Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hillary Clinton and American Foreign Policy

The "Campaign 2008" foreign policy series continues over at Foreign Affairs with a new essay from Hillary Clinton, "Security and Opportunity for the Twenty-first Century." Clinton's article arrives amid great anticipation, at least on my part (and I imagine on the part of a number of others who follow the foreign policy-making literature). Unfortunately, Clinton's piece is a let down: The article recycles much of tired criticisms of the Bush administration's foreign policy, while at the same time offering a half-baked validation of much liberal internationalist gobbledygook common among leftist foreign policy specialists.

Here's Clinton's boilerplate attack on the Bush administration's foreign policy record:

The tragedy of the last six years is that the Bush administration has squandered the respect, trust, and confidence of even our closest allies and friends. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the United States enjoyed a unique position. Our world leadership was widely accepted and respected, as we strengthened old alliances and built new ones, worked for peace across the globe, advanced nonproliferation, and modernized our military. After 9/11, the world rallied behind the United States as never before, supporting our efforts to remove the Taliban in Afghanistan and go after the al Qaeda leadership. We had a historic opportunity to build a broad global coalition to combat terror, increase the impact of our diplomacy, and create a world with more partners and fewer adversaries.

But we lost that opportunity by refusing to let the UN inspectors finish their work in Iraq and rushing to war instead. Moreover, we diverted vital military and financial resources from the struggle against al Qaeda and the daunting task of building a Muslim democracy in Afghanistan. At the same time, we embarked on an unprecedented course of unilateralism: refusing to pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, abandoning our commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, and turning our backs on the search for peace in the Middle East. Our withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and refusal to participate in any international effort to deal with the tremendous challenges of climate change further damaged our international standing.

Our nation has paid a heavy price for rejecting a long-standing bipartisan tradition of global leadership rooted in a preference for cooperating over acting unilaterally, for exhausting diplomacy before making war, and for converting old adversaries into allies rather than making new enemies. At a moment in history when the world's most pressing problems require unprecedented cooperation, this administration has unilaterally pursued policies that are widely disliked and distrusted.

Yet it does not have to be this way. Indeed, our allies do not want it to be this way. The world still looks to the United States for leadership. American leadership is wanting, but it is still wanted. Our friends around the world do not want the United States to retreat. They want once again to be allied with the nation whose values, leadership, and strength have inspired the world for the last century.
Clinton then goes on to say that she'll restore America's global standing in the world. Actually, she won't have that hard a time of it, since things aren't as bad as she makes out. The last couple of years have seen great improvement in global sentiment regarding the United States. According to a Pew Global Attitudes Report from 2006, strong majorities in all of America's major current treaty allies - Great Britain, France, Germany, and Japan - held a favorable opinion of the U.S. Even in Britain - where opinion is often characterized as deeply opposed to the Bush adminstration - 56 percent of those polled held favorable views of America.

America as international bogeyman gains some support among Third Word nations in the Pew survey, but in truth the nature of global anti-Americanism is much more complicated. As Anne Applebaum pointed out in
a 2005 Foreign Policy essay, even during the initial outrage following the American invasion of Iraq, people around the world continued to see the America as the world's beacon of liberty, and in a number of countries - like India, the Philippines, and South Africa - majorities evinced "mainly positive" views of the U.S.

Applebaum also notes large generational differences in public support. In countries like Poland, for example, anti-American opinion after Iraq was isolated to younger cohorts who have little recollection of American support for Poland during its historic resistance to Communist oppression during the Cold War. Applebaum highlights the tremendous latent good will toward the U.S. in international attitudes. Such positions make understanding international opinion more involved than we might get from Clinton's the-U.S.-as-bogeyman meme. (Don't forget as well
the tremendous outburst of lasting respect for the United States in Indonesia, which followed America's strong leadership in tsunami humanitarian relief efforts.)

Also questionable are Clinton's obligatory statements on the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. One can place little trust in such statements, because Clinton has shown very little consistency on Iraq policy in 2007, endlessly shifting her positions to satisfy the most important constituency demands of the moment. Because of the sheer logistical and strategic impediments to a rapid withdrawal, Americans ought not to expect a rapid drawdown of American forces in Iraq. To do otherwise would invite a collapse of order, and indeed the potential release of violent elements intent to restore a reign of murder in the wake of America's precipitous exit:

Here's Clinton:

We must withdraw from Iraq in a way that brings our troops home safely, begins to restore stability to the region, and replaces military force with a new diplomatic initiative to engage countries around the world in securing Iraq's future. To that end, as president, I will convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of defense, and the National Security Council and direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home, starting within the first 60 days of my administration.

While working to stabilize Iraq as our forces withdraw, I will focus U.S. aid on helping Iraqis, not propping up the Iraqi government. Financial resources will go only where they will be used properly, rather than to government ministries or ministers that hoard, steal, or waste them.

As we leave Iraq militarily, I will replace our military force with an intensive diplomatic initiative in the region. The Bush administration has belatedly begun to engage Iran and Syria in talks about the future of Iraq. This is a step in the right direction, but much more must be done. As president, I will convene a regional stabilization group composed of key allies, other global powers, and all the states bordering Iraq. Working with the newly appointed UN special representative for Iraq, the group will be charged with developing and implementing a strategy for achieving a stable Iraq that provides incentives for Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey to stay out of the civil war....

