Hillary Clinton's Dumb Power

Will the Republicans nominate someone who can challenge the former secretary of state's reckless warmongering?


Testifying before the House Select Committee on Benghazi last Thursday, Hillary Clinton bristled when Peter Roskam, a Republican congressman from Illinois, described the consequences of overthrowing Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi. "After your plan, things in Libya today are a disaster," Roskam said.

Clinton disagreed, saying the U.S. military intervention that replaced Qaddafi with chaos—an operation she championed as secretary of state—was an exemplary use of "smart power." If so, I'd hate to see what dumb power looks like. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's stubborn defense of an elective war that went terribly wrong represents a political opportunity for her Republican opponent, but only if he does not share her inclination to shoot first and ask questions later.

That's a big if. "America must lead in a dangerous world," Clinton declared last week. "We certainly have to be the world's leader," agrees former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a leading contender for the Republican nomination.

According to Bush, the problem with intervening in Libya's civil war was not that it had nothing to do with defending our country, that it was illegal without congressional authorization, or that it was undertaken without any thought about unintended consequences. No, Bush says, the problem was that the Obama administration lacked "a strategy beyond just airstrikes."

Not so, says Clinton. "We knew that Libya's transition from the brutal dictatorship of Qaddafi, which basically destroyed or undermined every institution in the country, would be challenging, and we planned accordingly," she testified last week. "We were doing everything we could think of to help Libya succeed."

Clinton bragged that "we were very much involved in helping them provide their first parliamentary elections," which was "quite an accomplishment," especially since "they voted for moderates." Unfortunately, "much of what we offered was difficult for the Libyans to understand how to accept," and "the volatile security environment in Libya"—featuring "a weak government, extremist groups, [and] rampant instability"—"complicated our efforts."

What Clinton refuses to acknowledge is that U.S. intervention created those conditions. Bush's response is not to avoid such foolhardy meddling but to execute it better. He is sure that if he had been in charge, things would have turned out differently.

Marco Rubio, the Florida senator who is vying with Bush for the Republican nomination, is in an even worse position to criticize Clinton's role in the Libyan disaster. Rubio, a vocal supporter of overthrowing Qaddafi in 2011, blames the current situation in Libya, which he describes as "a growing haven for the Islamic State," on "the Obama administration's 'lead from behind' approach."

By contrast, two other senators seeking the GOP nomination—Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas—have criticized the Libyan intervention in a way that suggests they would be more cautious. "Every time we have toppled a secular dictator," Paul observed during last month's debate, "we have gotten chaos, the rise of radical Islam, and we're more at risk."

Cruz had a similar take in a Meet the Press interview this month, saying "Hillary Clinton's disastrous Libya policy" resulted in "absolute chaos" and a "war zone where jihadists are battling back and forth." Like Paul, he said invading Iraq was a mistake for similar reasons and that both experiences should chasten Clinton and other advocates of more aggressive intervention in Syria. "We have no business sticking our nose in that civil war," Cruz said.

But Clinton, who voted for the Iraq war as a senator in 2002 and did not admit her mistake until last year, seems to be a slow learner. "When America is absent, especially from unstable places, there are consequences," she said last week. "Extremism takes root, aggressors seek to fill the vacuum, and security everywhere is threatened, including here at home."

As the Libyan debacle shows, these consequences also can occur when America is present. If the Republicans nominate someone who recognizes that possibility, the next presidential election may include a real debate about foreign policy. 

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. So we basically have a bunch of idiots in charge of foreign policy on both teams….that’s reassuring.

    I think I”ll spend some time on my fantasy football picks, much more logic involved.

    With this level of incompetence all around we are fucked. It’s been coming for a while and there is no hope that anyone in any capacity in DC is competent…pretty depressing when one thinks about it.

    1. It’s truly amazing that every election cycle the candidates get worse and worse. No one with common sense.

      It’s the dumbing down of the world, and the people, and most of the people running know that (Clinton, Bush, Trump). Or they’re just as dumb (Sanders).

      It’s the world we live in; where we live to appease, or pander to, the lowest common denominator.

      Sigh. I give up. I think I’m about done caring about politics. All i can do is get frustratted.

  2. “Will the Republicans nominate someone who can challenge the former secretary of state’s reckless warmongering?”


    Ironically, of all the people with an actual chance to be president, Trump might be the closest thing to a dove on the Middle East.

  3. To the democrat socialist progressive a war mongering vagina is OK.

    1. Funny isn’t it ? On FB when my proggie pals start yammering on about the wonders of Hillary, I simply bring up her vote for and active pursuit of the Iraq War. They simply shut up and pretend no such war occurred, the same people calling Bush a war criminal.

  4. Will the Republicans nominate someone who can challenge the former secretary of state’s reckless warmongering?


  5. It’s incredible that this is where we are in 2015. Democrats don’t even have to pretend to be ‘anti war’ and their supporters just say HEY LOOK OVER THERE.

    Meanwhile our soldiers who signed up to defend the country are sent to risk their lives in pursuit of goals that are constantly changing and nebulous, against whatever is vaguely threatening America this week.

    My grandfather fought is some of the most brutal conditions of the Korean war. Now that he is an old man, he knows that no one gives a fuck. I am afraid this generation will be the same or even worse.

    We are not going to stop fighting other people’s wars until we completely run out of money.

  6. Challenge her how? To be more reckless?

  7. It is sad that we will likely not have a candidiate running on anti-war in any meaningful way. I’m not saying that there aren’t good reasons to use force or go to war. I’m saying that the President doing whatever he wants based off of not using the word “war” for as long as he wants is problematic.

    Meanwhile, we just had a servicmember die supporting the Kurds while maintaining the no boots on ground not engaged in combat farce.

  8. “Jeb Bush, a leading contender for the Republican nomination.”

    Such a card you, Sullum.

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    Why don’t I care?

    Because whatever happens, my entirely self-managed, fully diversified, once per year adjusted long term savings plan will be safely protected and will , 9 times out of 10, grow at an average of 8% per annum over and above the prevailing inflation [or deflation], rate, year in, year out, as it has since 1986 when I started using it.

    Savings plan results 1972-2011:



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