Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton, the Unrepentant Hawk

Hillary Clinton is a long-standing and unblushing advocate of frequent military intervention abroad.


Hillary Clinton
Chatham House

When he ran for president in 2000, George W. Bush promised to "stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions." When he ran in 2008, Barack Obama trumpeted his opposition to the Iraq invasion while asserting that our "strength abroad is measured not just by armies but rather by the power of our ideals."

They didn't quite practice what they preached. But Hillary Clinton is different. She won't disappoint anyone hoping for greater restraint, because she has no use for it. The former secretary of state is a long-standing and unblushing advocate of frequent military intervention abroad.

Unlike Obama, Clinton supported the Iraq invasion. In the months before the war, she defended Bush's handling of Saddam Hussein in a way calculated to make her look presidential. "I know a little bit about what it's like on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, making these difficult decisions," she confided.

Her Iraq vote dogged her during the 2008 primaries. But as secretary of state, she proved that it had not affected her thinking. Over and over, Clinton has opted for getting into wars rather than staying out.

As a candidate, she tried to mollify anti-war Democrats on Iraq by promising to "draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home starting with the first 60 days" of her administration. She may not have been sincere.

After Obama took office and began the withdrawal, Clinton lobbied to keep a sizable force there.

In Afghanistan, she favored a bigger troop surge than the one Obama eventually approved, and again, she wanted American forces to leave later rather than sooner. The earlier departure, she warned the president, "would signal we were abandoning Afghanistan," Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote in his memoirs.

"It's not that she's quick to use force, but her basic instincts are governed more by the uses of hard power," her former State Department adviser Dennis Ross told The New York Times. But if Clinton is not "quick to use force," who is?

The civil war in Libya was just another chance to do that. While Gates was highlighting the dangers of getting pulled into the conflict, Clinton was dying to scratch her chronically itchy trigger finger. A big reason the president eventually agreed to bomb Libyan targets was that, as Gates pointed out, Clinton was pushing him so hard in that direction.

What was good enough for Libya was good enough for Syria. When an insurgency erupted there, Time magazine's Michael Crowley reports, "she teamed up with CIA Director David Petraeus to devise a plan to arm and train moderate rebel factions"—a plan similar to what John McCain was demanding. This time, though, Obama decided the risks were too great.

Anyone who thinks the only thing worse than a nuclear-armed Iran is a war with Iran will find no friend in Clinton. Going back to 2007, she has stressed the option of launching airstrikes to keep Tehran from getting the bomb. Like most in her camp, she acts as though a pre-emptive attack would be quick and easy—instead of being the opening round of a war that would not stick to her script any more than Iraq stuck to Bush's.

The Democratic Party, which nominated Obama because he represented a more prudent approach to foreign policy, apparently is happy to do a 180 with Clinton. She may relish the chance to distinguish herself from her former boss, reports The New York Times, by "presenting herself in her book and in any possible campaign as the toughest voice in the room during the great debates over war and peace." Not the wisest; the toughest.

Proving one's toughness by endorsing war is a habit of American politicians, particularly Democrats wary of being portrayed, as Obama has, as naive and vacillating. This option may be even more tempting for someone who aspires to overcome any suspicion that female politicians are weak.

But the cast of mind goes back a long time. In The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, historian Christopher Clark says that in the early 20th century, European statesmen shared "a code of behavior founded in a preference for unyielding forcefulness over the suppleness, tactical flexibility and wiliness exemplified by an earlier generation of statesmen." We know how that turned out.

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  1. She’s more than a woman to me.

  2. Elvis Costello owns the copyright of the phrase ‘itchy finger’. You will be contacted by his lawyers soon.

  3. What difference at this point does it make?

    1. That’s going to be my response to any issue more than 6 weeks old from here on out.

      1. That should be a bumper sticker:

        Hillary 2016 – Because What Difference at This Point Does It Make?

        1. Hillary 2016: Once you go black, Enough! It’s womankind’s turn.

          1. Hillary 2016 – Because, Vagina.

            1. I thought that was McCain’s slogan when he picked Palin?

          2. Hillary 2016: Wanna smell MY cigar, America?

        2. I love that. I might even put that on my car. At least my guitar case.

        3. Hillary 2016: ‘Cuz throwing missiles is so more satisfying than throwing dishes.

    2. full speed ahead – as the rusted hulk careens ever forward – the plates rusty and loosely fitting, continue to fill the hull with water.

      1. *looks at self in mirror*

        HEY! I’m workin’ on it!

      2. full speed ahead – as the rusted hulk careens ever forward – the plates rusty and loosely fitting, continue to fill the hull with water.

        … creaking, screeching, groaning and sloshing its way along through choppy seas.

        It may be just me, but I get distracted when I see the same adjective used too close to itself. I’d have nudged the second sentence to ‘the plates corroded and loosely fitting’, but that’s just my proclivities.

        1. agreed – but it was off the cuff.

          1. That’s no excuse. Alarms should have been sounding even as you wrote it.

  4. Hillary 2016: Because The Vast, Right-Wing Kochspiracy Continues Apace

  5. I will only vote for her if a Republican has a fighting chance.

    Other than that, it is gary Johnson for me.

  6. I will only vote for her if a Republican has a fighting chance.

    Other than that, it is gary Johnson for me.

    1. As bad as Hillary is, is it possible for the Republicans to nominate someone even worse? It would be tough, are the Republicans up for the challenge?