As we redeploy our troops from Iraq, we must not let down our guard against terrorism. I will order specialized units to engage in targeted operations against al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist organizations in the region. These units will also provide security for U.S. troops and personnel in Iraq and train and equip Iraqi security services to keep order and promote stability in the country, but only to the extent that such training is actually working.

Nothing new here. Recent reports indicate dramatic U.S. successes in beating back al Qaeda's operations, and the U.S. military is engaged in a wide-variety of security initiatives with local forces to accelerate the operational independence of the Iraq security apparatus.

But check out as well Clinton's platitudes on global multilateralism:

Contrary to what many in the current administration appear to believe, international institutions are tools rather than traps. The United States must be prepared to act on its own to defend its vital interests, but effective international institutions make it much less likely that we will have to do so. Both Republican and Democratic presidents have understood this for decades. When such institutions work well, they enhance our influence. When they do not work, their procedures serve as pretexts for endless delays, as in the case of Darfur, or descend into farce, as in the case of Sudan's election to the UN Commission on Human Rights. But instead of disparaging these institutions for their failures, we should bring them in line with the power realities of the twenty-first century and the basic values embodied in such documents as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Here Clinton systematically ignores the role of interests in international politics. The U.S. will resist multilateral initiatives that work to subordinate American international priorities. The Bush adminstration in fact began efforts to reform global bodies like the IMF and U.N., only to meet vicious opposition from some of the most corrupt bureaucrats on the planet. Hillary Clinton needs to propose an increase in such efforts, not the abandonment.

Finally, Clinton's international agenda evinces hallmarks of 1990s-era
foreign policy as social work:

To build the world we want, we must begin by speaking honestly about the problems we face...We will also have to take concrete steps to enhance security and spread opportunity throughout the world.

Education is the foundation of economic opportunity and should lie at the heart of America's foreign assistance efforts...As president, I will press for quick passage of the Education for All Act, which would provide $10 billion over a five-year period to train teachers and build schools in the developing world. This program would channel funds to those countries that provide the best plans for how to use them and rigorously measure performance to ensure that our dollars deliver results for children.

The fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other dreaded diseases is both a moral imperative and a practical necessity. These diseases have created a generation of orphans and set back economic and political progress by decades in many countries.

These problems often seem overwhelming, but we can solve them with the combined resources of governments, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We can set specific targets in areas such as expanding access to primary education, providing clean water, reducing child and maternal mortality, and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases. We can strengthen the International Labor Organization in order to enforce labor standards, just as we strengthened the World Trade Organization to enforce trade agreements. Such policies demonstrate that by doing good we can do well. This sort of investment and diplomacy will yield results for the United States, building goodwill even in places where our standing has suffered.

Read the rest. Clinton goes on to propose American pocketbook leaderhip on global warming, international energy investment, human rights, gender equality:

U.S. leadership, including a commitment to incorporate the promotion of women's rights in our bilateral relationships and international aid programs, is essential not just to improving the lives of women but to strengthening the families, communities, and societies in which they live.
These are essentially human development issues. But what's missing is a discussion of the fundamental importance of markets and trade in promoting economic growth in Third World countries. The U.S. can continue to build the international infrastructure of global prosperity through policies of trade expansion and international openness. Greater economic development will precede greater human development. According to Clinton's manifesto here, though, rather than a reliance on traditional trade practices, we see an aggressive call to lift up all nations through a Herculean American social policy effort.

There's much that's admirable about such goals, and we shouldn't reject innovative approaches in helping to solve the globe's most intractable problems. But Clinton's paper is almost like a wish list for the future of America's global role. Her discussion of vital interests and Ameican policy is cursory, and she avoids any tough talk beyond quick talking points on "firmness" and "resolve" (she derides the Bush administration as advocating the use of force as the preferred policy to most international problems).

Hillary Clinton's deeper problem is her notion that American foreign policy is a moral failure, and that we must "regain our authority" in international affairs. The U.S. hasn't lost its authority. The country remains the world's indispensible nation, and when global crises demand benign leadership for the provision of international goods, the U.S. will continue to get the call. We've faced difficulties in Iraq, which has made sustaining momentum and support more difficult. But we're gaining the upper hand, and to now feed the terrorist a victory through withdrawal would be folly. In the realm of opinion, much of international anti-Americanism is based on a resistance to America acting on the basis of its self interests. This is not new, and opinion trends are already turning back towards increasing acceptance and support (and recent elections in France and Germany have demonstrated how powerful the impulse to bandwagon on American power remains).

The U.S. needs to make adjustments, indeed, but not in the direction proposed by Hillary Clinton. America should leverage its improvements in Iraq to foster increased international efforts to combat the forces of terror, both transnational and state-sponsored. Diplomacy is key here, of course, but we have no desire to negotiate away our vital interests in regional and global security. We can, as well, increase spending on defense and expand the armed forces. We must increase efforts at vigorous public diplomacy to clarify America's interests in democracy promotion, economic development, and nuclear nonproliferation. We must not denigrate the great power that we enjoy. We can exercise robust leadership amid our substantial capabilities in ways no less "warm-hearted" than in earlier eras. In short, we need to continue to get things right, to follow-up our current victories against the forces of nihilism with more success. The "American idea" continues to glow, yet its illumination burns brighter amid a backdrop of competence and progress.