Smart Politics?

In her Senate confirmation hearing, Hillary Clinton testified that “smart power” would be the hallmark of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. This means, she said, an emphasis on diplomacy rather than “military force” and “unilateral action.” She intended, of course, to differentiate Obama’s philosophy from that of the Bush administration. In fact, however, George Bush did not address any major international issue unilaterally–not Afghanistan, not Iraq, not Iran, not North Korea.

The Bush administration employed military force in two arenas, Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama has said that he approves of the Afghanistan war and plans to intensify it. So what Clinton’s “smart power” theme really comes down to is We won’t do dumb things like the Iraq war.

Hillary Clinton, however, voted for the Iraq war, so she’s a doubtful carrier of the “smart power” message, at best. The “smart power” theme is one more instance of the incoming administration’s lack of seriousness in its public pronouncements. Whether it will be equally unserious when the need arises for action, time will tell.

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