One of the myths we hear all the time is that Clinton would make a tough and intelligent wartime President. It is true that within the Obama White House Clinton often joined with Panetta and others to advance a more hawkish position. Nevertheless, in almost every instance, she would show herself to be a hawk in the context of a crisis situation. In essence, when the shit hit the fan, she would counsel firing back hard, rather than waiting to see what happens. It can be argued here that Obama’s “wait and see” approach to crisis management actually stopped the terrorists from achieving the larger objective of inciting an overreaction by the “Great Satan.” This may or may not be true, but the relevant point is that Clinton’s hawkishness almost always can be characterized as reactive and crisis specific.
The better question is what approach she would take strategically; or even, for that matter, if she has a determined geopolitical strategy that says where she wants USA policy to go and what kind of geopolitical relationships she wants to foster to get the USA there. I have not seen her articulate anything on a strategic level apart from the same globalism agenda (climate change treaties meant to transfer wealth from the winners to the losers) we would expect from any Democrat.
To the extent that we could discern a consistent and comprehensive strategy behind our support for the “Arab Spring” Movement against secular Muslim dictators, I would call that a wrongheaded strategy that undermined any chance for stability within the Middle East.
To the extent that we could discern a strategy in the tilt towards Iran (started by Clinton and then concluded by Kerry with the USA-Iran executive agreement on Iran’s nuclear weapons program), I would call that a wrongheaded strategy that saw the USA give up its long term containment of Iran for an agreement that will not stop Iran’s program.
To the extent that we could discern a strategy in the Russian Reset, I would call that little more in time than a demonstration of weakness that just gave Putin the green light to be more aggressive.
I actually do not see Clinton as much of a foreign policy strategist. Nevertheless, to the extent that she pursued a strategy on the geopolitical stage, her agenda has proven to be wrongheaded and counterproductive. This undercuts the idea she is a good wartime President, because being a good wartime President means more than just reacting in a hawkish manner to the crisis at hand. It also means seeing the long game and trying to move the direction of the war towards that objective.
For example, when FDR gave the green light to Eisenhower to attack Germany from the north and to Patton to attack Italy and then Germany from the south, he also took into consideration Soviet Russian capacity to counterpunch from the east. The strategic insight is that if the Allies timed the three assaults against Germany just right, then Stalin would have a say in postwar Europe. FDR wanted Stalin to play a constructive role within postwar Europe, because he thought that Soviet Russia would have to drop much of its reactionary isolation accordingly. He also wanted to keep the Soviet Russians from playing a role in the defeat of Japan, so that the USA would predominate in that part of the world that FDR predicted in time would replace Europe as the economic and even political powerhouse. Let Soviet Russia be one of our partners in “Old Europe,” while we Americans extend the Monroe Doctrine to “New Asia.”
FDR was a great wartime President, because he had a sound strategic view and understood how to manipulate the instruments of war to achieve that view. I see nothing thus far that indicates any similar sophistication on the part of Clinton. Now, it is true that people regarded FDR as little more than an “amiable dunce” when he first ran for the Presidency. Perhaps, there is more to Clinton than her experience as Secretary of State indicates. It is just as possible that Trump (best described as a “not so amiable dunce”) is more than he appears.
Hindsight will prove to be 20/20. What I can state right now, though, is that there is nothing today to indicate that Clinton is some sort of grand master of the geopolitical game. On the contrary, her role as Secretary of State suggests otherwise. Thus, I would say that there is no basis today to come to the conclusion that she will make a good wartime President. Simply showing that she is much more serious minded and articulate than Trump on such matters does not in itself prove that she has what it takes to be Commander in Chief in these times.
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