Hillary at State
Posted on January 13, 2009
Hillary at State Diplomacy is a very tricky thing. If your compatriots around the world like you too much, it probably means that you are the sucker. If they hate you too much, it is probably counterproductive. If you try to please them too much, you probably won’t please your constituents back home. And if you try to be all things to all the people of the world, you will probably alienate everybody. It is best that you stake out your principles, keep open lines of communications, and act always in the interest of your nation first. On some of the biggest issues out there, neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama have been models of consistency. Clinton first backed the war in Iraq, when it was politically safe to do so, and then slowly backed away from that support during the campaign. Obama, seeing an opportunity, opposed the war and opposed the surge, but has lately sounded more realistic about pulling out of Iraq, as the situation has improved on the ground. On trade, both Hillary and Obama talked tough about ending free trade during the campaign. Hillary suggested that we take a “time-out” on trade agreements. Obama suggested that he would unilaterally change the NAFTA treaty. But in this perilous economic time, when global trade is creeping to a standstill, what is needed is not free trade doubters but free trade cheerleaders. Obama sent the right signal on trade by meeting with leaders from both Canada and Mexico, while appointed free traders like Larry Summers to head up economic policy in the White House. But all of this backtracking can be very confusing for all concerned. Where does Obama really stand on issues like trade? Will he continue Bush’s efforts to export American style democracy? Will he try to be all things to all people? Obviously, George Bush was not that well-loved by the international community (except in sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and some other surprising places), but at least people knew where he was coming from. Obama is well-loved by all, and Hillary Clinton appears to bask in that reflected glory. But where do they really stand on the issues? And who will they seek to please with their policies? The American people or the vaunted international community? Change makes a fine campaign promise, but it doesn’t make for a rational foreign policy philosophy. Change yes, but change to what? Let’s hope Hillary can start answering some of those questions today.