Hillary Clinton’s already-high chances of becoming the Democratic Presidential nominee in 2008 have gone up even more. She is now the favorite with a 55 percent chance of winning. No one else in the field even comes close. Her closest contender is Al Gore whose odds are 6.4 to 1 against winning the nomination.
In a match up against John McCain, the Republican frontrunner, Hillary is favored to win.
What would a Clinton II presidency be like on the main foreign affairs issues of the day? Her recent speech of October 31, 2006 before the Council on Foreign Relations provides clues, and her positions are representative of current Democratic views.
Mind you, elected candidates have a nasty habit of making a bonfire of their campaign speeches in the White House fireplace. And two years hence, much will have changed.
Hillary on foreign policy
1. War on terror. Hillary fully accepts the idea of a war on terror. She says that Afghanistan is "the forgotten front line in the war on terror." She wants to "win the war on terror, not just the battle." She wishes Bush had said to the Congress: "…we’re going to have so many costs related to the war on terror; we need to take a deep breath here; no more tax cuts until we figure out where we are financially…"
The war on terror is a government program accepted by both major parties. Hillary wants to fight and win it too.
The notion that it is misconceived and misbegotten is not on her mind.
2. Iraq war. Her program to end the war includes pressuring "the Iraqis" (which ones?) to "become serious about achieving an internal reconciliation." If they don’t, we are to present them with "real consequences," which are apparently that we will withdraw troops against the wishes of the Iraqi leaders.
She suggests we should pay oil profits to every Iraqi so that they have "an incentive to stop fighting." This not only won’t work, it will never be done.
Her next idea is to go multilateral. Convene a regional conference of every nearby state (except Israel and Lebanon) and get them to guarantee a sovereign Iraq.
If we can’t control the Iraqi factions, we surely can’t control Syria, Iran, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Among the Pandora’s box of possibilities, they might like to carve up Iraq for themselves, bicker over it, introduce their own forces, make demands on the U.S., or squelch the Kurds. With such a conference taking place, the Iraqi factions might have even more incentive to fight and/or ally themselves with one or more conference participants.
Last, Hillary gingerly endorses a "phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq."
Candidate Clinton tells us that "we have finally reached the point of complete absurdity," citing the Bush administration’s daily contradictions on Iraq. Her solutions are equally absurd because Iraq is a pit of quicksand. Struggling makes matters worse. The only way to get out is to grab a nearby branch and pull oneself out — exit Iraq no matter what.
3. Afghanistan war. "NATO officials [are] predicting that the country could fall back to the Taliban in six months." To Clinton, "The stakes are unbearably high for Afghanistan, for Pakistan, for the country’s northern neighbors in central Asia, for the reach of Al Qaida and for our own credibility and leadership."
How has an effort to round up bin Laden changed in her mind into a broad war to save central Asia? Bush made the mistake of helping bin Laden create a jihad against the U.S. Now Clinton wishes to repeat and reinforce this error by entangling the U.S. further with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.
In her words, "We should begin by responding to our NATO commander’s call for more troops in Afghanistan where on a per capita basis we have spent 25 times less than we spent in Bosnia and deployed 1/50 as many troops."
Democrats (and compassionate conservatives) are fond of expanding programs. One quagmire isn’t enough when we can easily get bogged down in a few more.
4. Iran. Candidate Clinton: "U.S. policy must be unequivocal. Iran must not build or acquire nuclear weapons." And: "We know that a nuclear Iran poses a direct threat to its neighbors in the region, with Israel as its chief target. It also poses a significant threat to the United States,…" In a speech to AIPAC, she said "A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable." It "would shake the foundation of global security to its very core."
This position is indistinguishable from that of the Bush administration. Clinton proposes "direct talks" with the Iranians. No doubt some level of communication is already taking place.
But what good does such overheated and hyperbolic rhetoric do? Can the U.S. really stop a country that is determined to get a nuclear bomb from getting it without resorting to the most brutal methods? And if Iran ever does decide it wants the bomb and gets it, won’t it be held in check by other nuclear powers?
What about North Korea and Pakistan who are nuclear powers? What if a revolution or some other turmoil occurs in Pakistan in which terrorists gain nuclear weapons? What if North Korea sells a nuclear weapon to an enemy of the U.S.?
5. Woodrow Wilson—style international activism. Hillary disagrees with the means used by Bush, such as a higher degree of acting unilaterally, crude and/or no diplomacy, and one-sided painting of other nations as good or evil. But these are trivial matters beside the basic thrust of American policy. She’s mistaken to say her policies will be a "sea change."
The important fact is that she is every bit as anxious to remake the world in America’s image as Bush is. She will continue the century-old Wilsonian international policies. "American foreign policy exists to maintain our security and serve our national interests. And in an increasingly interdependent world, it is in our interests to stand for human rights, to promote religious freedom, democracy, women’s rights, social justice and economic empowerment."
American interference overseas is a fixture of the foreign policies of both major parties.
American liberal conservatism
In a sense, Hillary Clinton is very conservative. Her proposed policies are not ones that rock the American boat. She would increase the size of the military. She would soup up the FBI and the intelligence agencies.
Like Alan Greenspan, Hillary has completed the trip from the youthful enthusiasms of her youth to the unimaginative and tiresome policies of power and preservation of Empire.
The remnants of her liberal side will surely resurface as they do in her speech when she reminds us that she "introduced legislation for our country to take the lead in education for all, to aim at giving every child in the world access at least to primary education by 2015."
It seems to be a psychological law of statists that after a program has been shown to fail over and over again domestically, one then proposes to extend the program internationally!
Conservatives and liberals divide on certain social issues, but none of them are central to what the two major American political parties are about. Both parties are conservative and liberal. They both introduce new statist programs and they both preserve the status quo after their introduction.
Both parties dream of solving America’s problems with endless state intrusions into education. Hillary now calls for creation of "a public service academy, a West Point for public service, that would send a message about the importance of civilian preparedness and response at home and abroad. It could become a place where we teach critical languages and put a high priority on learning about those cultures we so poorly understand today." It’s easy to imagine Republicans endorsing this concept or even expanding it.
Hope springs eternal. There will be those, including some libertarians, who are so fed up with Bush’s follies and his augmentation of presidential and state powers that they will welcome a Democratic administration. Such an emotional fix will prove short-lived. Clinton I continued and extended Bush I’s policies in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Somalia, and Haiti. In her own way and with her own style and emphases, Clinton II would continue and extend Bush II’s policies. There may be some backtracking on the fringes of the Patriot Act, but the Department of Homeland Security won’t be removed. The war on terror will continue and be expanded.
Circumstances will force anyone who is the next president and those thereafter to deal with a number of severe domestic and foreign issues: the dollar, Medicare, government debt, over-regulation, failing education and health care, and foreign adventurism.
Maybe reality will provide some checks on the powers-that-be, but America really needs an exorcism. It needs to expel the demon state from its body politic, leaving behind a healthy adherence to the laws of God. Neither party is aware of this. Americans are not aware of this. Even if they were aware, neither Democrats nor Republicans are radical enough to take on the task. With God’s grace, Americans at large will find their way to the healing we so very much need.
Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is the Louis M. Jacobs Professor of Finance at University at Buffalo.