Good or Bad for the Jews

"Good or Bad for the Jews"

Many years ago, and for many years, I would travel to Morocco to visit uncles, cousins, and my paternal grandmother. Some lived in Tangiers;...

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Obama Foreign Policy (Part II): Hillary Clinton Mails It In

We have no foreign policy leadership at the White House or at State. We, in fact, do not have a Secretary of State; we have somebody playing one. As they say in Hollywood, Hillary Clinton is just mailing it in.

By today's devalued standards, Hillary Clinton is not stupid. She is "well-educated," which means she successfully navigated her way through some "elite" degree-granting institution. A crafty, although ethically challenged, hard-nosed American politician, she has taken the opportunities that fell into her lap: her playboy husband became Governor of Arkansas and then President, and she ably used that to her advantage, e.g., a Senate seat, almost the Presidency, and now SecState. As the First Lady of Arkansas, she played the role required of her: she laundered bribes for her husband. That is what Whitewater was about. That was her role at the Rose Law Firm: she would collect and launder the payoffs. She "made" a fortune in cattle futures, right? OK, when will you pay me for that bridge? (Note: The GOP was too stupid to explain the Whitewater affair, and accepted the media line that it was "too complicated" for the public to understand. My Foreign Service friends and I who had spent years in places where that was the role of the First Lady figured it out instantly.)

On the positive side, Hillary Clinton is not overtly anti-American as are some of the political types who have come into the Department, in particular in the Western Hemisphere bureau. She has some notable skills. As noted, she served as Chief Laundress during Governor Bill's tenure in Arkansas. During his run for president, she had charge of dampening the "bimbo eruptions." As First Lady in the White House, she had the point when it came to slamming critics, e.g., "vast right wing conspiracy." She, however, outdrove her headlights when she tried to design a national healthcare plan. That horribly botched effort revealed her lack of managerial and leadership skills, as well as her stunning arrogance. She brought those qualities to the State Department, an organization already flush with poor management, weak leadership, and stunning arrogance. I would note that among arrogant government agencies, State is the Saudi Arabia of arrogance--it has huge proven reserves.

Hillary Clinton is a celebrity who wants prestige. Secretary of State is a pretty good gig for those seeking prestige. You confirm your celebrity status, and the mainstream media labels you a "serious thinker." You will get a lucrative book ghost-written for you. You get on TV whenever you want; have cars and planes at your command; people around the world know you; and you have thousands of employees, mostly men, who fawn over you, laugh uproariously at your jokes, and nod like bobble heads on a dashboard while very ostentatiously writing down your words, and . . . wait.

Let's back up.

Let me explain the culture at State. It revolves around public displays of affection for the Secretary; more than that, it is based upon open adoration of the Secretary, who quickly becomes an almost mythical figure possessed of unbounded wisdom and insight. What we have, in other words, is a diluted version of North Korea. You go to staff meetings, and they ring with statements, such as "the Secretary has said," "the Secretary wants," and "the Secretary was right on point this morning." You have not seen grown people--mostly men--try to outdo themselves praising the Dear Leader until you have gone to a morning meeting at State chaired by somebody who just attended a prior staff meeting chaired by the Secretary. As the kids say, "OMG!" People you thought reasonable, lose all reason, all critical faculties as they rush to appear the Most Loyal Servant of the Secretary. These are supposed to be Americans, defenders of the Great Republic, but you expect them to break into Anna's song, absent the irony,

"Yes, Your Majesty;
No, Your Majesty.
Tell us how low to go, Your Majesty;
Make some more decrees, Your Majesty,
Don't let us up off our knees, Your Majesty.
Give us a kick, if you please, Your Majesty
Give us a kick, if you would, Your Majesty
Oh, That was good, Your Majesty!"

All that's while in public. In private, in unguarded moments, career FSOs often reveal contempt for the Secretary and her "political appointees"--many of whom, truth be told, are worthy of contempt but not for the reasons of the Foreign Service; they are worthy of contempt because they don't like America. In short, this Secretary, as with (most of) her predecessors, comes to believe "her" people adore and respect her. Madam Secretary, I am here to tell you it's an act aimed at getting plum assignments.

