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Motives aside, Clinton was right about Obama

By Dale R. Herspring

Hillary Clinton’s recent criticism of President Barack Obama did not come out of the blue. From various books and articles on the evolution of Obama’s foreign policy, it is clear that Clinton, along with Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and Gen. David Petraeus, constantly opposed Obama on whether to use force during the six years she was secretary of State.

This came to the fore in an interview in the Atlantic magazine in which Clinton was critical of Obama’s Middle East policy. She said she had argued for providing weapons to rebel groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The article said she considers Obama’s ap-proach to foreign policy overly cautious and contends that America needs a leader who believes that the United States, “despite its various missteps, is an indispensable force for good.”

She also took issue with Obama’s foreign policy slogan, “Don’t do stupid s—-.” Clinton responded, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘don’t do stupid s—-’ is not an organizing principle.”

Clinton also contends that Obama consistently refused her and her colleagues’ pleas to talk directly to moderate rebel groups in Syria. And she said Obama ignored her warnings that uprisings in Syria and Iraq would lead to the emergence of a group like the Islamic State. “The failure to help build up a credible fighting force left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” she said.

In other words, the carnage and destruction in northern Iraq is Obama’s fault.  What’s more, the fact that the Islamic State is the best funded, best equipped — with U.S. weapons taken from Iraqi army — and the best organized terrorist group, complete with a military infrastructure, is a testament to the folly of Obama’s refusal to take the rise of this group seriously.

Clinton also took a hard line on Obama’s policy toward Iran.  She said she has always be-lieved Iran did not have a right to uranium enrichment. In a slap at Obama, she claimed that on that topic she had sided with Israeli Prime Minister Ben-jamin Netanyahu.

So what’s up with Clinton?

In 2002 she voted with “conviction” to authorize the invasion of Iraq, supporting the Bush administration. Then in 2008, believing that the American public had turned against the Iraq War, she vehemently op-posed the war and voted against the surge, though doing so imperiled personnel she had supported sending to Iraq.  

This appears to be part and parcel of her campaign for the presidency. She knows Obama is one of the most ineffective and unpopular presidents in re-cent history. In a recent poll, only 35 percent of respondents supported his foreign policy, while 53 percent opposed it.  Traditionally, foreign policy is not as important to elections, especially off-year elections, as domestic issues are, but this year’s elections may be nothing short of a disaster for Obama. Many candidates in his own party are running away from him.

It should be noted that Clinton and Obama have publicly made up.  She phoned him to apologize for her comments in the magazine, but few believe the make-up was sincere on either side. The two were supposed to “make-up” at a party earlier this month to which reporters were not admitted. Unsubstantiated reports suggest that the party was anything but congenial; one report suggested that the Obamas danced all night to avoid talking to the Clintons, with whom they shared a table.

Politically, Clinton has moved further toward the center, which makes her more appealing to independent voters, although many on her left wing are upset with the Atlantic interview. 

So where does this leave the country for the next two years?  Our allies often understand us better than we do. A Canadian newspaper spoke volumes with the following headline about our president: “Ever-cautious Obama finds even the Vatican takes a tougher line on ISIS.”  The same Canadian paper said Obama “gets little credit for any of his decisions ... because he gives every appearance of moving only when forced to, and then doing the minimum re-quired.  He reacts rather than leads.”

If George W. Bush can be criticized for his cowboy tendencies, Obama tends toward the opposite extreme, preferring to do nothing rather than risk making a mistake.

Given a choice between Obama and Clinton, I would take the latter any day.

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