Attending a “holiday party” at the State Department in December 2010, President Obama congratulated himself on appointing Hillary Clinton and declared that “there’s a consensus building that [she] may be one of the best secretaries of state we’ve ever had in this country’s history.” She is relentless, tough, and does not quit, Obama said, “so, thank you, Secretary Clinton, for your leadership . . . for your incredible dedication to our national security, and more broadly, your incredible dedication to a world that’s more peaceful and secure . . . ”
Mr. Obama’s propensity not to allow facts to stand in the way of his self-serving oratory is well known. From his maternal grandfather’s service record in World War II to his paternal grandfather’s alleged suffering at the hands of the British in Kenya; from the murky details of his childhood to the unpleasant facts about his political and religious beliefs, this President fits to a T General MacArthur’s famous quip about FDR as “a man who never told the truth when a lie would suffice.” His gushing tribute to Hillary Clinton goes beyond falsehood, however; it is the exact opposite of reality.
Mrs. Clinton arguably has shown herself to be the worst secretary of state in U.S. history. The style and substance of her foreign policymaking have undermined our national security. Overall, she has made a significant contribution to the world being less peaceful and less secure than when she took office in February 2009.
The claim that “there’s a consensus building” about Mrs. Clinton’s stellar statesmanship is as untrue today as it was two years ago. It is not even an inside-the-Beltway sort of consensus of which the nation remains unaware. Analysts of repute are unimpressed, at best, and often critical. Her standing abroad is abysmal. It ranges from raw hate in the Muslim world—Egyptian protesters threw tomatoes and shoes at her motorcade last July—to contempt (Jerusalem), eye-rolling irritation (Moscow, Beijing, most of Latin America), or grudging endurance (Europe). Except for Tirana and Priština, one is hard pressed to think of a place where she can be confident of a warm welcome.
The ability of a secretary of state to shape the foreign policy of the United States greatly depends on the attitude of the chief executive. Some presidents are their own foreign ministers (notably FDR), while others take crucial advice on foreign policy from figures outside the State Department (George W. Bush). Cordell Hull was the longest-serving of them all (1933-44), but he was never a policymaker. The important decisions—such as the policy of baiting Japan as a means of getting America involved in the war in Europe—were Roosevelt’s. He was not a particularly “bad” secretary of state, because he did not matter. The same verdict applies, since 1945, to William Rogers, Ed Muskie, Al Haig, Lawrence Eagleburger, Warren Christopher, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice.
At the opposite extreme we have Henry Kissinger and, perhaps more strikingly, Dean Acheson, who was entrusted by Harry Truman to devise policies which Truman felt ill equipped to deal with. In his four years as a powerful undersecretary and another four as secretary of state (1945-53) Acheson engineered America’s transformation into a global superpower, starting with the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan and culminating with the creation of NATO, Germany’s rearmament, and the decision to intervene in Korea.
Hillary Clinton belongs to the latter group. She is a powerful secretary of state, and she exercises that power in pursuit of an ideological outlook formed in the late 1960’s. Unlike Acheson, an American gentleman of a peculiar sort, or Kissinger, a cynical Old World intellectual, she is a radical. Her disregard for long-established international norms and mechanisms is as revolutionary on the global scene as Obama’s presidency is domestically.
The partnership has worked well, to the detriment of America and the world. Mrs. Clinton has undermined this country’s national security in various ways—her support for the misnamed Arab Spring, her Syrian policy, her Russian policy, her Balkan policy, her obsessive advocacy of “gay rights” in traditionally Christian countries—but the roots of those decisions are in her view of the United States as an ideological proposition. She does not see America as a real country populated by real people, whose security interests are rationally quantifiable on the basis of tangible costs and benefits. “When I ask people, ‘What do you think the goals of America are today?’ people don’t have any idea,” she told MSNBC in 2007. “We don’t know what we’re trying to achieve. And I think that in a life or in a country you’ve got to have some goals.”
The notion of a country having “goals” is the product of an un-American, corporatist, liberal-fascist paradigm that demands permanent cultural revolution at home and permanent “engagement” abroad. The result is a foreign policy that is part-Ribbentrop, part-New Age. Any outcome desired by Hillary Clinton becomes nonnegotiable; any opposition to it is more than a personal affront; it is an insult to “history.” To lie for the higher truth is a virtue, and to enforce the lie is a test of will.