Back to our story. As explained in a prior post, there is no foreign policy coming from the White House, except a default position of apology, appeasement, and accommodation. As a wise former colleague told me in an email when I let him know I was writing this piece, which would be very critical of Hillary Clinton as SecState, "A Secretary of State should not, of course, have a policy different from the President's, but that does not mean that what she says, how she says it, and the choices she makes in where she goes and what she does must be without character. We remember Seward's Folly and Marshall's Plan. Powell carried a Doctrine with him. What notable thing can one attach to Hillary Clinton? This is especially important with a President who leads from behind and who reflexively takes the least dramatic (and generally least effective) path to any goal. . . . Hillary, the candidate in 2008 with 'experience', should have provided some appropriate leadership here; she has not." He's absolutely right. Hillary Clinton will go down as either one of the most inconsequential or most damaging Secretaries of State, just as Obama will as president. There is no "Hillary Doctrine." Chortling upon hearing of the death of the insignificant Qaddafi, "We came, we saw, he died," does not cut it as doctrine.

The problem with Hillary Clinton's tenure, however, is more fundamental than the lack of a doctrine. Secretary Clinton has no knowledge of or interest in foreign affairs. She is bored by the substance; has no appreciation for core US interests, or how to defend them; does not understand the correlation between military power and diplomacy; and fritters time ineffectually on marginal issues, e.g., women in Africa. She has a close entourage of mostly "high powered" women, e.g., Cheryl Mills, who come from her political campaigns, draw top government salaries, have no foreign affairs knowledge, and worry only about the Secretary's image. She has entrusted some key programs to this entourage, and they have made a hash. Cheryl Mills, for example, received overall control of the Haiti relief effort. That assistance effort has stagnated, amuck in a bureaucratic mire where nobody knows the policy, the priorities, or even how much money has been raised and spent and on what. No link exists between our generous contributions to Haiti and even minimal political gain for the US. Haiti's leaders cavort with Castro and Chavez, and regularly oppose us at the UN and the OAS. You're in trouble when even Haiti's leaders know they can defy you openly, and you will still pour in the cash.

I have seen the Secretary in meetings with staff and foreign dignitaries. She reads her notes, spews out her talking points, and then gets that 1,000 yard stare. She is not at all interested in the goings on. She looks to her staff to extricate her, and tries to leave as quickly as possible. No decisiveness, no standing up for America, just a fatuous empty pantsuit blandness.

She, after all, is just mailing it in.



  1. I think I did see the glimmers of a foreign policy out of Hillary at the start ... it was called "Reset." In other words, everything that had been accomplished up to then by our foreign service people was trashed ... and we were going to start over to try to get the rest of the world to like ... even love us.

    As indicated by you, Hillary's lack of focus has caused even this initial glimmer of a foreign policy to fade like a Cheshire cat ... but not before doing substantial damage to our previous sub rosa understandings with our international friends (and enemies).

    Our foreign policy now is in a shambles and Hillary is still a hero to many on the left who refuse to look beyond her airport tarmac speeches ... so full of inanities. I also think her instinctive and long-held hatred of Israel has given Obama the spine to piss in that punch bowl too.

    1. Speaking of "airport tarmac": Too bad she ducked.

  2. ..."State is the Saudi Arabia of arrogance--it has huge proven reserves." What a wonderful turn of phrase.

  3. "State is the Saudi Arabia of arrogance--it has huge proven reserves." It's a universal constant...Canada's diploweenies in Foreign Affairs are and have always been exactly the same (Paul Heinbecker, come on down!).

  4. I came back to this blog because of Instapundit. I cannot tell you how awesome it is to know that you are back in the blogosphere (sorry if I am late to the game). Your departure years ago was a great loss to my ritual perusal of the interwebs. I am glad to add you back to my list.


  5. Clearly the Republican agenda of waging wars in Afghanistan and Iraq worked so much better. Iran should have been added to the list and then maybe Russia (which according to some remains the key geopolitical foe) and the world would be a better place...

    1. Russia and Iran? Hold your horses, Scooter, Obama will get to those places, he's still trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing in Syria. Iraq? Fail! Libya? Fail! Egypt? Fail! Afghanistan? Soon-to-be fail! Fails meaning a win for Obama's "foreign policy." Fail, fail, fail! Win, win, win for Obama and the Left! See America fail. Fail, America, fail!

  6. I agree with much of your evaluation of Hillary. However, I am at an utter loss regarding what it means to be "pro-American", especially given the "I Stand with Israel" logo on the right margin of this blog.

  7. Dear "Anonymous: August 21, 2013 at 9:02 PM",
    Read below the Star of David, "Dealing with Jihadis for 1400 Years and Counting". The struggle againts Islamic totalitarianism, should have been the focus of American foreign policy since the fall of the Soviet Union or at least the first World Trade Center bombing.