Mrs Hillary Clinton – recently dubbed «Queen of Chaos» by the veteran journalist and commentator Diana Johnstone – is a Democratic frontrunner in the ongoing presidential race.
President Obama said that, based on her «outstanding» track record at the State Department, she would make «an excellent President». To see if he is right one should look at Mrs Clinton’s record as a lawmaker and top diplomat. Will her taking office in January 2017 improve the US standing in the world and make the foreign policy more coherent (something it badly lacks at present)?
Clinton herself has labeled her experience as the perfect training to be Commander-in-Chief. Her advisers clearly think her experience will be an asset touting her «iron will, vision, and empathy» and dogged determination.
The eventual outcome of this duel over Clinton's legacy could go a long way to deciding the 2016 election, with key episodes of her tenure likely to play a starring role in the argument should she win the Democratic nomination.
Here is a rundown of some of the major moments of Clinton's years as Senator and Secretary of State.
Her hawkish record during eight years in the Senate led to strong criticism from progressive Democrats and played a major role in her unexpected defeat in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries.
In 2002 she voted for the invasion of Iraq (the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002). During the debate over the resolution authorizing the invasion, Clinton accepted all the Bush administration's claims regarding Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, long-range missile capabilities and alleged ties to al-Qaeda.
Unfettered large-scale weapons inspections had been going on in Iraq for nearly four months with no signs of any WMD or their production facilities at the time the Bush administration launched the March 2003 attack. Yet Hillary Clinton argued that the invasion was necessary and lawful.
Though the 2003 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq was inaccurate in a number of respects, it did challenge the notion of any operational ties between the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda and questioned some of the more categorical claims by President Bush about Iraq's WMD. However, Senator Clinton didn't even bother to read it.
She now claims that it wasn't necessary for her to have actually read the document herself because she was briefed on the contents of the report. However, since no one on her staff was authorized to read the report, it's unclear who could have actually briefed her. She also apparently ignored the plethora of information provided by academics, independent strategic analysts, former UN inspectors, and others, which challenged the Bush administration’s claims and correctly noted that Iraq had likely achieved at least qualitative disarmament.
In 2006, she accused the Bush administration of failing to take the threat of a nuclear Iran seriously enough, criticized the administration for allowing European nations to lead diplomatic efforts, and insisted that the United States should make it clear that military options were still being actively considered. Similarly, during the 2008 presidential campaign, she accused Obama of being «naïve» and «irresponsible» for wanting to engage with Iran diplomatically. Not only did she promise to «obliterate» Iran if it used its nonexistent nuclear weapons to attack Israel, she refused to rule out a US nuclear first strike on that country, saying, «I don’t believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons».
Clinton often seems oblivious to the contradictions in her views. For example, to challenge Iran, which she views as an authoritarian theocratic regime, she has pledged to «sustain a robust military presence in the region» and «increase security cooperation with our Gulf allies» – namely, other authoritarian theocratic regimes like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, which also back extremist Islamist groups.
As a lawmaker and State Secretary, she always has been a strong backer of Morocco’s ongoing occupation of Western Sahara, working with the autocratic Moroccan kingdom to block the long-scheduled referendum on self-determination that would almost certainly lead to a vote for independence.
As a recognized self-governing territory (a colony), international law requires that the Sahrawis be given the option of independence, along with other alternatives. Clinton instead has called for international acceptance of Morocco’s dubious «autonomy» plan and for «mediation» between the monarchy and the exiled nationalist Polisario Front, a process that would not offer the people of the territory a say in their future.
Honduras was an illustrative example of her ability to handle major international issues as the top diplomat (Hillary Rodham Clinton served as the 67th United States Secretary of State, under President Barack Obama, from 2009 to 2013.)
