The New York Times this weekend published a fascinating two-part story (here
) on Hillary Clinton'
s involvement as Secretary of State in pushing President Barack Obama
to intervene in Libya.
"President Obama was deeply wary of another military venture in a Muslim country," the Times reports. "Most of his senior advisers were telling him to stay out."
But Clinton pushed for a more aggressive policy, and won the day:
Her conviction would be critical in persuading Mr. Obama to join allies in bombing Colonel Qaddafi’s forces. In fact, Mr. Obama’s defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, would later say that in a “51-49” decision, it was Mrs. Clinton’s support that put the ambivalent president over the line.
The consequences would be more far-reaching than anyone imagined, leaving Libya a failed state and a terrorist haven, a place where the direst answers to Mrs. Clinton’s questions have come to pass.
This is the story of how a woman whose Senate vote for the Iraq war may have doomed her first presidential campaign nonetheless doubled down and pushed for military action in another Muslim country. As she once again seeks the White House, campaigning in part on her experience as the nation’s chief diplomat, an examination of the intervention she championed shows her at what was arguably her moment of greatest influence as secretary of state. It is a working portrait rich with evidence of what kind of president she might be, and especially of her expansive approach to the signal foreign-policy conundrum of today: whether, when and how the United States should wield its military power in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The Times two-parter is a massive, deeply reported piece of investigation and I won't try to summarize the twists and turns here. Go read it.
What the story highlights, though, is something that might give liberals pause about Clinton: Whatever her reasons, her foreign policy instincts throughout her career have been extremely hawkish. Her worldview seems closer to neoconservative than to the (relatively) liberal-realist leanings of Obama. She is not as bellicose in rhetoric or as disdainful of diplomacy as someone like Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio. But she is reflexively aggressive in foreign policy and instinctively interventionist. Syria is only the most obvious example of the sort of conflict where — if past judgments are prologue — a President Hillary Clinton might take us to war.
One thing that's too bad about the Bernie Sanders
challenge is that while his critique on inequality is powerful, he simply isn't all that comfortable talking about foreign policy. Clinton is pretty clearly dramatically more hawkish than the median Democratic voter. That was a big topic in the 2008 election, but despite more
evidence now for that divide —for that judgment gap — it really hasn't been a factor in the 2016 race.