Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Vision

September 2, 2016

Photo by UN Women (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Photo by UN Women (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton told the audience that “we believe that cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division...” Herein lies the problem with Clinton’s foreign policy positions. She is vague, unclear, and contradictory about how her beliefs serve the interests of the American people.

In 2002, then-Senator Clinton voted for the Iraq War and failed to read the classified, 92-page document used to justify the invasion. She regrets voting in favor of the authorization and called it “a mistake.” By reducing her support as a mistake, she downplays the colossal consequences of the war and removes blame from the decision. Many Americans consider the Iraq War to be our worst foreign policy decision ever. The British government’s Chilcot inquiry reported that the war, occupation, and toppling of Saddam Hussein fanned the flames of extremism in Iraq which contributed to the formation of ISIS. Bessma Momani of the Brookings Institute wrote that "the Iraq War left behind five-million Iraqi orphans, took more than 100,000 Iraqi lives, forced four- to five-million Iraqis to flee their homes and communities…" If Clinton becomes our Commander-in-Chief, she should commit to careful due diligence before supporting military options and possibly making more mistakes.

Clinton’s hawkish rhetoric and contradictory decisions undermine the efforts of Iranian reformists to strengthen US-Iranian relations. For instance, Clinton publicly supported the nuclear deal, but, she added that her approach to inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities would be "distrust and verify” as well as resorting to military action if Iran pursues nuclear weapons. During the nuclear talks, government officials described Clinton as “a highly cautious, ambivalent diplomat, less willing than Mr. Obama to take risks to open a dialogue with Iran.” Furthermore, Clinton told a Democratic debate audience that she was proud to call Iran an enemy. Clinton must refrain from hawkish language when engaging with Iran.

Clinton is a supporter of drone strikes and maintains that they are effective in counter-terrorism strategies. However, reports indicate that civilian casualties account for four to thirty-five percent of all deaths. Drone strikes may create more terrorists; in fact, former drone pilots warned that drones have become a recruitment tool for ISIS. If resorting to drones, Clinton should ensure that all measures are taken to minimize civilian deaths. There must be greater transparency and accountability on drone strikes and operations.

Clinton acknowledges that ISIS and the Syrian civil conflict are threats to American national security. A few of Clinton’s proposals to combat these threats include:

1) refraining from having troops on the ground in Syria or Iraq;
2) continuing cooperation with international coalition and organizations; and,
3) advocating for a No Fly Zone.

Her overall goal is to intensify the fight. If Clinton’s policy is a continuation of Obama’s policy, then what will fundamentally change if Clinton’s plan is mostly business as usual? According to foreign policy experts on both sides of the aisle, this approach has been a failure. It has allowed for Syrian President Assad to commit atrocities against his own people. More Syrian refugees are displaced today than refugees during World War II. The refugee crisis has emboldened radicals and extremists like ISIS. She needs to communicate the new, different actions she will take to address the Syrian issue.

Finally, Clinton has campaigned for absolute support of the pro-Israel camp at the expense of Palestinians. When asked about Palestinian statehood, Clinton deflects the question and insists on continuing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Moreover, she opposes the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement that has found its place on many college campuses as a form of non-violent resistance against the occupation. Her support for Israel may potentially criminalize student activism on BDS. She sent a letter to businessman Haim Saban articulating her steadfast opposition to the BDS movement. Although she supports a two-state solution, Clinton needs to demonstrate how she intends to fulfill that vision. Specifically, she needs to take a strong stance against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s acrimonious, unlawful objective to build illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

From the dangers of nuclear proliferation to the uncertainty of Syria to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Hillary Clinton needs to be clear on how her positions will serve American interests. She has been on both sides of an issue which has led to contradictions. She has the potential to be a strong foreign policy president. But, this won’t happen unless she is more transparent and open.

You can read our analysis on Donald Trump's foreign policy: here.



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