Enormously popular in America and elsewhere, her performance as Secretary of State has failed in most regions of the world.
What is it that so many like and respect about Hillary Clinton? Is it how she endured the challenges her husband put her through? Is it sympathy because many now think she, rather than President Obama, should be the Democrat President? Whatever it is that causes people to like her, it certainly shouldn’t be for her performance as Secretary of State.
Below is a report card on her performance over the last 3.5 years. It’s important to note that there are many factors that influence how our foreign affairs progress, but as Secretary of State as in any serious position, one must be judged on results. The report card by country/region is below.
1. Iraq. The administration completed execution of the Bush “Status of Forces” agreement with Iraq, removing our combat troops on schedule (and claiming credit for it for themselves, as if Bush did not write the agreement). This is good, but it was not a result of Obama policy. The very negative side is that the Bush team had in this agreement a commitment from both sides to negotiate a remaining force and bases for both protection of the Iraqi people, and for potential Middle East use during a crisis. This was the one significant area the Obama administration had to influence our policies towards Iraq. The current administration failed to establish such a policy, and now all our troops are out of Iraq, a huge loss for the United States, the Iraqi people, and stability in the Middle East. Grade: D
2. Iran. Iran is more dangerous today than 3 years ago, and by most accounts they are very close to having a nuclear bomb. In addition, the Administration decided not to support the democratic uprising in Iran 2 years ago, allowing it to die on the vine, along with likely a few thousand Iranian democratic activists. It was a cowardly policy that ruined a chance for America to stand up for principle and freedom, and to potentially help foment an overthrow of the Iranian theocracy. Millions of young Iranians will never forget our unwillingness to support them. Attempts to disrupt bomb development with software weapons and viruses have been good and somewhat effective. Grade: D
3. Libya. While the Libyan policy of “leading from behind” was a scary concept, we really ended up leading from the front. Our policies and approach were muddled, but the administration deserves credit for the result nonetheless. Grade: B+
4. Russia. Secretary Clinton promised to “press the reset button” with Russia, apparently in response to what she and Obama thought were failed Bush policies. They used it as a huge campaign issue, but it was a bunch of talk about nothing. It’s as if Russia was a friendly and good country that Bush had screwed up relationships with. As a result we went soft on Russia, agreeing to stop our missile defense system and getting nothing in return, allowing them to continue to run rampant in Georgia on human rights, rewriting their constitution to allow a continuing dictatorship, making them comfortable vetoeing every major human-rights related policy in the UN Security Council (including “no” votes on interceding in Syria), and allowing democrat activists and reporters to be jailed or murdered. Grade: F.
5. China. China relations have not improved, nor have they been damaged. While we have spoken on behalf of human rights and dissidents, we also slipped the Dalai Lama out the back door. In the balance of supporting human rights while maintaining reasonable trade policies, we still lean too much towards trade. Grade: B+
6. Egypt. American popularity in Egypt has plunged (not that this is the most critical measure, but…), most likely because we failed to support the freedom movement in Tahrir Square until after we pretty much knew the outcome. It was like watching the Super Bowl without cheering for a team until you knew who was going to win the game, with much more terrible consequences. We’ll also never know how much this influenced the longer-term outcome, which as of now has a Mubarak-like military supported leader running against an Islamist for the Presidency, essentially squashing the democracy movement in Egypt. Spring has skipped to late Fall and there are ominous clouds on the horizon, and democracy in Egypt is unlikely anytime soon. Grade: F
7. Pakistan: The Pakistani relationship is perhaps the most complex of any we have to manage, and one of the most consequential. Calls to stop providing financial aid to Pakistan are uninformed, and the need to stay engaged with Pakistan is critical. Through the killing of Bin Laden managing this relationship and resisting calls and temptation to cut off our relations with Pakistan have been difficult to deal with. The proper balance has been struck. Grade: A-
8. North Korea. Would North Korea have felt emboldened enough to have intentionally sunken a South Korean ship when Bush was President? No way. But the North Koreans can smell weakness half way around the world, and they are holding their noses. North Korea is more dangerous than ever. Grade: F
9. Free Trade. The President sat on 3 free trade agreements for 3 years, those with Columbia, Panama, and South Korea. A shining example of how Obama pro-actively kills job growth potential, these agreements which were obviously good for American workers and employment– as well as for all 3 countries– sat in limbo as Obama catered to his union campaign contributors. Billions of dollars in “work adjustment” aid were provided to American unions as part of the trade agreements, and these were nothing short of a payoff to keep campaign contributions coming. It was theft from the American taxpayers. Worst of all, the free trade agreement with Colombia was time sensitive as their pro-democracy government struggled to survive in the face of enemies and powerful drug cartels, but Obama wouldn’t pass the agreement until his union friends were completely paid off. The Colombian people and their economy suffered greatly as a result. Grade: D
10. War on Terror. Oops, sorry, I mean the “war on man-caused disasters”. Obama deserves tremendous credit for surprising all of us with many of his actions. First, his obvious but still gutsy call to get Bin Laden was a great one. Second, his stepping up of drone attacks has produced results, and one can’t imagine any Al Qaeda leader sleeping without one eye open anywhere in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Yemen. He gets credit (and somehow the lefties who called for Bush to be impeached are silent on Obama) for continuing Bush rendition policies, keeping Gitmo open, continuing with military tribunals, and avoiding bringing KSM to the US for trial (after a mutiny of Congress and New York politicians). For his criticism and now elimination of enhanced interrogation, he has taken a critically important weapon off the table, and I suspect in his heart of hearts he knows he’d like to have it for use in critical situations. Overall Grade, B+.
11. Africa (acknowledging that Libya is in Africa but not part of this analysis). The Secretary and the President have been incredibly inactive on this complex continent. It’s problems need our aid and attention, and its future potential (good and bad) are worthy of significant investment. A diverse and complex area in which to evaluate overall performance, in general our government is asleep on this one. Grade: D.