Just a few months ago the "Inevitable Hillary" was struggling to identify any accomplishments during her tenure as Secretary of State. Those were the Good Old Days for Campaign Hillary.
Back in 1969 Dean Acheson wrote a book titled "Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department" about his role as an architect of the post - World War II international structure. The Marshall Plan for Europe, the founding of the United Nations; the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; the Central Treaty Organization for South Asia; the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization; the Korean War. For three generation we have generally enjoyed the benefits of a largely stable world order and the spread of prosperity and human rights around the world with America's leadership in large part because of the vision and leadership of Acheson and a handful of his peers. As World War II, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao recede into history the majority of Americans assume that the latter half of the 20th Century was the norm and that this construct of the world will last because of its own virtue. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Enter Barack Obama and his Secretary of State. Where Acheson and many of his peers were statesmen motivated by a vision with enough political skill to put in place, for the past six years we have had the reverse - a president who is suspect of America's historic place in the world and a politician in a holding pattern. Together they have demonstrated a cautionary tale about how frail the world order is.
While Acheson and his peers inherited a world exhausted by World War II it was not an easy playing field. Stalin's Soviet Union controlled eastern Europe and Mao's China threatened east Asia. Both had proxies in the Middle East and in Latin America. In contrast, Obama and Clinton inherited a dissolved Soviet Union, a militarily quiescient China interested in rapid economic growth, an expanding European Union, a pacified Iraq, and the opportunity of an Arab Spring. The world economic order had been shaken by the near-collapse of 2008, but the world's central bankers and the trillion dollar Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) had laid the groundwork for recovery.
So what has been the result of the Hillary's time at Foggy Bottom - "leading from behind", the Reset with Russia, and the Pivot to Asia?
- The most obvious catastrophic failure is the establishment of a self-proclaimed jihadist caliphate in the center of the ancient Muslim world. Numerous threads led to this result - the complete exit from Iraq, the bumbling of the effort to oust Assad in Syria, even the pointless Afghan War - and the blame belongs more to Obama than to Hillary Clinton, but the Secretary's complicity is captured in her "what difference does it make?" question about Benghazi. It makes a great deal of difference whether the attack was just some guys out for a walk or evidence of a resurgent Islamist movement. She missed it.
- The changed dynamic of the general boundary between the European Union and Russia - highlighted by the conflict in Ukraine - is a less significant change to the world order. It was probably inevitable that the EU's expansion to the east would stop once Putin had stabilized Russia's energy-dominated economy, but American policy under Clinton missed the change and we are back to a milder feel of the Cold War with Russia interrupting energy supplies and filling the gap of our inaction by sending military aid to Iraq and playing the fiddler in Syria.
- Between the nascent caliphate and the resurgent Russia in importance is the realization by our allies that the Obama / Clinton version of America cannot be counted on. The 70 year Japanese renunciation of offensive military capabilities is ending with a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea leading to the development of offensive capabilities. Saudi Arabia, watching America's performance in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, is searching for alternatives in conjunction with with the other Gulf States. This is the stuff of diplomacy - where strategic visions of mutual self-interest are critical, personal relationships are important, and chits are called in. Obama and Hillary have no chits.
The waning enthusiasm for Hillary is being attributed to an uninspiring book tour , but the reality is more problematic for Team Clinton - for most of the Obama administration she has been the primary architect and agent of American foreign policy which is unravelling at every turn.
This week's video is a trailer for Dinesh D'Souza's film "America" which is currently being released in theaters nationally.
bill bowen - 7/4/14