Sec. Hilldawg and Indispensable FP

This is Sec. Clinton on Meet the Press last week. The first 30 minutes or so is worth the watch as it is focused on foreign policy and her role as Sec. of State.  The last bit is fluffero related to her thoughts on Obama’s opinon on Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s arrest, whether she will run for President again, and whether she likes Obama or not.

And the trademark Hillary laugh-cle (laugh/cackle for those keeping score at home) makes an appearance as does Hillary telling countries of the world they are very naughty children and Mama Hillary will put them in their right place (in this case about North Korea).

So be it.  She’s clear, she is well versed in the subjects she is attending to, and clearly has a more substantial seat the Executive Table than any Secretary of State probably has since Albright or very possibly James Baker, the last Secretary of State who actually knew what he was doing.

But in the end this is (unsurprising given the individual) more evidence that Obama’s foreign policy is basically Clinton Foreign Policy redux.  It’s America as Indispensable Nation.  She in fact all but says the phrase in minute 29:  “America cannot solve all the world’s problems alone, but the world cannot solve it’s problems without the United States.”

Actually Madam Secretary, depending on thet problem, it very well might be able to solve (some) of it’s problems minus the US.

Now it’s certainly better that the US takes seriously the role of other nations and isn’t replicating the first term of Bush II with its arrogance and wanton disregard for much of world opinion.  And certainly to be fair to Obama & Clinton, they are still dealing with the aftermath of the awful failures of Bush’s administration.  A process that itself began under George W. Bush circa 2006 with the firing of Rumsfeld, the hiring of Sec. Bob Gates, the more nuanced response (than a John McCain) to the Russian-Georgian war, and the signing of the Security Agreement with Iraq calling for the timetable for withdrawal (i.e. Obama’s campaign policy).  I know it’s sorta chic to say Obama is Bush’s third term, but that cuts both ways.  It would just as accurate, I think even more so, to say that really the second half of Bush’s second term was the beginning of Obama’s first term foreign policy-wise.

In terms of Af-Pak as now “Obama’s War”, you can’t say he didn’t make perfectly clear during his campaign that he was going to ramp in those areas.

In the end, though the Obama Team still sees the US as the lone superpower and all the rest of the countries in the world as responsible to what we declare.  Now they are clearly bigger fans than the prior administration of creating diplomatic “coalitions of the willing” to put pressure on said countries, but fundamentally the view is the US is in the right, is the moral leader and lodestar geopolitically and everyone else must conform to that standard (and receive goodies) or face pressure (mostly in the form of sanctions with this administration).

We have gone from a (lone) hyperpower world, to a hyper-polar one.  

Given that the kind of foreign policy from the US I would like to see is a ways off, if ever, this is about the best I can hope for (which isn’t saying all that much sadly) in the interim.

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19 thoughts on “Sec. Hilldawg and Indispensable FP

  1. The ‘Indispensable Nation’ kitsch is such standard boilerplate from that part of the Democratic establishment that at this point I think it can be safely dismissed as almost meaningless in terms of characterizing overall policy in favor of a bottom-up analysis of rhetoric and actions on specific problems. (which is to say Hillary Clinton will be Hillary Clinton; we all know why she was appointed; Obama can’t very well script her every public appearance; there’s no evidence that except on sensitive questions where her latitude is tightly prescribed we can assume her thinking closely reflects his).

    Obama has made enough major speeches and encountered enough in the foreign arena already I think that we can use his direct words and actions to begin to characterize the approach rather than decade-old vestigal malapropisms spilling from a Top Diplomat struggling to gain relevancy. (Sorry, I’m feeling spicy this morning.)

    That’s not to say that her appearance wasn’t appaling, nor that asimilar conclusion to the one you draw couldn’t be reached by looking at the president’s record thus far if you’re looking from the right angle. Honduras certainly would go in your column, but I think Iran is a data point you’d have to do some accounting for. It was said in many places Obama was rolled by Putin, and in other place that he was rolled by Netanyahu; I think the jury’s obviously still out on both those, though the sounds on Russia haven’t been encouraging.

    There is certainly a fair case that with Secretary Hillary “Stuck in the Nineties” Clinton and Joe “Veep on the Loose” Biden both hurling provocations to the East and West, the message as well as the record are at best mixed at this point as to whether we are seeing something closer to Clinton, Bush I, or something new altogether.


