It isn’t very often that John Cassidy of The New Yorker and Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal find themselves in agreement, so the occasion is noteworthy.
As Shakespeare put it: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments….”
Cassidy and Rabinowitz come to the same conclusion about our outgoing Secretary of State's lack of achievements.
Hillary Clinton leaves her job with exceptionally high approval ratings. The media and more than a few Republicans have expressed unstinting admiration for the great job she has done, to the point where few people have noticed that she has accomplished very little, if anything.
[George] Marshall gave his name to an economic-recovery plan for war-torn Europe. Acheson laid down the Cold War policy of containment and helped create NATO. Adams helped conceive the Monroe Doctrine, which defined Central and South America as part of the U.S. sphere of influence. Kissinger pioneered détente with the Soviets, instigated a rapprochement with the Chinese, and did much else besides (by no means all of it estimable). By contrast, Hillary’s signature achievements look like small beer. She was the public face of the U.S. response to the Arab Spring, which involved persuading Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian President, to step aside peaceably, winning international support for U.S. military intervention in Libya, and resisting international pressure for similar action in Syria. How these policies will ultimately play out, it is too early to say.
It’s probably not too early to say that they have been working out very badly, but why cavil.
Cassidy tries try to find some redeeming value in Clinton’s tenure:
Throughout her tenure, she was a vocal proponent of female empowerment, gay rights, and equitable economic development in poor countries. She also defended freedom of expression. Perhaps her most memorable moment was helping to secure the freedom of Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese dissident, who is now a scholar in residence at N.Y.U.
If that’s the best Cassidy can find, one is not awestruck. One respects the effort it took to come up with those.
Hillary didn’t create these trends, but she did her part for Team U.S.A. As a “rock star diplomat,” she toured tirelessly and put on good shows. Since that’s what she was hired to do, it seems a bit unfair to judge her too harshly.
OK, let’s not be too harsh, but still, in Cassidy’s judgment, her record amounts to very, very little. He gives her credit for logging a lot of frequent flier miles, well and good, but she was more show than substance. Since she had no real background in foreign policy before taking the job, why is anyone surprised?
Now, to Dorothy Rabinowitz, who judges HRC rather more harshly.
Rabinowitz, like many others, notes that the leftist propaganda machine has already started work on making Hillary the first woman president.
Barack Obama has already shown that you can overcome an absence of achievement with good PR, and Hillary is following in his footsteps.
What is already clear—what should stand out blazing in neon—are the extraordinary claims now being made for Mrs. Clinton's achievements as secretary of state. One of the greatest secretaries of state America has known, according to the president—and his is one of the more modest assessments. It's not the sort of view, to be sure, for which she can be held responsible, but it is an indicator of the passions that would drive her candidacy for the White House: the first woman president.
No one would dispute Mrs. Clinton's hard work, her travels across the globe, her famous capacity to show up armed with encyclopedic detail on every issue, every side of every question. She has been the most dutiful of secretaries of state, has obligingly and diligently carried forth Mr. Obama's designs for shrinking the American presence in the world. She leaves office having left behind no imprint of a vision, no evidence of concerns other than the dictates of diligent obedience.
Both Cassidy and Rabinowitz are telling their readers to take a step back and to try to evaluate the Clinton record dispassionately. They deserve praise for their efforts.
Jonathan Tobin at the Commentary Contentions blog is considerably less charitable. He is willing to call a failure a failure, so he zeroes in on the greatest failure of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy: the mismanagement of the Arab Spring.
Tobin describes how Hillary Clinton helped facilitate the transition from Mubarak rule to Muslim Brotherhood rule.
In his words:
The significance of the statement from Defense Minister Gen. Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi is that the sidelining of the military during the transition after Mubarak’s fall was very much Clinton’s handiwork. While the administration probably gets more blame than they deserve for the end of Mubarak’s rule, they haven’t gotten enough for the way they helped smooth the way for the Brotherhood’s ascendancy. Clinton used the leverage that the more than $1 billion in American aid Egypt gets from the United States in order to force the generals to stand aside and let the Brotherhood take power. Neither she nor the president has shown the slightest inclination to use that same leverage to push the Brotherhood out or even to make it loosen its grip on total power.
Anyone doubting the importance of this in terms of Clinton’s legacy needs to understand that on her watch, the most populous Arab nation has moved from being a force for moderation in the region to being in the grip of an Islamist government that is not only hostile to our values (as Morsi’s anti-Semitic rants and his equally hateful explanations for them illustrate), but also has re-established good relations with our enemies like Iran, strengthened terrorists like the Hamas regime in Gaza and threatened the peace with Israel.
This is a diplomatic setback of the first order. But instead of speaking out in order to try and restrain Morsi from killing his opponents or supporting those Egyptians who want to know how it is that they have swapped a secular dictator for an Islamist one, Clinton and her boss have made it clear that they will continue funding him. If this is their idea of foreign policy success, we’d hate to see what failure looks like.
It is worth underscoring Tobin’s point: over the past few days Egypt has been in flames. Dozens of people have been killed. Hundreds more have been injured.
To the Obama/Clinton foreign policy team, it’s just growing pains.
Hillary has trotted out an old ploy: declare victory and go home.