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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/17/14

The Foreign Policy of Barack Obama and That of Hillary Clinton: Apples to Apples Comparison

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There is a lot of buzz lately about Hillary Clinton's recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, in which she apparently took swipes at her former boss, President Obama. However, much of the coverage thereof has exaggerated the differences between Clinton and Obama on foreign policy--the reality is that both espouse policies that are remarkably similar to the interventionist, warmongering policies of Bush/Cheney & Co. President Obama, with his drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and now even Iraq, has hardly "pulled back" from waging war as Clinton and others allege.

This episode demonstrates the fact that the American mainstream media only seeks to hear from a very narrow range of opinions on foreign policy, and exaggerates the significance of minor differences so as to make it appear that a diverse range of views are being heard. So naturally, that same media jumped at the opportunity to make it appear like there are genuine foreign policy differences between Clinton and Obama, as well as Bush and Obama, for that matter.

Clinton, apparently feeling vindicated by the recent upsurge in the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, felt the need to bring up in her memoir the notion that she, as Secretary of State, repeatedly tried to convince the Obama administration to provide weaponry to the "moderate" rebels in Syria, but supposedly to no avail. Although Clinton does not directly claim she believes IS would be significantly weaker than it is today had the US armed Syrian rebels, Goldberg clearly tries to get her to say so, with leading "questions" like "You do have a suspicion, though," and "Do you think we'd be where we are with ISIS right now if the U.S. had done more three years ago to build up a moderate Syrian opposition?". Nowhere does Goldberg ever mention that Obama ultimately did what Clinton wanted--provided arms to the rebels in Syria, and that his administration was doing so as far back as November 2012, while Hillary Clinton was still serving as Secretary of State!

Furthermore, as the right-wing publication The Daily Caller has pointed out, Clinton publicly stated her opposition to arming the Syrian rebels on CBS in a February 2012 interview, deeming such an action akin to "supporting al-Qaida." No mention is made by Clinton of the "more radical" and "more moderate" groups that she refers to in her book and in her interview with The Atlantic.

Goldberg asks Clinton specifically about Obama's recent statement: "Is the lesson for you, like it is for President Obama, 'Don't do stupid sh*t'?"

Part of Clinton's reply mentions the invasion of Iraq by the Bush administration, which she supported: "It was stupid to do what we did in Iraq and to have no plan about what to do after we did it. That was really stupid." Then Clinton, remembering that she supported that "stupid" decision, backtracks to say the following: "I don't think you can quickly jump to conclusions about what falls into the stupid and non-stupid categories. That's what I'm arguing."

Then Goldberg, alluding to what I mentioned earlier about the US media amplifying trivial differences in foreign policy as a means to keep Americans in the dark about what is really going on, asks this question: "Do you think the next administration, whoever it is, can find some harmony between muscular intervention--'We must do something'--vs. let's just not do something stupid, let's stay away from problems like Syria because it's a wicked problem and not something we want to tackle?"

Such a question implies that Obama and Bush's foreign policies are on completely opposite ends of the spectrum, when nothing could be further from the truth: Obama, disregarding legal advice from advisors at the Department of Justice and the Pentagon, invaded Libya in 2011 without even seeking Congressional authorization, and continued the action for months. His administration has also launched hundreds of drone strikes, killing thousands, in countries that the US has not declared war against, or even received authorization from the US Congress, let alone held a public debate as to their efficacy. Obama, to his credit, has done an ample amount of "stupid sh*t," and disregarding his own advice in the process. Additionally, the Obama administration has NOT stayed out of Syria, but has been involved quite intimately with that civil war, just as Clinton wanted.

Sadly, Americans cannot count on their "news" media to point out these lies, because the media personnel, like Jeffrey Goldberg, and Josh Rogin of The Daily Beast, are the very ones responsible for perpetrating such falsehoods. Although Zack Beauchamp, writing this article for Vox, makes a good case, using academic-quality research to back up his claims, that arming the Syrian rebels would have done little to change the situation, he errs when he all but fails to mention that Obama adopted the very policy Clinton wanted to, of providing lethal assistance to the rebel groups. He briefly alludes to it in his final sentence, albeit indirectly: "Indeed, as Lynch points out, even America's current very limited 'support the rebels' policy has backed groups that have aligned with ISIS."

Could this be an indication that Clinton is seeking the votes of the neoconservative community in 2016? Or is she simply trying to distance herself from Obama so that in 2016 she does not become subject to the typical criticism leveled at Obama by neoconservative critics? Arguably either could turn out to be true. Nonetheless, the bottom line is the following: Obama and Clinton are almost completely aligned on foreign policy, much like how they are both aligned with the foreign policy of much of the mainstream GOP. The media simply tries to portray minor differences as major ones so that divergent views that counter the narrative of the two party duopoly are considered "fringe" or "extreme." In other words, the media is doing its job.

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John Brock holds a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in city planning. His writing interests include American politics, the U.S. Congress, anti-war activism, health care, civil liberties, and economic democracy. He (more...)

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