In 2009 Hillary Clinton backed the military coup in Honduras to topple the democratically elected President, Manuel Zelaya, and do away with another left-wing government in Latin America. Coup leaders seized President Zelaya in the middle of the night and flew him to exile in Costa Rico. But first they stopped at a US military base in Honduras, SOUTHCOM Joint Task Force-Bravo. Hillary said it was a «surprise visit». The demands by both the Organization of American States and the United Nations for the immediate restoration of President Zelaya were ignored by then State Secretary.
In her book «Hard Choices», she writes: «I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere. We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot».
The campaign was marked by violations and violence. Employees were told to vote or lose their jobs. Despite all the pressure, just under half the voters turned out, at 49%.
It was a military coup, said the UN General Assembly.
The Organization of American States (OAS) came to the same conclusion.
The entire EU withdrew its countries’ ambassadors, as did Latin American nations. But the United States did not, making it virtually the only nation of note to maintain diplomatic relations with the coup government.
Thanks to Wikileaks, it has become known from a cable from the Honduran embassy sent just the day prior how certain the State Department was that Zelaya’s removal was a cut-and-dried military coup.
An op-ed in the New York Times by Dana Frank writes, «It’s time to acknowledge the foreign policy disaster that American support for the Porfirio Lobo administration in Honduras has become. Ever since the June 28, 2009, coup that deposed Honduras’s democratically elected president, José Manuel Zelaya, the country has been descending deeper into a human rights and security abyss. That abyss is in good part the State Department’s making».
Last year, Matthew Pulver published an exclusive article that accuses Hillary of selling out Honduras for money. The author writes that «Hillary and Obama illegally continued to provide military and economic foreign aid to the coup-government in violation of the Foreign Assistance Act». As a result, Honduras «suffers from rampant crime and impunity for human rights abuses».
Just a few days ago, a member of the United States Congress, Betty McCollum, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry condemning the country’s continued financial support of the Honduran government in spite of a catalogue of horrifying human rights abuses committed by officials.
Hillary Clinton influenced the administration to make it act her way on a major international issue. The result is obvious. Honduras is another reason why Latin American countries loath the United States.
Chinese leaders got to know Clinton well when she reigned in Foggy Bottom. If the «Queen of Chaos» takes office in January 2017, that could hamper US policy aimed at making progress in the relations with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who values interpersonal relationships in diplomatic efforts. In 2010, when Google publicly accused China of hacking into the email accounts of human rights activists and dissidents, Clinton used the incident as the basis for a sweeping speech on internet freedoms.
That sparked a testy response from state news agency Xinhua, which said her speech was «inconsistent with the facts».
The agency emphasized that «It is common practice for countries, including the United States, to take necessary measures to administer the Internet according to their own laws and regulations».
Several times Clinton has slammed China for its «deplorable» human rights record.
Actually, she started to do it as far back as 1995.
Clinton’s tenure overlapped with an increase in tensions between China and its neighbors – especially regarding disputed territories in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. It also overlapped with Beijing’s growing assertiveness, after the country’s economy emerged largely unscathed from the Great Recession. Much Chinese anger seems to come from Hillary publically standing up to China – something she pointedly did in press interviews and on most of the seven trips she took there as Secretary of State.
Outlining US Asia strategy, Clinton listed «advancing democracy and human rights» as one of the «six key lines of action» to be perceived by Chinese leaders as kind of hostile intent.
Hillary Clinton is known as the author of Asia-Pacific Pivot or rebalance policy.
The contours of the new strategy were outlined in her article America's Pacific Century published by Foreign Policy in 2011.
The rebalance announced by Hillary Clinton in 2011 has been seen by Beijing as hostile policy pursuing the goal to contain China.
More specifically, Chinese foreign policy analysts feel she spent far too much time criticizing China and not enough time accommodating it. After Clinton left the State Department, the nationalist newspaper the Global Times summarized her tenure in the article entitled «The Departure of an ‘Adversary’», writing that «in just four years in office, Hillary has quickly become, in the eyes of Chinese netizens, the most hated US political figure».
Truth be told, the US will have problems in the crucially important relationship with Beijing if Hillary Clinton takes the coveted office.