      1. Jeb Bush and Crish Christy certainly hope so.

      2. Does the thought of Rick Santorum not send shivers down your spine?

      3. Mike Huckabee?

  7. “In place of a Dark Lord, you would have a queen! Not dark, but beautiful and terrible as the dawn! Treacherous as the sea! Stronger than the foundations of the earth! All shall love me, and despair!”

    1. Step away from that ring, Bitch!

  8. Ugh Hillary is bad enough to make me vote for Jeb.

    1. Another Bush? Is three times really a charm?

      1. Another Bush vs. Clinton and I’d choose not to vote. I don’t want to be associated with either – even in my own mind.

  9. Well, the lulz during a Hilary presidency wouldn’t be as epic as an Uncle Joe Biden presidency, but I bet they’d still be pretty epic.

  10. She obviously didn’t make any effort to purge neoconservatives from State. She may well be PNAC’s favorite for 2016.

  11. I’m surprised anyone thinks Hillary has a chance. Possibly I underestimate the ability of the media/democrat/Wall Street/machine to push and pull her dead weight across the finish line, but she has the personality of a dead fish and the charisma of a damp wash rag.

    1. You underestimate the ability of the GOP to pick a loser.

      1. This. Also, I think the 2016 Republican primary season will be much more divisive than the Democratic. The Dems don’t really have anything equivalent to the Tea Party on their side and the Tea Party’s ability to choose losers in what should have been shoo-in elections is well-documented.

        Paul is trying to co-opt the Tea Party and the establishment. The establishment isn’t really buying into it, at least not yet; oddly enough, the Tea Party likes him even though he’s not really one of them, either.

  12. If the Republicans were to nominate Senator Paul and the Democrats Secretary Clinton, would the GOP lose more of its voters to the Clinton or the Democrats to Paul?

    I am talking beyond the hypothesized (and perhaps stereotypical) “Weekly Standard Editorial Writers for Clinton” contrasted with “Nation Writers for Paul”

    1. not that there would of course be any “Nation Writers for Paul”

    2. False question =

      You suggest that ‘winning’ requires people who are already ‘in the bag’ party-wise (i.e. TEAM players) “switching” parties.

      This isn’t the case at all. The non-affiliated voters in america represent ~40%+ of the electorate.


      You don’t need any ideological ‘switchers’ at all. Why would you even assume that?

      I think a more intelligent question would be = which of the TEAM players would be more likely to *stay home* because they despise their own party candidate so much?

      Blue Collar TEAM BLUE hates Hillary. With the heat of a thousand suns.

      1. dear not-a-libertarian, i hope you stick around. if you do get ready for more incredibly self-righteous talk about “teams” and how much better off we’d all be if we just emulated the governmental style of hobbesian african countries with weak central governments.

        they get 1% of the vote every election for good reason.

  13. I still can’t believe that Hilary Clinton and Jeb Bush are being talked about as serious presidential candidates in 2014.

    1. It is their turn!

  14. Hillary 2016: …And You Will Know Me By My Trail of Dead

  15. I’d forgotten about the Bush promise to rein in the military in the debates. From the debate:

    The other day, I was honored to be flanked by Colin Powell and General Norman Schwarzkopf, who stood by my side and agreed with me. They said we could, even though we’re the strongest military, that if we don’t do something quickly, we don’t have a clearer vision of the military, if we don’t stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we’re going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I’m going to prevent that.

    To be fair to W, the truthfulness of his statement depends on the antecedent of that.

    I’ve said it before, but if a classical liberal wants to become president, he needs to run the most cynical, poll-based, finger-in-the-wind campaign imaginable and promise voters anything. We act as though Obama is a political outlier due to the 180-degree variance between his promises and actions, but nothing could be further from the truth. FDR ran on the platform that Hoover was too much the interventionist, Reagan pledged to reduce the scope of the federal government, and we know all about the betrayals of the Bushes.

    It’s a liar’s game, and the most convincing liar wins, so if liberalism is to become a force in national politics again, it needs to start incorporating effective political action beyond our endless debates about economic methodologies and deontology vs. utilitarianism.

  16. “After Obama took office and began the withdrawal”

    ennhhh… wrong. i’ve been assured by libertarian commenters that the real hero of the antiwar movement was george bush and that obama was just following his timetables. by “begin the withdrawal” do you mean he ended us military actions in iraq or something else?

    i’m curious as to the inner workings of a Reason contribuor. do you get a naughty, naughty email or just a smile-turned-upside-down emoticon from david koch when you say something laudatory about a Democrat? let me know… i’m just dying to know more about the pathology of the Obama=Hitler movement.

  17. It amazes me that politicians never look at themselves in the mirror and say, “I’m a massive asshole.”

    1. What makes you think they don’t? I suspect most of rather self-aware of their assholeness…

  18. “imaginable and promise voters anything. We act as though Obama is a political outlier due to the 180-degree variance between his promises and actions”

    what did obama promise with respect to iraq and afghanistan in 2008 and what did he deliver on later on? you find it deceptive?

    “but nothing could be further from the truth. FDR ran on the platform that Hoover was too much the interventionist,”

    i’m an unrepentent dove and have been for all my life. for that reason i’m not without my ambivalence about the 40 million killed and what happened afterwards, but to reduce a complicated geopolitical situation into an assertion about how much of a warmonger arch-fiend fdr was is really a bit too much. what was he supposed to do on 12/8/41? if gwb was president we would have been at war with hitler after the anschluss

    1. You’re babbling again…

  19. Why are all the pictures of her all of a sudden 20 years old?

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