Hillary Clinton has made her expertise on foreign policy, both as a senator and as Secretary of State, a major component of her presidential campaign. She has claimed that her experience makes her ready to be Commander-in-Chief. Clearly, her campaign believes that this is a key selling point for an electorate concerned about terrorism and international instability. So, what is Secretary Clinton’s record on foreign policy and war? What exactly would the Clinton Doctrine look like?
Secretary Clinton supported the 2009 military coup in Honduras which removed the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya. Soldiers kidnapped President Zelaya late at night and took him first to a US military base (SOUTHCOM Joint Task Force-Bravo), and then flew him to Costa Rica where he was sent into exile. Secretary Clinton ignored demands from the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States (OAS) for the immediate return of the president to power in Honduras. Instead, she worked with the coup leaders to hold new elections. The elections were held amidst extreme military violence and intimidation, with workers told to back the military’s candidate or lose their jobs. Voter turnout was abysmally low. As a result, the UN and the OAS condemned the election and every European and Latin American country ordered their ambassadors to return home. But Secretary Clinton’s State Department did not break diplomatic relations and kept its ambassador in Honduras. Since the coup and phony US-sponsored elections, human rights abuses and violent crime have become epidemic in Honduras. The US government, under Secretary Clinton’s leadership, supplied military and economic aid to the illegitimate government in direct violation of the Foreign Assistance Act.
Secretary Clinton has criticized the Obama administration’s policy in Ukraine, urging greater military involvement. That is hardly surprising in view of the fact that the Clinton Foundation received $8.6 million from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation located in Ukraine. Pinchuk became wealthy in the pipe-building industry and has significantly funded a far-right wing government in the Ukraine. In fact, many employees of that foundation are now officials of the proto-fascist Ukrainian regime.
In 2002, Senator Clinton voted for the invasion of Iraq. During the 2002 debate on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution, she uncritically accepted false claims about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, long-range missile capabilities, and ties to Al-Qaeda. Senator Clinton said the war was both necessary and legal. Fourteen years later, she says that she regrets the vote to invade and was misled. But the simple fact is that she never tried to find the truth. She was not misled; she was entirely consistent in her predilection for disastrous war.
First, she knew better. The results of intense and thorough weapons inspections over the previous four years found no evidence of WMDs or their production in Iraq. Second, the 2003 National Intelligence Estimate stated that there was no connection between Iraq and Al-Qaeda and raised debilitating questions about the claims that Iraq had WMDs. But, Senator Clinton says that she never even bothered to read that report. She claims her staff read it and briefed her on it. The truth is that no one on her staff had the proper security clearance to read the report. Thus, that explanation is a falsehood. Third, she never bothered to read the reports of security analysts, U.N. weapons inspectors and foreign policy researchers who debunked the Bush administration’s position, all of whom claimed that Iraq was in fact disarming not arming.
So Senator Clinton voted for a war that destabilized an entire region of the world, created a safe haven for ISIS, and cost thousands of lives without even the slightest attempt to do due diligence on her vote.
Senator Clinton was also unsatisfied with a single war in the Middle East. In 2006, she said that the United States was not properly concerned, and not sufficiently aggressive towards Iran. She claimed the threat of a nuclear Iran was imminent. She criticized European allies for their diplomatic overtures toward Iran, and specifically toward demilitarization of Iran’s nuclear program. She made very clear her position that military options should actively be considered. In her 2008 presidential campaign, she promised to obliterate Iran and much like Donald Trump, refused to take a tactical nuclear strike against Iran off the table: “I don’t believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons.” Her statements on Iran are both provocative and hypocritical. First, she demanded “a robust military presence in the region.” Second, she correctly accused Iran of being an authoritarian theocratic state, but then proposed that we “increase security cooperation” with the authoritarian theocratic states of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.
Secretary Clinton has been a supporter of the military occupation of Western Sahara working closely with the authoritarian Moroccan Kingdom to prevent an internationally sanctioned and negotiated referendum on self-determination for that region. Under international law, the Sahrawis must be given the option of independence from an authoritarian theocratic Moroccan state. Instead, Secretary Clinton has sided with the Kingdom in advocating “mediation,” no doubt backed by military force, with the Polisario Front. It is a plan which would effectively deny the territory’s population any effective voice in their future.
President Obama was reluctant to support a NATO operation to depose Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Secretary Clinton persuaded him to make what he admits was a terrible mistake. As a result, Libya has descended into violent instability, governed by tribal warlords, and populated by ISIS terrorists. Both the Defense Department and the CIA argued that the US had no national interest in the Libyan civil war. But Secretary Clinton got her way and Defense Secretary Bob Gates resigned in protest. The irony, of course, is that while the military was urging diplomacy, the diplomat-in-chief wanted war.
In Syria, Secretary Clinton supported training and arming insurgents who were unvetted and unreliable. Rather than supporting effective policies, Secretary Clinton uncritically allied with the authoritarian government of Turkey in calling for a no-fly zone which would effectively allow Turkey to continue a genocidal war against the Kurds.
Secretary Clinton, predictably, supported a vicious attack on democracy, joining with Saudi Arabia in brutally repressing nonviolent pro-democracy protesters.
Once again in Yemen, Secretary Clinton backed the Saudi military campaign in support of a dictator, General Hadi, rather than support a pro-democracy movement which would have allowed a coalition of activists to form a transitional government leading to democratic election.
The facts are simple. Secretary Clinton has never met an authoritarian theocratic monarchy in the Gulf States that she can’t arm and support in the face of democratic opposition. Secretary Clinton has never seen a right-wing coup d’etat she can’t support. Secretary Clinton seems unable to use diplomacy not predicated on military force. In 2016, with US troop strength being markedly increased on the Russian border; with hundreds of US military units being dispersed across Africa; with more troops in Korea; and with seemingly endless war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria; the true meaning of the Clinton Doctrine is crystal clear. When Secretary Clinton tells Africa to “get over” centuries of brutal colonization, and when she finds democratic elections in Latin America “dangerous” to the corporations she takes millions of dollars in campaign funds from, the Clinton Doctrine is indeed the same doctrine as that of her “mentor” and “hero” Henry Kissinger. The Clinton Doctrine is endless war, voracious imperialism, and American exceptionalism in opposition to popular democratic rule worldwide.
Gary W. Potter, PhD
Professor, School of Justice Studies
Eastern Kentucky University