22 November 2009

Hillary is a liability

An article by Michael Crowley in The New Republic, 16 November 2009, entitled Reset Button: the gaffes of Hillary Clinton, republished in The Weekend Australian, 21-21 November 2009, p. 22, reveals that it is beginning to dawn on the Obama Administration that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a liability (read article here).

This is hardly a surprise. Mrs Clinton’s appointment was more about what was good for the Democratic Party (“hold your friends close and your enemies closer”) than what was in the national interests of the United States, and since her appointment she has shown no particular aptitude for the role. Since her appointment she has:

 - made some bizarre appointments (passionate Israel supporter Dennis Ross, who has never been to Iran, as an adviser on Iran – see Hillary's envoy: not everyone is cheering, Iran: Hillary’s envoy (contd.), and Making U.S. Iran policy)

- kicked people she felt she could afford to kick (the Pakistanis on her recent visit to Islamabad, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, journalists), but

- pandered to people who she thought could harm her political aspirations (Binyamin Netanyahu).

- gone in too strong on critical issues and on being forced to retreat, flopped too far in the other direction, leaving US policy in the Middle East, for example, in a mess from which it is unlikely to recover (see, for example, Middle East: US policy all over the place, Game, set and match to Mr Netanyahu, and Weekend at Bernie’s for Middle East Peace).

- adopted far too hawkish a policy towards Iran, which has hardened Iranian attitudes and got the United States exactly nowhere; when she speaks about Iran she always leaves me with the impression that she is addressing audiences in Israel and New York rather than  Iran.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley says

...Clinton has no regrets. “To the extent there is a change in approach to the world, it involves a genuine dialogue, not just a delivery of polite diplomatic points”.

The crack about polite diplomatic points might sound fine but anyone experienced in the foreign policy arena knows that there is a point to being courteous in the conduct of affairs of state. Diplomats are the medium of communication between sovereign states, and the point about being sovereign is that sovereign entities make their own decisions. Broadly speaking, there are three ways for one sovereign entity to secure the cooperation of another: persuasion, bribery, and military coercion. Persuasion beats the hell out of the other two, and courtesy is one of the fundamental arts of persuasion.

The best thing that Mrs Clinton could do for the foreign policy interests of the United States would be to find something else to do, and fast.

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