Originally posted on August 20, 2014.
On the surface an unlikely team, but the facts indicate simpatico.
Hillary Clinton was all in on Iraq, all for the Afghan surge, and supported Benghazi I and II. Clinton has been for Syrian involvement. Clinton also is supportive of a neoconservative foreign policy defined as the belief that U.S. military primacy and U.S. global leadership are valuable and worth sustaining.
Across the board, Hillary Clinton has voted in lock step with neoconservatives. Here the Cato Institute’s Chris Preble, author of the seminal The Power Problem, counsels readers: “If the Republican nominee assails Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy, a foreign policy similar to that espoused by the neoconservatives, don’t be surprised if the people once known as ‘Scoop’ Jackson Democrats, who bolted their party for the GOP in the early 1970s, change their allegiances again.”
A neoconservative foreign policy, as Reihan Salam explained earlier this year, is defined by “the belief that U.S. military primacy and U.S. global leadership are valuable and worth sustaining, and also that we ought to define our interests broadly rather than narrowly.”
This is what Clinton believes. Michael Tomasky, in a generally sympathetic review, calls Clinton version “muscular internationalism.” The key difference with neoconservatism, Tomasky contends, is that Clinton, like Obama, is less unilateral, more humble, and more aware of the limits of American military power.
On the particulars, however, Clinton has backed many of the neoconservatives’ favored policies.
But beyond Syria and Iraq, beyond the Afghan surge, beyond Benghazi I (the incident that precipitated U.S. involvement in Libya, and that Clinton supported) and Benghazi II (the attack on the U.S. consulate there that resulted in four Americans killed, and that Clinton runs away from), and beyond whether “muscular internationalism” is good for the country, the other question is whether Clinton’s hawkishness will be good for her politically.
Clinton’s foreign policy views are likely to be deeply unpopular with the majority of voters. We should recall, for example, that the public has always been overwhelmingly opposed to U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war, a trend that is unlikely to reverse anytime soon.
Perhaps she is gambling that it doesn’t matter. This time around, she is unlikely to face off against a credible, charismatic, dovish challenger in the Democratic primary. She might not face any challenger at all. She might feel that she doesn’t need to hide her hawkish tendencies, confident that most Democrats will vote for her anyway.
But if she does secure the Democratic nomination, we might end up with the curious case of a hawkish liberal Democrat facing off against a less hawkish conservative Republican. The GOP nominee might, for example, criticize Clinton for her vote for war with Iraq in 2002, or question the wisdom of arming so-called Syrian moderates.
If the Republican nominee assails Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy, a foreign policy remarkably similar to that espoused by the neoconservatives, don’t be surprised if the people once known as “Scoop” Jackson Democrats, who bolted their party for the GOP in the early 1970s, change their allegiances again.