“IS HILLARY A WARMONGER?” by Dr. Michael Brenner


The record demonstrates that she certainly is a hawk – someone who believes strongly in the utility of military force and is ready to use it. There is ample evidence in support of this contention. Her actions as Senator and Secretary of State as well her speeches and campaign statements paint a picture of a would-be President who views the world in terms of an ominous threat environment, who believes that core American interests are being challenged across the globe, who is a firm advocate of intervening on a preventive basis (e.g. Syria, Libya) as well as a preemptive or defensive basis, who is dedicated to keeping putative rivals like China or Russia in a subordinate position. This complex of attitudes puts a considerable amount of blue water between her and Barack Obama. Indeed, early in her campaign she made a point of criticizing the White House for its overly restrained policies vis a vis Assad, Putin and XI. She only switched tacks when it became evident that she needed to associate herself with the Obama record in the face of the unexpected Sanders insurrection. 

The specific criticisms directed at HRC from those who find her too hawkish are well-known. They include her vote in favor of the Iraq war; her cheer-leading for the GWOT in all its aspects; her collaboration with the Gates-led faction to push Obama into a major Afghan escalation; her advocacy of direct military action in Syria to unseat Assad; her unbending attitude toward containing Iran even after the nuclear accord; and her bellicose language in calling Putin another “Hitler’ after Russia’s seizure of the Crimea. Hillary’s big foreign policy address at the Council on Foreign Relations reinforced the impression of a hard-liner across-the-board who thinks primarily in terms of power balances and its deployment. In addition, her full-throated endorsement of Bibi Netanyahu’s actions left no room for accommodating the concerns of those realists who see the United States as inflicting unnecessary harm on itself through its unqualified backing of everything Israel does. 

It is no coincidence that she has drawn admiring remarks from Robert Kagan and other neo-conservative luminaries who envisage her as a President sympathetic to their audacious, muscular conception of American foreign policy. The coalescing of the neo-cons and the gung-ho liberal interventionists who pushed hard for the Libyan intervention (Samantha Powers, Ann-Marie Slaughter, Susan Rice) who now promote aiding the Saudis and GCC in Yemen, and wading into Syria involves a number of people who worked for Hillary in the State Department and/or figure prominently among her current advisors. The outstanding example is Victoria Nuland – Hillary’s spokesperson at State and now Assistant Secretary of State for Europe – who has aggressively spearheaded the anti-Russian crusade. Previously, she had been principal deputy foreign policy advisor for Vice-President Dick Cheney. Nuland’s was escorted into the Obama administration by Strobe Talbot who was her boss at Brookings and viewed her as his protege. Talbot himself, who had been Deputy Secretary of State during the second Bill Clinton administration, has moved progressively toward the hawkish end of the foreign policy establishment continuum (admittedly a rather short band width these days).  The affiliation at Brookings of the prominent neo-con Robert Kagan, Nuland’s husband, may have cemented the deal. 

Some of Hillary’s defenders argue that her hawkish views must be understood in a political context. Her Presidential ambitions, they explain, dictated that she find a way to overcome the liabilities she incurred on national security matters as a supposedly liberal Democrat, as heir to the Clinton dynasty that emphasized building bridges of cooperation in foreign relations – at least as seen by Republican critics, and as a woman. That became an imperative after 9/11. So, we saw a series of moves in the form of votes and rhetoric designed to make her look tough. Hence, the much publicized buddying with John McCain on Senatorial junkets to faraway places with strange sounding names highlighted by reports of her matching her macho colleague in knocking back shots of vodka. 

