“Don’t do stupid [stuff]” and “Smart Power” — what’s the difference?

Hillary Clinton famously chided President Obama for his foreign policy when she declared: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.” But what is the organizing principle of Clinton’s foreign policy?

According to Clinton, it is “smart power.” In remarks posted on her website (before it was scrubbed of content), she said she is “enormously proud of what we have achieved” using her “smart power approach” to foreign policy.

On the face of it, “don’t do stupid [stuff]” and “smart power” seem like basically the same “organizing principle.” As one of our readers puts it, they both reflect “the attitude that leftists are smarter than idiots like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, etc., and that their high IQs will make all right in the world.”

To paraphrase Hillary Clinton, “I’m smarter than you” is not an organizing principle.

“Don’t do stupid [stuff]” and “smart power” also provide the identical excuse for eschewing the use of force in situations where, throughout most of human history, force has been employed. By invoking these mantras, leftist politicians can claim they eschew using force to defend American interests and values not because they are soft or pacifist-leaning, but because they are smart.

“Smart power” sounds more impressive than “don’t do stupid [stuff].” It contains the word “power” and seems less passive. But is there any substantive difference between the two mantras?

“Smart power” proponents would cite their reliance on non-military forms of action, i.e., economic and diplomatic. But the “don’t do stupid [stuff]” proponents in the Obama administration have relied on economic and diplomatic action in lieu of military power. For them, quite clearly, these forms of behavior aren’t stupid. The use of U.S. ground forces is.

Thus, the foreign policy principles of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton turn out to be the same bit of delusional arrogance. “Don’t do stupid [stuff]” is simply the colloquial, more snarky equivalent of “smart power.”

We shouldn’t be surprised by the equivalence. Clinton did, after all, serve as Secretary of State under Obama, as much as she would like people to forget the collaboration.

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