I think pareidolia has something to do with finding order in chaos whereas my example with the Guatemalan women would be more like finding chaos in chaos.

    Trebuchet parking only?

  25. 31 comments. All above average. I have nothing to add but blue dog don’t cut it. We tried that and we lost. As for the French, they might learn to use a pooper scooper.

  26. “greatest foreign policy speech since Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” address, assuming they know about Churchill and the Iron Curtain.”

    You being from Missouri and all, I would like to mention that the Iron Curtain Speech–“The Sinews of War” was delivered in Fulton, Missouri. I think my grandmother was there. The church he was babtised in is there moved block by block from England.

    Google informs me that the speech was “Sinews of Peace.” I misremembered.

  27. Thanks, Swami, so, I did misspell it! I could blame it on this iPad, but, that would be cheating. I don’t claim to have any real understanding of it, I read couple of books on chaos a decade ago, and our entertainment here is pretty much streaming BBC documentaries on the computer and reading. Sometimes a concept or metaphor gets into my thoughts and I start to see it reflected in the world. The phenomenon seems to happen on a larger scale too. Granny, as a health care professional, you will remember when the addiction model seemed to be applied to everything. For a while the metaphors seem to work, but they get stale after a while and it’s time to move on. Chaos seems to explain and mimic a lot of things. On a quantum level everything seems chaotic, at least to our limited understanding of it. In forming the atomic level, in acquires an order, as if it passes through a kind of filter. The degree of order seems to grow. But, then process of entropy turns it back towards chaos.

    The young historian’s observation really struck me if only because it brings back something that we all might be hiding from ourselves, the world is wild and chaotic and we don’t understand it. But, we can’t help ourselves. We have to try to make sense out of it. Swami put it beautifully, sometimes the order that we see is Jesus in spaghetti. Despite all of that, I think we can see real trends and processes in history. I think the recent posts here show that. But, we always have to be prepared for the revelation that we had it wrong.

    Zoomar2’s comment also hits the mark for me. It is just like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” sooner or later the wolf really will come.

    Granny, I want to thank. You for your patience and good wishes. I do miss our goats and it is always good to hear that people appreciate them. I am sure your French is far better than mine, but, at least my reading has improved. I am kind of interested in old armor and stuff like that. So, by luck I can tell you that the trebuchet. Is an engine of war that is basically a lever with a very heavy weight at one end and a net with a projectile at the other. When the weight is lifted and the lever is released it acts like a giant sling. The motion it makes is a little awkward, so it comes from a French verb that means to stumble, but you better check me on that.

    Bernie is right about the pooper scoopers. Where is the French Harvey Milk?

    Sorry to go on so long, women tend to require more time to prepare themselves to meet the world, so I usually read your comments to make up the difference.

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