Hillary the Hawk

Much ink has been spilled regarding Hillary Clinton’s 2002 vote supporting the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. Many news outlets mention it merely as an aside, as if only to pay lip service to the serious questions such a stance raises. To be fair, Mrs. Clinton herself admits her mistake: in her 2014 memoir Hard Choices, the former Secretary of State and current Presidential frontrunner writes “I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.”

Such a candid admission of one’s mistakes is certainly refreshing. But unfortunately for Mrs. Clinton, words are worse than worthless during election season. When every one of a candidate’s lines is being scrubbed clean by her campaign staff, the only accurate barometer of a candidate’s stance is her past record. And in Mrs. Clinton’s case, a glance at her record reveals a galling disconnect between her actions as Secretary of State and the anti-war attitudes to which she pays deference in hindsight.

In a May 2014 article, part of a series analyzing the foreign policy stances of likely 2016 presidential contenders, Bob and Barbara Dreyfuss of The Nation describe Mrs. Clinton — in terms of her foreign policy — as a “right-wing realist” who was among those in the Obama administration most keen on employing American military might. The authors extensively cite the memoirs of Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense under the Bush and Obama administrations. Gates writes that “on the crucial decision to escalate the Afghan war in 2009 and then to slow the drawdown in 2010, he and Clinton were on the same side.” The article goes on to detail Mrs. Clinton’s role in (successfully) persuading President Obama to order airstrikes in Libya and (unsuccessfully) arguing for the use of military force in Syria.

Hillary Clinton’s credentials as a war hawk were clearly established during her four-year tenure as Secretary of State. Nonetheless, it is expected that a great deal of President Obama’s supporters — who were urged time and again during Mr. Obama’s presidency that America’s best option was to tread lightly — will line up behind Mrs. Clinton. In today’s America, where voters are motivated more by partisan loyalty than by substantive values, liberals will gladly forgive the mistakes of their candidate as they have done so often in the past. Look no further than President Obama’s reversal on Senator Obama’s 2006 call for “a way forward to make sure that we can stop terrorists while protecting the privacy, and liberty, of innocent Americans.” With a Republican in the Oval Office, Mr. Obama was opposed to the expansion of the surveillance state; upon assuming the Presidency himself, he promptly shifted his stance.

This is the reality of a bipartisan political system such as ours, plagued by entrenched interests. Voters have divided themselves into one of two camps whose policies — particularly regarding foreign affairs, but also on subjects such as the national security state and economic globalization – have taken on a startling resemblance in recent years. We may have two parties, but they think with one mind on a whole host of vital issues. The limp American left’s inevitable embrace of Hillary Clinton’s right-wing realism reflects the current state of American politics. When advocated by both sides of the political aisle, the American military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan may become a model for the years to come.

Raghav Sharma
Raghav Sharma is a writer, filmmaker, and political activist studying at the University of Pittsburgh. He writes on electoral and campaign finance issues, foreign policy, and economic affairs.

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