Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Post Hawk Ergo Propter Hoc

I'm guessing this (from the January 2013 Senate Benghazi hearings, photo by Alex Wong/Getty North America) is more "In the second place..." than "Peace out!" but it does show her fingers know how to go there.
If you saw that cross-head in Mark Landler's book-promo excerpt (for Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle over American Power, being released from Penguin Random House today) in the Times Magazine—

—you might have started feeling a little panicky, and you wouldn't have been alone.

Though you also might want to just take a deep breath and ask yourself what it means, if Carpet-Bomber Cruz, who was still in the race last I heard, doesn't qualify as a hawk. Or John Kasich, who's called for a major US ground force in Syria. Or Donald J. Trump, who may claim (although he's demonstrably lying) to have opposed the war in Iraq back in 2002 but is eager to "bomb the shit" out of it now, and kill all the families of the ISIS fighters as well and send Exxon in to do the nation-building, and thinks Japan and South Korea and Saudi Arabia should have nuclear arsenals. True that Trump doesn't have a lot of respect for NATO, though neither did Donald Rumsfeld. But what's a "true" hawk?

Or you might want to look at the fine print—the part of the article known in the trade as "the article"—and see what that has to say about, for instance, her stance as opposed to that of President Obama:
She came out in favor of a partial no-fly zone over Syria. And she described the threat posed by ISIS to Americans in starker terms than he did. As is often the case with Clinton and Obama, the differences were less about direction than degree. She wasn’t calling for ground troops in the Middle East, any more than he was. Clinton insisted her plan was not a break with his, merely an “intensification and acceleration” of it.
Oh. A "last true hawk" is the one who wants to do what Obama wants to do only maybe somewhat more of it, or phrases her agreement with him in "starker terms" than he might use himself. And that proposed no-fly zone was always "partial".

Don't get me wrong here. I understand there is a real worry about Clinton in the national security department that she is likely to be at best a step or two backward from Obama, and could end up being quite a lot of steps backward—that she seems to have more faith in the positive potential of military power and more willingness to ignore the downside.

It's of some use to note that all Landler's sources for Clinton's views, as quoted in the book excerpt—he doesn't appear to have interviewed her herself—are military guys with some well-known kinds of beef with Obama: three of them, Fox analyst Jack Keane, Republican David Petraeus, and Stanley McChrystal all featured among the military experts Carly Fiorina thought she'd surround herself with, remember? And Republican former secretary of defense Bob Gates is another character we've dealt with before too.

They are all pretty good spinners, with various agendas, and we don't know altogether what the agendas are: nevertheless they weren't talking to Landler out of pure interest in helping him write the most objective book he could write.

I imagine they'd be fairly interested in presenting themselves as influential, though temporarily less so in their difficulties with the Obama administration, but hoping to become more so if Clinton becomes president. They seem to have convinced Landler of their importance, but that doesn't mean it's entirely real. And they're not concerned with what we hippies think, but their potential clients. That's a particularly important point.

And we can be pretty sure none of them is recovered enough from one kind of disgrace or another to serve on her team of advisors, who range from relatively hawkish like Michèle Flournoy and Leon Panetta to relatively dovish like Tom Donilon and Harold Koh but are all within the Democratic foreign policy establishment. (I'm sure I don't know why Panetta isn't disgraced but he isn't.)

All in all, I really think you shouldn't let this stinkbomb tossed into the campaign season bother you too much. We're likely not to like Clinton's presidency as much as we liked Obama's in foreign policy and security terms, but it won't be anything like the show Landler and his informants are imagining either. For all his efforts, Landler can't really make a case that there'd be a radical difference between Obama's and Clinton's presidencies, as he acknowledges in the paragraph cited above.

Bonus: Hillary Clinton thinks women need to be an integral part of peace processes:
“When women participate in peace processes, they tend to focus discussion on issues like human rights, justice, national reconciliation, and economic renewal that are critical to making peace. They generally build coalitions across ethnic and sectarian lines and are more likely to speak up for other marginalized groups. They often act as mediators and help to foster compromise. Yet despite all that women tend to bring to the table, more often than not they’re excluded. Of the hundreds of peace treaties signed since the early 1990s, fewer than 10 percent had any women negotiators, fewer than 3 percent had any women signatories, and only a small percentage included even a single reference to women. So it’s not too surprising that more than half of all peace agreements fail within five years.” [Hard Choices, pg. 571, 2014]
Hope she includes herself in that description.

Booman has some nice words to say on the website (Correct the Record) that I lifted that quote from.

No comments:

Post a Comment