Subterfuge came first. Mrs. Clinton has reduced the ability of American diplomats to function effectively by signing orders—revealed by WikiLeaks—instructing Foreign Service officers to spy on the diplomats of other nations. She also told State Department officials overseas to collect the fingerprints, facial images, DNA, and iris scans of foreign leaders, and to obtain passwords and credit-card numbers used by foreign officials. Some spies have always masqueraded as diplomats, but under Clinton all American diplomats are rightly assumed to be at least part-time spooks. Remarkably, she has succeeded in evading scrutiny by congressional oversight committees. Three or four decades ago, such revelations would have resulted in the offending secretary of state’s resignation, but the legacy of her husband and his successor have altered the moral climate, making Mrs. Clinton safe from sanction.
More serious in their impact on America’s national security are Hillary Clinton’s strategic blunders. There is no rational explanation for her support for the forces of jihad in North Africa, the “Arab Spring” that is predictably reshaping the region (and particularly Egypt, the key player in that region) into a foreign policy realist’s nightmare. Various theories have been tested—notably the possibility that the friends of Israel are pleased to see the Arab world destabilized and radicalized—but the answer is more complex. Hillary Clinton turned the Egyptian “revolution” into her own pet project because of her ideological makeup: a seemingly popular mass movement was ipso facto historically preordained, and therefore worthy of support. Continuing to press Egyptian generals to surrender to the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of the country is patently not in the American interest.
The process continues in Syria. Assad the secularist is the Hitler du jour; the murderous Ikwanis are the CIA-supported freedom fighters. Having decided on the historically correct outcome, Hillary Clinton has acted true to form: “relentless, tough and does not quit.” She has used atrocity management—starting with the staged slaughter of civilians by the rebels in Houla last May—to misrepresent the insurgency as a full-fledged civil war between two sides: one virtuous, the other evil. Clinton and her team treat intervention as a moral imperative and a test of American leadership. The doubters are maligned in terms unprecedented in diplomatic discourse. That Russia and China vetoed her U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing war against Syria was, according to her U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, disgusting and shameful.
For Mrs. Clinton to lie is nothing new. The habit harks back to 1996 and the fib about her landing in Bosnia under sniper fire. More seriously, in June Secretary Clinton deliberately misrepresented facts regarding the delivery of Russian helicopters to Syria, declaring that it “will escalate the conflict quite dramatically.” The Russians pointed out that the helicopters had been sold and delivered to Syria years ago; they were sent to Russia for refurbishing and were merely being shipped back. A State Department spokeswoman subsequently confirmed the Russian claim. An anonymous senior Pentagon official told the New York Times that Clinton had “exaggerated a little bit”—that is, lied—in order “to put the Russians in a difficult situation.”
In July Mrs. Clinton issued a statement on an alleged massacre in a Syrian village, basing her information solely on unconfirmed rebel sources:
I was deeply saddened and outraged to learn of reports of yet another massacre committed by the Syrian regime that has claimed the lives of over 200 men, women, and children in the village of Traymseh. Credible reports indicate that this unconscionable act was carried out by artillery, tanks, and helicopters—indisputable evidence that the regime deliberately murdered innocent civilians.
“Credible reports” morph into “indisputable evidence” and lead to nonnegotiable demands: “As long as the Assad regime continues to wage war against the Syrian people, the international community must keep increasing the pressure on the regime to . . . allow for a political solution to go forward,” Clinton concluded. Her only possible “political solution” is total defeat for Assad and everyone connected with him, and complete victory for the insurgents.
Speaking at the “Friends of Syria” conference in Paris last July, Mrs. Clinton threatened Russia and China to “get off the sidelines” and accused them of supporting Assad’s regime because of their insistence that the government in Damascus should be included in any interim arrangement. She urged the countries and organizations represented at the summit to “make it clear that Russia and China will pay a price” for that position. Yet only days earlier Mrs. Clinton had agreed to a transition plan, drafted at the end of multilateral talks involving Russia in Geneva, that included Assad’s government officials forming a unity government with the opposition to lead the country to presidential elections.
Mrs. Clinton’s sudden decision to renege on the Geneva agreement and her call on the rest of the world to ensure that Russia and China “pay the price” for rejecting her position is indicative of neurosis, not statesmanship. It will hasten the decline of American power and influence around the world, the long-term process enhanced during her tenure.