Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy
David Adesnik offers a trenchant analysis of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy beginning with the observation that, “The challenge with Hillary (as with so many politicians) is to separate the tactical opinions from the heartfelt principles.”
Aside from “an interest in women’s issues in the developing world, especially micro-lending programs,” he finds little evidence for any consistent, strongly held principles. After reading her autobiography, he “feel[s] pretty comfortable saying that Hillary has nothing much to say about foreign policy or national security at all.”
In my review, I pointed out some of the vague comments she made about Vietnam, as well as other foreign policy issues, in order to illustrate just how unformed Hillary’s approach to foreign affairs seems to be.
By the same token, Hillary’s refusal to renounce her initial support for the war in Iraq has antagonized much of the Democratic base. I find it very interesting to watch Hillary on this issue, since my working hypothesis is that she saw exactly how John Kerry was raked over the coals for being inconsistent, and believes that it is more important now to play to independent voters by being consistent than to play to her base by breathing fire.
In other words, I think that tactical considerations are the decisive factor for Hillary, but her timeline has always extended out to 2008, so she doesn’t rush about taking all sorts of inconsistent positions like your average legislator.
Being largely non-ideological on foreign policy issues and taking positions on that that are calculated for maximum electoral advantage is hardly unusual for American politicians, even those running for president. Aside from some vague sentiments about Haitian immigration that he later regretted expressing once elected, Bill Clinton got elected without a foreign policy agenda. With the notable and consistent exception of free trade, he left office without obviously having developed a coherent view of foreign relations.
During the Cold War, foreign policy was a bedrock issue for presidential campaigns. That was not the case in 1992, 1996, or 2000. There has been some resurgence in the post-9/11 era, although whether that’s permanent is unclear. If our involvement in Iraq has wound down by the 2008 campaign, it’s entirely possible that the race will be decided chiefly on domestic issues.