Churlish

Max Boot surveys Obama’s national security team and writes, “only churlish partisans of both the left and the right can be unhappy with the emerging tenor of our nation’s new leadership.” I guess that makes me a churlish partisan.

It’s been clear to me since before Obama named anyone to his national security team that the incoming administration would not, in the short run, rock the boat on foreign policy and national security matters. As I have written, our foreign policy is on fairly solid ground now, and it would be foolish for Obama to spend political capital to change policies that a majority of Americans are not upset with, particularly at a time when we face massive problems on the domestic front. Obama is no fool and I’m happy that he is not.

But this doesn’t mean conservatives shouldn’t be unhappy about the prospect of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Boot thinks Clinton will be a powerful voice for “neo-liberalism” which, he adds, is not so different in many respects from “neo-conservativism”. Both, Boot notes, “support humanitarian interventions in places like Darfur and Bosnia.”

Yet for most conservatives I know, including neo-conservatives, Darfur and Bosnia are not issues the handling of which makes us happy or unhappy with the general course of U.S. foreign policy. And labeling Hillary Clinton a “neo-liberal” provides litte comfort that she is sound on the issues that make the most difference to many of us. Foremost among these issues are the willingness of the U.S. to project power in order to protect our interests without being constrained by the international community and, more generally, our willingness to stand up to attempts by the international community to restrict our right to self-government through various treaties and other entanglements.

There is plenty of reason to fear that Hillary Clinton is unsound on these issues. In fact, Citizens for Global Solutions, a leftist, “one-world” style organization, gave Hillary Clinton an “A” grade based on her Senate record. Chuck Schumer received only a B+. Obama also got an A. The only A+ grades went to Senators Boxer, Feinstein, Durbin, Kennedy, and Menendez. Our friends Orrin Hatch and John Cornyn both picked up Fs. So did John McCain.

To be sure, Clinton voted for the resolution that authorized military action against Iraq. But so did John Kerry. It’s also true that during the 2008 campaign, Clinton opposed negotiating with Iran without preconditions. But this tells us little about the kind of deal she might ultimately be willing to strike with Iran.

I don’t mean to suggest that conservatives should be distraught based on things the Obama-Clinton team might do but have not yet even proposed. But neither should we be sanguine about the direction in which U.S. foreign policy is likely to evolve under Obama-Clinton. Some of Obama’s more extreme positions during the campaign, e.g., negotiations without pre-conditions, are dead on arrival. Obama took them, I always thought, in order to position himself to the left of Clinton. He maintained (but fudged) them in the general election because, I assume, he calculated that the cost of flip-flopping was at least as great as the cost of adhering to the positions.

However, Obama seems quite serious about the importance of moving the U.S. into the international mainstream. There is no reason to suppose that Clinton, friend of Citizens for Global Solutions, will serve as a counterweight to this desire which, to most conservatives, is a recipe for great mischief and possibly for disaster.

Elections have consequences, as we like to say. The consequence of this election is that conservatives have lost their ability (already greatly diminished during President Bush’s second term) to influence our foreign policy going forward. Now, our foreign policy will be heavily influenced by Hillary Clinton. This seems like legitimate grounds for unhappiness.

To comment on this post, go here.

Responses