As much as I was dutifully chugging along on a normal-NC-fare type of post, the fisticuffs that broke out in comments yesterday over America’s hypocritical and destructive foreign policies (340 comments, an unheard-of level for Links, particularly on a summer weekend), indicates that US war-mongering is the top concern of many readers.
It thus seemed more fitting to highlight a truly disconcerting interview of Hillary Clinton by Jeffrey Goldberg in the Altlantic, in which he came off as more temperate that Hillary. Here is why that alone is striking. From his Project S.H.A.M.E. profile (hat tip Lambert):
For the past decade, Jeffrey Goldberg has peddled blatantly false war propaganda with disastrous consequences, fronted for the military-industrial machine, played a key PR role pushing America into war with Iraq, and advanced the agenda of the Israeli military-intel establishment—but he has never had to account for his failures and his lies. Put another way: If Judith Miller was a dweeby Ivy League graduate who worked as a detention camp guard holding Palestinian prisoners, and she never had to answer for her journalistic fraud after being exposed, she would be Jeffrey Goldberg.
Ouch. And to match the Hillary Clinton/ Jeffrey Goldberg pairing, the New York Times gave us an Obama interview with Tom Friedman on the same topics: “Iraq, Putin, and Israel.” Some readers no doubt have a tougher constitution than I do; the Clinton pow-wow alone was tough to take.
What was striking about Hillary Clinton’s remarks, which to its credit, the Atlantic reproduced in full, was how often she depicted the US policy of aggression as morally desirable as well as necessary to protect Christians in the US from jihadis. Funny how the officialdom airbrushes out of the picture the fact that Osama Bin Laden explained the reason for his campaign against the US, and his overarching reason was “Because you attack us and continue to attack us.” I’m no supporter of Arab extremists, but the US has long meddled this region, with perilous little finesse or concern for the long-term ramifications. But it’s simpler for politicians like Hillary Clinton to narrow the frame so as to make those who oppose the US look like cartoon bad guys. Consider this section from her interview:
One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States. Jihadist groups are governing territory. They will never stay there, though. They are driven to expand. Their raison d’être is to be against the West, against the Crusaders, against the fill-in-the-blank—and we all fit into one of these categories. How do we try to contain that? I’m thinking a lot about containment, deterrence, and defeat.
The troubling part is this does not seem to be Clinton simply going macho to overcompensate for the stereotype that women and Democrats are soft on foreign policy; she really seems to believe it. The part of the interview that has been widely commented on is how she paints Obama as being too soft for failing to give more support early on to the rebels in Syria:
I know that the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.
Pray tell, why should we have expected to be more successful in Syria, in a fluid situation working through multiple interests, when we couldn’t build an effective army in Iraq when we had vastly more time, were dealing with comparatively stable organizations, and had much easier access (which meant among other things, it was much easier to deliver materiel and provide trainers of various sorts)? To put it bluntly, we lost the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan due to our inability to build a credible cadre of nationals who could manage the country. If we are incapable of doing that when we have soldiers on the ground and control key cities and resupply routes, how the hell could we possibly do that successfully in Syria?
And then we have the way-past-their-sell-by claims that the US is a force for good in the world. For the good of US corporations, maybe. For the American public and ordinary citizens elsewhere, our recent casualness about creating failed states is hardly the posture of a responsible imperialist. Here are some examples:
JG: Are we so egocentric, so Washington-centric, that we think that our decisions are dispositive? As secretary, did you learn more about the possibilities of American power or the limitations of American power?
HRC: Both, but it’s not just about American power. It’s American values that also happen to be universal values. If you have no political—small “p”—experience, it is really hard to go from a dictatorship to anything resembling what you and I would call democracy. That’s the lesson of Egypt. We didn’t invade Egypt. They did it themselves, and once they did it they looked around and didn’t know what they were supposed to do next.
I think we’ve learned about the limits of our power to spread freedom and democracy. That’s one of the big lessons out of Iraq. But we’ve also learned about the importance of our power, our influence, and our values appropriately deployed and explained.
Hillary tries to depict the antipathy in the American public for foreign misadventures as an overreaction. She paints her desire for more muscular US intervention as a middle ground between a alleged Bush overreach and an unseemly desire of Americans to tend to our own affairs first. But how does she deal with the fact that the US military is already overextended? Oh, she intends to use “smart power.” For instance:
What I’m arguing for is to take a hard look at what tools we have. Are they sufficient for the complex situations we’re going to face, or not? And what can we do to have better tools?
This reads like an effort to pretend that the emperor is not naked.
Hillary runs almost verbatim the standard defenses of Israel, but adds a new chestnut: that Hamas is better at PR. In other words, to the extent that the rest of the world isn’t buying what the US and Israel are selling, it’s because they’ve been snookered by better propagandists: “One issue is that we don’t even tell our own story very well these days.” Gee, as if the revelation that Israel knew it was making up the claim that Hamas was behind the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers went unnoticed abroad, or that the Israeli v. Palestinian death counts over time don’
And Hillary tries to pass off a ten month suspension of settlements as proof that Israel was serious about dealing in good faith with the Palestinians. Help me.
Hillary also presents Putin as an aggressor:
There are more demonstrations against Israel by an exponential amount than there are against Russia seizing part of Ukraine and shooting down a civilian airliner.
Huh? While Russia technically did annex Crimea, it came after a referendum showed that its citizens wanted to join Russia. This was not a military occupation, which is what “seizure implies,” this was exploiting an opportunity that the West stupidly handed to him on a silver platter. And as Lambert would put it, Hillary is way out over her skis in stating that Russia shot down MH17. Is she really that sloppy, or does she assume her audience isn’t paying much attention to the debate over what happened?
We get more Putin demonization:
Now the big mistake was thinking that, okay, the end of history has come upon us, after the fall of the Soviet Union. That was never true, history never stops and nationalisms were going to assert themselves, and then other variations on ideologies were going to claim their space. Obviously, jihadi Islam is the prime example, but not the only example—the effort by Putin to restore his vision of Russian greatness is another.
It’s quite a trick to present Putin reacting to the US attempting to park NATO on its borders as Russia embarking on a program of expansionism.
So the old Hillary Clinton who was drawn to Barry Goldwater has finally shown her colors. Although Goldwater would likely have lost to Johnson, the public then was mindful of what was at stake, and the famed Daisy ad is attributed with increasing Johnson’s margin of victory:
Now that the fear of nuclear war has faded, the stakes apparently aren’t perceived to be as high. Yet the US desire to remake the strategic gameboard in the Middle East has succeeded instead in creating failed states and breeding more and more effective stateless opponents. Rather than recognize our errors, Hillary Clinton looks to be hell bent to double down on this foundering strategy and increase the intensity of its application with Russia. This sort of thinking apparently plays well in the Beltway and with ideologically aligned interlocutors. I can only hope the American public is smart enough to recognize how high the stakes are and remains skeptical of these appeals to break countries for the fun and profit of the military-surveillance complex.