The Poll Diplomacy: Hillary Clinton’s Changing Position On Iraq.

"You are either with America … or you are not."

Sen. Hillary Clinton on the U.S. Senator floor, September 12, 2001

"Failure is not an option.  We are going to stay the course."

Sen. Hillary Clinton to MSNBC’s Tim Russert, December 7, 2003

"We want to be able to continue to export democracy."

Sen. Hillary Clinton to The New Yorker‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, January 15, 2007

"We cannot negotiate with individual terrorists; they must be hunted down and captured or killed."

Sen. Hillary Clinton in Foreign Affairs, November/December 2007

At the end of 2007, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign website posted an impressive, 232-person-long, list of foreign policy experts "supporting Senator Clinton."  160 occupants of the list represent former Clinton administration officials, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.  (Holbrooke is routinely rumored to become the Secretary of State in the next Clinton administration). 

13 supporters represent academia and the Council on Foreign Relation(s); among those is Clinton’s adviser on Iran, Ray Takeyh.  20 are military people; leading the pack is General (Ret. Army) Johnnie Wilson, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics.  The rest are members of Congress, including Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), a former presidential contender himself.

A number of analysts pointed out that the top members of Clinton’s foreign policy team have overwhelmingly supported the war in Iraq.  This cannot come as a surprise given that both Albright and Holbrooke have come to personify what The Nation’s Ari Berman calls "muscular liberalism" of the Bill Clinton administration — with its passion for "nation-building" and using American military force in Bosnia and Kosovo.

In 2002, Sen. Clinton voted for the resolution authorizing President Bush to use military force in Iraq, and there is every reason to believe that this vote was the one of conviction.  First of all, as her recent article in the Foreign Affairs shows,  Hillary is an admirer of her husband’s pro-active foreign policy which she wants to "restore."

There seems to be another reason: Clinton favors a strong presidency.  This is how she explained her 2002 vote to  to The New Yorker‘s Jeffrey Goldberg ("The Starting Gate", January 15, 2007) :

"I have respect for Presidential decision-making and I saw what the Republican Congress had done to Bill on a range of issues, denying him the authority to deal with Bosnia and Kosovo … And I don’t think that that’s good for the country, and I had no problem in giving President Bush the authority to do what he stated he would do."

It wasn’t until the end of 2005 that Hillary Clinton reversed her position on the war in Iraq and called her 2002 vote a "mistake."  "If Congress had been asked [to authorize the war], based on what we know now, we never would have agreed," she said in an email to supporters.

It’s hard to see this reversal as more than an act of political expediency aimed at pacifying the the Democratic Party’s left-wing base as Hillary was preparing to launch her presidential bid.  Besides, as polls at the end of 2005 were indicating, the public support of the war fell to under 40 percent, down from the upper 70s in the spring of 2003.

And this is what is the most disturbing about Hillary Clinton’s position vis-a-vis the war in Iraq: she was "for" the war when the public opinion was for it, and she was "against" it when the public opinion turned against it.  So much for the leadership she loves to boast about!

The analysis of the facts shows that Sen. Hillary Clinton has supported the war in Iraq from the very beginning and even today,  she seems to share with the Bush administration the basic objectives of a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq.  Although the foreign policy of her administration will be more subtle and nuanced — an easy job given the current occupant of the Oval Office — one cannot expect her to make a real break away from the failed policies of the past eight years. 

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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