In an article in The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg states, “Professional Clinton-watchers (and there are battalions of them) have told me that it is only a matter of time before she (Hllary Clinton) makes a more forceful attempt to highlight her differences with the (unpopular) president she ran against, and then went on to serve. On a number of occasions during my interview with her, I got the sense that this effort is already underway.”
“Clinton had many kind words for the ‘incredibly intelligent’ and ‘thoughtful’ Obama, and she expressed sympathy and understanding for the devilishly complicated challenges he faces. But she also suggested that she finds his approach to foreign policy overly cautious, and she made the case that America needs a leader who believes that the country, despite its various missteps, is an indispensable force for good.”
When Clinton talked of Obama’s “don’t do stupid stuff” slogan, she was responding to Goldberg:
At one point, Goldberg brought up the slogan President Obama recently coined to describe his foreign-policy doctrine: “Don’t do stupid stuff.”
Clinton replied to Goldberg, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”
David Axelrod, the architect of Obama’s presidential campaigns, didn’t miss the opportunity to take a jab at one of the choices in Hillary’s portfolio in his tweets. “Just to clarify: ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place, which was a tragically bad decision,” he tweeted about Clinton’s support for George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion.
Clinton goes on to say, “One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States,” she said. “Jihadist groups are governing territory. They will never stay there, though. They are driven to expand. Their raison d’etre is to be against the West, against the Crusaders, against the fill-in-the-blank—and we all fit into one of these categories. How do we try to contain that? I’m thinking a lot about containment, deterrence, and defeat.”
These comments seem similar to Obama’s own: “Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy,” he said.
She criticized Obama’s decision not to get involved with the Syrian civil war years ago: “The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad — there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle — the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” she told Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic in August.
However, Hillary’s comments fail to address the shifting landscape in Syria and that the greatest threat in Syria is no longer considered to be Bashar Assad, but rather ISIS. Her view fails to address the complexity of the situation in that she wants to support a rebel force against Assad, but ISIS is a rebel force against Assad.
Will it not become difficult to keep American arms out of the hands of ISIS if you are arming the allies of ISIS? Theoretically, the U.S. wants to vet the groups and only give arms to “moderate” groups. How would that work out on the ground? Recently, moderates in the area near Damascus made a truce agreement with ISIS.
Clinton also seems to take a more pro-Israel stand on the Palestinian conflict.
When asked about the intense international focus on Gaza, Clinton was quick to identify anti-Semitism as an important motivating factor in criticism of Israel. “It is striking … that you have more than 170,000 people dead in Syria. … You have Russia massing battalions—Russia, that actually annexed and is occupying part of a UN member-state—and I fear that it will do even more to prevent the incremental success of the Ukrainian government to take back its own territory, other than Crimea. More than 1,000 people have been killed in Ukraine on both sides, not counting the [Malaysia Airlines] plane, and yet we do see this enormous international reaction against Israel, and Israel’s right to defend itself, and the way Israel has to defend itself. This reaction is uncalled for and unfair.”
According to the 2012 National Power Index (NPI), released by the Foundation for National Security Research (FNSR), a New Delhi-based think tank, Israel achieved a 32.19 NPI ranking, placing it tenth on the list of the world’s most powerful countries. It’s military is often ranked 10th by most measures.
By contrast, Palestine does not have a military at all, though there is the Al Qassam brigade, which is the military wing of Hamas, a political party.
President Obama has been for the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Wikipedia states:
“On 22 January 2009, President Barack Obama signed an order to suspend proceedings at Guantanamo military commission for 120 days and shut down the detention facility that year. On 29 January 2009, a military judge at Guantanamo rejected the White House request in the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, creating an unexpected challenge for the administration as it reviewed how the United States brings Guantanamo detainees to trial. On 20 May 2009, the United States Senate passed an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009 (H.R. 2346) by a 90–6 vote to block funds needed for the transfer or release of prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.”
The president and Hillary both generally agree on closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. According to the Daily Kos:
“But at the end of the day, Clinton had little leverage to get the White House to act. Now, in one of her last moves as secretary of State, she was making a final effort to prod her boss to do more. Her memo was replete with practical suggestions for moving ahead on Gitmo. Chief among them: Obama needed to appoint a high-level official to be in charge of the effort, someone who had clout and proximity to the Oval Office.
“Further, Clinton argued that Obama could start transferring the 86 detainees who’d already been cleared for release. (Congress has imposed onerous restrictions on the administration’s ability to transfer Gitmo detainees—including a stipulation that the secretary of Defense certify that detainees sent to other countries would not engage in acts of terrorism. In her memo, Clinton pointed out that the administration could use ‘national-security waivers’ to circumvent the restriction.)”
To summarize: Clinton does seem to be more of a hawk, but it is not clear that her hawkish decisions on Syria (i.e. giving more help to the rebels) would have been for the best. In all, there is also quite a bit of overlap between her foreign policy and Obama’s.