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Is Hillary Clinton a Neocon-Lite?

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Clinton's Conundrum

Yet, it is one thing for neocon pundits to promote such fallacies; it is another thing for the Democratic front-runner for President in 2016 to believe this nonsense. And to say that she only opposed the "surge" out of a political calculation could border on disqualifying.

But that pattern fits with Clinton's previous decisions. She belatedly broke with the Iraq War during Campaign 2008 when she realized that her hawkish stance was damaging her political chances against Obama, who had opposed the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Despite Clinton's shift on Iraq, Obama still managed to win the Democratic nomination and ultimately the White House. However, after his election, some of his advisers urged him to assemble a "team of rivals" -- a la Abraham Lincoln -- by asking Republican Defense Secretary Gates to stay on and recruiting Clinton to be Secretary of State.

Then, in his first months in office, as Obama grappled with what to do about the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, Gates and Clinton teamed up with Gen. David Petraeus, a neocon favorite, to maneuver the President into another 30,000-troop "surge" -- to wage a counterinsurgency war across large swaths of Afghanistan.

In Duty, Gates cites his collaboration with Clinton as crucial to his success in getting Obama to agree to the troop escalation and the expanded goal of counterinsurgency. Referring to Clinton, Gates wrote, "we would develop a very strong partnership, in part because it turned out we agreed on almost every important issue."

The hawkish Gates-Clinton tandem helped counter the move dovish team including Vice President Joe Biden, several members of the National Security Council staff and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who tried to steer President Obama away from this deeper involvement.

Gates wrote, "I was confident that Hillary and I would be able to work closely together. Indeed, before too long, commentators were observing that in an administration where all power and decision making were gravitating to the White House, Clinton and I represented the only independent 'power center,' not least because, for very different reasons, we were both seen as "un-fireable.'"

When General Stanley McChrystal proposed the expanded counterinsurgency war for Afghanistan, Gates wrote that "Hillary strongly supported McChrystal's approach" along with UN Ambassador Susan Rice, Petraeus and Gates. On the other side were Biden, NSC aide Tom Donilon and intelligence adviser John Brennan, with Eikenberry supporting more troops but skeptical of the counterinsurgency plan because of weaknesses in the Afghan government, Gates wrote.

After Obama hesitantly approved the Afghan "surge" -- and reportedly immediately regretted his decision -- Clinton took aim at Eikenberry, a retired general who had served in Afghanistan before being named ambassador.

Pressing for his removal, "Hillary had come to the meeting loaded for bear," Gates wrote...

"She gave a number of specific examples of Eikenberry's insubordination to herself and her deputy. ... She said, 'He's a huge problem.' 

"She went after the NSS [national security staff] and the White House staff, expressing anger at their direct dealings with Eikenberry and offering a number of examples of what she termed their arrogance, their efforts to control the civilian side of the war effort, their refusal to accommodate requests for meetings.

"As she talked, she became more forceful. 'I've had it,' she said, 'You want it [control of the civilian side of the war], I'll turn it all over to you and wash my hands of it. I'll not be held accountable for something I cannot manage because of White House and NSS interference.'"

However, when the protests failed to get Eikenberry and General Douglas Lute, a deputy national security adviser, fired, Gates concluded that they had the protection of President Obama and represented his doubts about the Afghan War policy:

"It had become clear that Eikenberry and Lute, whatever their shortcomings, were under an umbrella of protection at the White House. With Hillary and me so adamant that the two should leave, that protection could come only from the president. Because I could not imagine any previous president tolerating someone in a senior position openly working against policies he had approved, the most likely explanation was that the president himself did not really believe the strategy he had approved would work."

Of the 2,300 American soldiers who have died in the 12-year-old Afghan War, about 1,670 (or more than 70 percent) have died since President Obama took office. Many were killed in what is now widely regarded as the failed counterinsurgency strategy that Gates, Petraeus and Clinton pushed on Obama.

Getting Gaddafi

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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