Sunday, April 17, 2016
FOREIGN POLICY QUERIES FOR HILLARY CLINTON
--> By Biko Agozino
When it comes to Foreign Policy, former Secretary of State, former US Senator and former First Lady of the US, Hilary Clinton, is obviously the most experienced candidate seeking the nomination of either of the two main political parties for the 2016 US presidential elections.
It has been said that Clinton had some successes in promoting schooling for Afghan girls when she was Secretary of State and that she was in the room when President Obama ordered the capture or killing of Osama Bin Laden but these would not be enough for her to run as a foreign policy achiever.
Her Democratic Party opponent for the nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders, has questioned her judgment (not her qualification) on key foreign policy decisions while the leading Republican Party contender for the nomination, the billionaire Donald Trump, has said that she is vulnerable on foreign policy issues.
A close look at the records of Mrs. Clinton does not reveal any specific achievements despite her experience as the candidate who had visited more foreign countries diplomatically, compared to the other candidates. This article calls on the Clinton campaign to explain the following questionable records in her foreign policy experience and highlight her specific achievements at the three stages of her long experience of public service.
AS FIRST LADY OF THE US
As First Lady, Mrs. Clinton reported in her memoir, Living History, that when she attended the inauguration ceremony of President Nelson Mandela, she was warned by State Department briefers that Fidel Castro said that he would like to meet her and shake her hand and exchange some words but that she must avoid him at all costs because a picture of such a meeting could be used for propaganda purposes. As a result, according to her, she spent the time in the same room with Castro running from corner to corner whenever she thought that Castro was walking towards her. She described her conduct as ‘ridiculous’. What does such a ridiculous conduct say about her as a leader in foreign policy especially when it comes to normalizing ties with Cuba?
Mrs. Clinton supported NAFTA and other trade agreements that shifted the jobs of US workers abroad without any plan for new industries to create more jobs for poor workers in the US. But she could be given credit in the sense that the Clinton White House left the economy in a better shape than it found it and the blame for wrecking the economy goes more to George W. Bush, although the impact of job outsourcing began being felt more during the subsequent administration.
Mrs. Clinton did not say anything as First Lady to call for US help to stop the Rwanda genocide. Maybe she tried to advocate help for the victims but this is not well known. The disastrous intervention in Somalia that included the shooting down of a US Black Hawk helicopter and loss of troops who also killed thousands of Somali people may have made the First Lady and her husband reluctant to advocate more interventions in Africa.
Mrs. Clinton said nothing to stop 40 pharmaceutical companies from suing the administration of Nelson Mandela in 1998 with the support of the Clinton White House. The Vice President, Al Gore, led the pressure against South Africa and a bipartisan letter was signed by legislators with threats of trade retaliation to force the government of South Africa to purchase exorbitant patented HIV/AIDS drugs from the US rather than the inexpensive generic drugs from India.
It was only after AIDS activists demonstrated and raised questions about whether the Clinton administration valued the profits of big corporations more than the lives of millions of patients that Bill Clinton came out in 2000 to admit that the South African law did not infringe on US patent law. The administration of George W. Bush quickly resolved the case by starting the President’s Initiative on AIDS to buy the drugs and donate them to patients at home and abroad and the pharmaceutical companies dropped their suit in 2001. Mr. Mandela also remained on the US list of suspected ‘terrorists’ until the Bush administration removed his name in 2008.
AS US SENATOR FROM NEW YORK
Mrs. Clinton voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks and which did not have weapons of mass destruction. As a result, the whole of the Middle East was destabilized at the cost of hundreds of thousands of the lives of Iraqi civilians, 5,000 US troops who died with many more wounded, and at a cost of more than one trillion dollars. The rise of the Islamic State is directly linked to that bad judgment in support of regime change.
While running for the Democratic Party nomination against Barrack Obama in 2008, Mrs. Clinton also bragged about her Foreign Policy experience compared to the Freshman Senator. One of her claims of foreign policy leadership was a false claim that she and her daughter, Chelsea, were ducking bullets on a visit to war-thorn Bosnia. She quickly withdrew that claim when it was explained to her that it was not possible because US commanders would be failing in their duty if they exposed the First Lady to such a situation.
Also during the 2008 Democratic Party Primaries debates, she claimed that Barrack Obama was naïve for proposing that the US should talk to foreign enemies to try to resolve some issues diplomatically but Obama insisted that diplomacy remained a key part of US foreign policy and that militarism was always the last option to be avoided when possible. Did Mrs. Clinton make a good judgment then?
AS SECRETARY OF STATE
Mrs. Clinton joined NATO to bomb Libya, the only country in Africa to have achieved the Middle Income category in the Human Development Index of the UNDP. This destabilized the country enough to make it a hot bed for terrorists, claimed the lives of US diplomats in Benghazi along with the lives of many innocent Libyans, and raised questions about Mrs. Clinton’s judgments on Foreign Policy matters.
It has also been reported that weapons were shipped Illegally from Libya to Syrian Opposition forces while Clinton was the Secretary of State with the result that the civil war in that country was escalated and ISIS became an enabled huge threat. Her proposed solution was to impose a No Fly Zone in Syria whereas the ISIS forces did not have any warplanes and so her judgment was that regime change was the only solution whereas it was not clear who would take over after the overthrow of Assad. John Kerry as Secretary of State achieved a lot more very quickly by negotiating with Russia to remove the stockpiles of chemical weapons held by the Syrian regime.
Similarly, the coup that overthrew the elected government in Ukraine took place under Mrs. Clinton and it was reported that State Department officials under her went there to distribute candies to right-wing extremists celebrating the coup without knowing that the result was going to be a splitting of the country into two and a brutal intractable civil war. Rather than escalate the conflict by sending in US and NATO troops, the Kerry State Department chose to use economic sanctions against Russia to try and bring about a ceasefire.
Under the Clinton State Department, there was little effort to restart the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. John Kerry re-started the talks from day one as soon as he took over from Mrs. Clinton. Bernie Sanders said during their debate in New York that Mrs. Clinton had every right to present herself as a friend of Israel but added that resolving the conflict in the Middle East must involve a strategy for treating the Palestinians with more decency.
The Clinton State Department was not able to negotiate with Iran to subject the country’s nuclear program to international inspections and make sure that it did not involve a weapons program. John Kerry was able to get international partners to reach such an agreement with Iran in less time than Mrs. Clinton spent as Secretary of State.
Finally, the Clinton State Department did nothing to normalize ties with Cuba even though this was the policy preference of Obama from day one as President of the US. Once again, the Kerry State Department prioritized this issue and succeeded in reopening the US embassy in Havana within three years to end the isolation of the US as the only country in the Americas with no diplomatic ties with Cuba, allowing President Obama to visit the island as the first US president to do so in a long time. Now, Cuban Americans can visit their families more easily for the first time.
These are questions around the claims of Foreign Policy experience by Secretary Hilary Clinton. Her campaign needs to answer these questions with specific achievements to the satisfaction of the electorate or pivot away from making undocumented claims that she had more foreign policy success than any other candidate.