Friday, January 25. 2008
George Packer has a piece in the Jan. 28 New Yorker on "The Choice" (Clinton-Obama). At first glance, what's missing is mention of the war that Obama opposed and Clinton and Packer did so much to enable. Then I noticed the following paragraph:
This points out one of the big problem with Hillary Clinton: her embrace of the military. Whether she's done this in order to counter the public sense that she's weak on war -- which was a plausible theory why Bill Clinton was so solicitous of military "solutions" to diplomatic problems during his presidency -- or reflects some other character disorder, I don't get the sense that she's ever learned any better. There's a big and critical difference between thinking that Bush and Rumsfeld made mistakes in how they handled Iraq and realizing that nothng the US armed forces could have done would have accomplished anything resembling the goals of the war. Until she realizes that war is the failure of policy rather than an option, and that the military (at least one deployed all around the world) makes war more likely rather than less, that indeed the US armed forces are nothing more than an engine of failure, she'll never get a grip on what needs to be done on foreign policy.
If you want proof of how little she's learned, note that Richard Holbrooke is one of her top advisers (as he was with John Kerry). Holbrooke was one of the main architects of the liberal interventionism (or what he calls "muscular liberalism") that drove so many of Bill Clinton's misadventures. Morally and intellectually he is no better than Richard Perle, who has much the same ardent desire to kill people to make the world a better place. And Holbrooke's hardly the only such one in the Clinton camp. The Mighty and the Almighty Madeleine Albright is another. But what may prove just as damaging is the simple idea that what the past Clinton administration did was a successful application of American power. Bush's disastrous wars were in most respects unwise escalations of conflicts that Clinton had failed to resolve when he had the chance.
There are, of course, other problems with Hillary Clinton's candidacy. A major one is the desire to break out of the rut of Bushes and Clintons, with their aristocratic and nepotistic overtones. But whoever follows Bush will have to start undoing the effects of numerous bad policies that the US has adopted not just since 2001 but a good deal longer. It's not clear to me that Obama or Edwards are up to the task, but at least they don't have the intimate connection to past wrongs that Hillary Clinton has.