Thursday, June 02, 2016

Hillary's foreign policy speech

The big political news today was Hillary Clinton's foreign policy speech in which she attacked Trump pretty aggressively.

It got favorable reaction from the Democratic side, of course. Charlie Pierce praised it in Hillary Is Finally Figuring Out How to Attack Trump Esquire Politics Blog 06/202/2016. His post includes this pithy comment, "He, Trump is a leap in the dark on every issue known to man."

But Pierce isn't an uncritical Hillary-bot by any means:

But the speech doesn't do anything to assuage the concerns of people who wonder if she might be a tad too hawkish herself.

If the only difference between her and He, Trump is that she's not as reckless as he is, that's a cold consolation after 20 years of stalemated conflicts. Nobody's as reckless as he is.
The Hillary-bots at the somehow-Hillary-campaign-connected Blue Nation Review of course thought it was wonderful (Melissa McEwan, Hillary’s Epic Takedown of Donald Was One of the Best Moments of 2016 06/02/20160. And that the villain of the day was ... Bernie Sanders. Of course. (Melissa McEwan, One Person Attacked Hillary for Her Brilliant, Blistering Destruction of Donald: Bernie Sanders 06/02/2016)

Those folks at Blue Nation Review should review propaganda articles from the former Communist East Germany. I'm sure they would get some tips on subtlety and sophistication. But then it doesn't really take either to write variations every day on the sole theme of "Hillary is wonderful, Hillary is the best, Hillary can do no wrong, Hillary is invicible except for nasty Bernie Sander taking primary votes away from her."

Fred Kaplan in Hillary Clinton Just Kicked Trump in the Shins Slate 06/02/2016 wasn't quite in Blue Nation Review mode. But almost: "The all-but-inevitable Democratic nominee showed that she’s fit to be her own attack dog, mauling her ill-matched Republican foe to shreds without getting muddy in the process." His column is actually just a summary of some of her main applause lines. He ends with, "This election suddenly got a little bit fun."

Give Hillary this: she's attracted quite a bit of uncritical adulation!

Time has the full text of her speech. (Katie Reilly, Read Hillary Clinton’s Speech on Donald Trump and National Security 06/02/2016)

Here are some of my highlights: "If Donald gets his way, they’ll be celebrating in the Kremlin. We cannot let that happen." Yeah, Cold War nostalgia, that's just what everyone wants to hear from a Democratic Presidential candidate. Maybe she can run campaign commercials like this, How to Spot a Communist:



On the Iran agreement: "I got to work leading the effort to impose crippling global sanctions." And:

Now we must enforce that deal vigorously. And as I’ve said many times before, our approach must be “distrust and verify.” The world must understand that the United States will act decisively if necessary, including with military action, to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. In particular, Israel’s security is non-negotiable. They’re our closest ally in the region, and we have a moral obligation to defend them.
And this is different from the neocon position, how? Oh, right, Hillary can do no wrong.

"Moscow has taken aggressive military action in Ukraine, right on NATO’s doorstep." But encouraging and supporting destabilizing regime changes in Ukraine, Honduras, Paraguay, Brazil, who knows how many countries in the Middle East, why that's being "firm but wise with our rivals."

"And I understand a lot of Americans have concerns about our trade agreements – I do too." Oh, yeah. So she's been saying during the campaign. Not terribly convincingly, but at least she expressing some concern during the campaign.

Over the past year, I’ve laid out my plans for defeating ISIS.

We need to take out their strongholds in Iraq and Syria by intensifying the air campaign and stepping up our support for Arab and Kurdish forces on the ground. We need to keep pursuing diplomacy to end Syria’s civil war and close Iraq’s sectarian divide, because those conflicts are keeping ISIS alive. We need to lash up with our allies, and ensure our intelligence services are working hand-in-hand to dismantle the global network that supplies money, arms, propaganda and fighters to the terrorists. We need to win the battle in cyberspace.
At least she didn't repeat her proposal for the war escalation a no-fly zone would mean, although she has advocated just that during this campaign. And she didn't talk about those famous Syrian Moderates. So we can at least be thankful for that.

"And of course we need to strengthen our defenses here at home." Because we don't have nearly enough intrusive surveillance and abusive law-enforcement practices, I guess.

And through all his loose talk, there’s one constant theme: demonizing Muslims and playing right into the hands of ISIS’. His proposal to ban 1.5 billion Muslims from even coming to our country doesn’t just violate the religious freedom our country was founded on. It’s also a huge propaganda victory for ISIS. And it alienates the very countries we need to actually help us in this fight.

A Trump Presidency would embolden ISIS. We cannot take that risk.
Because we have to evaluate everything from the standpoint of the immediate existential threat to the United States represented by ISIS. Hillary is the best.

"America stands up to countries that treat women like animals, or people of different races, religions or ethnicities as less human." Particularly when we want to bomb them and kill lots of men, women and children of whatever race or religion happens to be near our exploding bombs.

I find only four uses of "commander-in-chief" in this speech. I guess by today's standards that quasi-pacifist. Here one of them, "Americans aren’t just electing a President in November. We’re choosing our next commander-in-chief – the person we count on to decide questions of war and peace, life and death."

I know it's become common as dirt for politicians to talk about the President as "our" Commander-in-Chief. But what that quaint old Constitution of 1789 actually says is, "The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United Sates, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States." The President is not anybody else's Commander-in-Chief, ever. (See: Gary Wills, At Ease, Mr. President New York Times 01/27/2007)

Hillary: "He has said that he would order our military to carry out torture and the murder of civilians who are related to suspected terrorists – even though those are war crimes." But will Hillary be any more willing than Barack Obama has been to prosecute high American officials involved in those very war crimes? I suppose there's a vanishingly small possibility that she would.

And what would a Democratic speech be with putting in a plug for some nice moderate Republican? Like John McCain: "he has the gall to say that prisoners of war like John McCain aren’t heroes." Of course, that was a scummy thing for Trump to say. But it didn't seem to phase his supporters a bit.

"I believe with all my heart that America is an exceptional country." How much more damage to the world and to the US itself is going to continue to be done in the name of that ugly brand of narrow nationalism commonly known as American Exceptionalism?

"His economic plans would add more than $30 trillion – that’s trillion with a “t” – $30 trillion to our national debt over the next 20 years." Nobody but a few unreconstructed 1990s style Clintonites actually care about the national debt. Or the deficit.

Obviously I've highlighted passages of the speech to criticize them from an antiwar perspective. But her criticisms of Trump in the speech are on the mark. And most of what she had to say about American policy was couched in sensible, realistic terms. And she is certainly more qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief (in the Constitutional sense) than Donald Trump.

But, as Charlies Pierce also notes, "If the only difference between her and He, Trump is that she's not as reckless as he is, that's a cold consolation after 20 years of stalemated conflicts. Nobody's as reckless as he is."

And the speech doesn't do much to eliminate my chronic worry about Clinton's campaign. The underlying themes of the speech were her competence and At Least I'm Not A Republican. Or even more narrowly, At Least I'm Not Trump. For all the nice rhetoric jabs at Trump, it's essentially an appeal to the comfortable that she will keep them comfortable. And, once again, that may be enough this year against Trump.

A couple of critical perspectives on Hillary Clinton's foreign policy:

Deirdre Fulton, Clinton's Foreign Policy Speech Marred by Inherent Contradictions Commons Dreams 06/02/2016

Lesley Clark, Clinton pillories Trump’s foreign policy, but history says it won’t help McClatchy News 06/02/20106

Robert Parry, Yes, Hillary Clinton Is a Neocon Consortium News 04/16/2016