Monday, November 17, 2008

THE COST OF CLINTON IN THE STATE DEPARTMENT

Justin Raimondo, Anti War - Hillary [Clinton] opposed every significant peace initiative [Obama] put forward during the campaign, including a timetable to get us out of Iraq and direct negotiations with our adversaries. She derided this last - and very encouraging - stance as "naive" and "dangerous." . . .

Robert Gates, who has almost certainly been asked to stay on at the Pentagon, is reportedly negotiating with Team Obama over the conditions of his extended tenure: either nix a rapid-exit scenario or else forget it. Hillary, who opposed a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces - and suggested, instead, that they might stay on indefinitely in Kurdistan - is in a much stronger position to make demands, and you can bet she will.

Another big difference between the Obama wing and the Clintonites is over how to deal with Iran. While Obama himself has not ruled out the use of force, and has pledged to do "everything" - or, as he put it, "Everything!" - to keep nukes out of the mullahs' hands, his big innovation here is to advocate direct and unconditional talks between Washington and Tehran, even going so far as to say that he would personally meet with the Iranians, not to mention the North Koreans, the Venezuelans, and the Cubans.

To ordinary human beings, this policy may seem entirely reasonable, even uncontroversial: after all, we negotiated with the Soviets, who weren't exactly pussycats, and Ronald Reagan even got them to disarm their warheads aimed at Europe . . .

However, the people who make foreign policy for our country are far from ordinary: they are a close, tight-knit little community with their own peculiar prejudices and an inherent narrowness of vision. . . In the tradition-bound world of U.S. foreign policy, innovation is frowned upon. How many times have we had that old establishment adage about how "politics stops at the water's edge" thrown at us? This cliche inverts the reality: the foreign policy of a country is in large part determined by the internal struggles of rival political factions, and nothing underscores this general operating principle more pointedly than the looming takeover of the State Department by the Clintons.

I use the plural because a Clinton appointment really means both of them: for all intents and purposes, we'll actually have two secretaries of state, like the ancient consuls of Rome. Speaking of the Romans, this was a familiar stratagem of Roman emperors, sending rivals off to distant diplomatic posts or to govern provinces on the far frontiers of the empire. By sending the Clintons off on a four-year world tour, Obama rids himself of two rather formidable - and uncontrollable - rivals. He also rids himself of sole responsibility for the conduct and success of his foreign policy.

Remember the Clinton ad about the phone call at three in the morning? Well, now it looks like it'll be Hillary making that call, if and when it has to be made - a clever bit of political jiu-jitsu on Obama's part that has generally gone unremarked amid the praise for the alleged smartness of the Clinton appointment. What's not so smart, however, is that he's essentially conceding the realm of foreign affairs to the Clintons.

What we'll have, in effect, is a co-presidency, with Obama taking the lead on domestic matters, selling Congress and the nation on the broad outlines of a "New" New Deal. The Clintons, on the other hand, will be put in charge of shoring up the Empire and reassuring our allies that the only "change" will be a regression: don't worry, we're just going back to the 1990s.

That, unfortunately, is good enough for many "progressives," who supported the Kosovo war - the signature intervention of the Clinton years - and said nothing while Bill Clinton regularly ordered bombing of Iraqi cities in between (or during) Oval Office trysts. Yet Bill is the more pacific of the two. He resisted, for a time, the pressure from the neocons and the George Soros wing of the Democratic Party to intervene in the Balkans. It was Hillary who demanded it, as Gail Sheehy relates in her biography of Mrs. Clinton:

"Hillary expressed her views by phone to the president: 'I urged him to bomb.' The Clintons argued the issue over the next few days. [The president expressed] what-ifs: What if bombing promoted more executions? What if it took apart the NATO alliance? Hillary responded, 'You cannot let this go on at the end of a century that has seen the major holocaust of our time. What do we have NATO for if not to defend our way of life?' The next day the president declared that force was necessary."

That the Balkan civil war was hardly a "holocaust" in the sense that Hillary meant it, that a gangster state in Kosovo is the mutant fruit of our intervention, that the conflict prefigured a much larger confrontation with the Russians that today threatens a full-scale cold war - I won't even bother pointing this out to our triumphant liberals, who are too busy celebrating their election victory to spot the perils ahead. . . .

The neoconservative publicists Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan famously described the goal of U.S. foreign policy in the post Soviet era as the imposition of a "benevolent global hegemony," and the liberal interventionists would agree, with the added proviso that it must be truly benevolent. It is imperialism with a politically correct face, moral uplift married to unmitigated militarism - a deadly combination under any circumstances, and positively lethal in the present atmosphere.

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