    • I think on Iran it’s very much this kind of view. Iran is told they can’t have nuclear weapons at the same time that the US inks a deal to recognize India’s (though they broke the same int’l law), we obviously deal with Israel and Pakistan (again both flagrant violators of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty).

      So we say Iran can have nuclear energy but now even the rods. Sure Obama has offered talks in a way Bush didn’t, but basically it’s the same policy. And all the talk of creating a nuclear shield in the Middle East if Iran goes weaponized nuclear is revived Carter Doctrine-ism.


  2. The people in Washington DC, statists, nationalists and regular old Hoorah Amuricuns, don’t understand that it’s principles over nations, that there is nothing inherently superior to being an American and living in the U.S. — any country which developes the classical liberal principles of free markets, non-intervention, individual rights, equality of pursuit, de-centralization — and moves away from central planning — can create a society, an economy and a people far superior to where we’re headed with our present statist direction.


    • obviously there’s a lot to like in that formulation. but what happens when other nations go rogue or become threatening/overly powerful over their neighbors. Liberal Internationalism’s central insight–and here I’m with them on this one–is that you have to engage on the world stage to make the world “safe for liberalism”. And generally the best way to do so is via multi-lateral institutions. Otherwise when other nations go rogue (as they eventually will), the liberal nations will likely move towards softer authoritarian forms of government in reaction to the climate of fear.

      The best policy I think the US could be doing now is helping to create regional security frameworks. Like an Asian version of NATO for example. That would be a proactive rather than a reactive policy which is what we know have. Sure Obama & Crew are more in favor of ad hoc diplomatic exercises to deal with (most of) the hotspots, though they will go it alone if they want (see Pakistan), but it’s all reactive to events.


      • Does creating yet another trans-national committee that bad faith actors can then hijack or veto into impotence really strike you as the best option? I don’t think there’s a dearth of such organizations already or were you going more along the lines of Mcain’s league of democracies?


        • I’m not talking about another UN. I’m talking regional security arrangements so groups can deal with their own stuff. Again like NATO. A strengthened African Union. An ASEAN-like military security agreement. Basically all that stands in the way of that actually is North Korea.

          No, heaven’s no, not another UN.


  3. P.J. O’Rourke famously reviewed _It Takes a Village to Raise a Child_ thusly: “You are the child. Washington D.C. is the village.”

    Now the rest of the world is the child. The US is the village.


  4. I’ve never disliked Hillary. Hell I voted for her in the primary (Though the O-man excessively green and insufficiently treacherous). So I suppose I count as biased when I say that I think she’s done a perfectly fine job at State. She’s certainly toed the administration line and advanced the presidents positions.


  5. I rather liked Hill’s performance on MTP, it was a far more enlightening hour than Sens. Dorgan and DeMint bickering about healthcare on This Week.

    Anywhoo, I don’t really take issue with her formulation if you see her as talking about global issues and not issues that happen in the world. I mean, if she’s referring to the DPRK, which has made us a focal point of their diplomatic intransigence, or climate change, the financial crisis, piracy, human trafficking, etc…. All of these initiatives are in no small part reliant on US efforts, staffed by US personnel, funded by the US, or involve US corporations.

    At another level, when you’re dealing with the stark power and capability differentials between the US and other powers, even American inaction is involvement. Or at least a factor. So, in that regard, I quite agree with Secretary Clinton.

    On the moral leader comments, I think it’s variable. We pat ourselves on the back with regards to Iran/DPRK/Syria. However, you don’t really hear how morally in the right we are when we’re talking about bilateral relations with Japan (whose criminal justice system is shockingly barbaric), or Israel (even when we disagree with them on settlements).

    Color me cynical but I think our view of national morality seems to fit how convenient a frame it provides for the issue of the day rather than either a coherent set of principles or even self-image. Which is why we laud the moral equivalence of convenient allies and backwards barbarism of enemies. Whether or not that reflects reality at all.

    finally, it strikes me as almost a prerequisite that the foreign policy principles would always see the US as in the right. After all, right for them isn’t a matter of global outcomes, but pursuing American interests, however defined.


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