We should bear in mind that foreign policy never had been a prominent concern of HRC. Most certainly not national security. It was a slate of domestic issues that drew her attention and on which she was knowledgeable. Her prepping only began seriously when she set her sights on winning the Democratic nomination in 2008. It is reasonable to infer that what began as an exercise in political expediency hardened into genuine conviction – at least insofar as general predisposition is concerned. There is no evidence of HRC having formulated a comprehensive strategy for the U.S, in the world, much less a theoretical model of what international affairs are all about. At the same time, though, there is abundant reason to believe that her hard-edged rhetoric and policy proposals do express her views – however nebulous they may be. Her few concrete proposals have been half-baked and unrealistic: the idea of enforcing a “safe zone” in northern Syria being a case in point. All that it might accomplish is to create a secure base for al-Qaeda/al-Nusra and their Salafist partners while carrying the high risk of an encounter with Russian military forces operating in the area. 

Does this mean that an HRC Presidency automatically would mean the dispatch of American troops to Syria? Intensified military efforts against ISIS in Iraq? The insertion of American-led force into Libya? Further provocation of Russia in Eastern Europe including an invitation to Ukraine to join NATO as first offered by George Bush? 

It is premature to answer those questions in the affirmative. Jingoistic rhetoric is easy when you’re on the outside. When you are the one who actually has to make the decisions about military deployments and to anticipate dealing with the unpredictable consequences, anyone will move with a measure of caution. 

Hillary is more likely to stumble into a war than calculatingly start one – for a number of reasons. First, there are no obvious places to intervene massively with ground troops, no tempting Iraq circa 2003. Iran has been high on the neo-con hit list, but the nuclear accord removes what could have been a justification. Iraq and Syria are also theoretical candidates. Who, though, is the enemy and what would be the purpose? ISIS obviously; but now it is being contained and slowly is degrading. American boots on the ground simply would ensure an open-ended guerilla war. As for Al-Qaeda/al-Nusra in Syria, it is not seen as an enemy, rather as a tacit ally within the “moderate’ camp. There is Assad. With Russia on the ground, however, and the lack of a Western consensus or prospect of an enabling UNSC resolution, an invasion to replace the Ba’ath regime with Salafists of the ISIS and/or al-Qaeda could not be rationalized even with the agitation of the Kagans and Powers. In addition, this is an assignment that the Pentagon brass do not want – in contrast to the CIA. After all, we have spent enormous amounts of blood and treasure to immunize Afghanistan against a terrorist presence much smaller than what exists now in Syria – to no avail.  

Libya is the one place where a substantial American force could be dispatched. The argument for doing so would be Afghanistan redux. Still, in the absence of 9/11-like event, that would be a hard sell to the American public. 

The chances of war by miscalculation are higher. Obama’s bequest to his successor is a United States stranded in a mine field in the Middle East bereft of friends or diplomatic GPS. Hillary, of course, bears a large share of responsibility for creating this hazardous topography, and for the prevailing hyper-active habits of American policy – a potentially lethal combination. For one, maintaining a state of high tension with Iran creates opportunities for incidents to occur in the Persian Gulf. Too, American and Iranian forces in Iraq mingle like oil and water. So, there is some possibility of relatively minor encounters escalating into serious combat by stoking the political fires among crazies on both sides. 

The other combustible situation is Ukraine. There, the narrative of Russia as an aggressor hell-bent on regaining its Eastern European empire has led to a series of provocative military moves by Washington via NATO that are generating another Cold War. The strength of ultra-nationalists in Kiev, encouraged by their backers in the Obama administration and the fiery rhetoric of American military commanders, have killed the opportunity for a resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine as embodied in Minsk II. Paranoia is sweeping the Baltic states and Poland – again with active connivance of the “war party” in Washington. Hillary is a charter member of that group. While one can be certain that she hasn’t thought through the implications, and one be reassured by Putin’s sobriety, the lack of prudential thinking makes this the most dangerous of situations. 

Then, there is the Bill factor. He is the joker in the pack. We know that Hillary consults with him on all questions of consequence as a matter of routine. He is her all-purpose confidante. It is inescapable that he will act as an eminence gris in the White House. So a key issue is the role that he will play and the counsel that he will offer. There is good reason to believe that he will serve to tone down Hillary’s war-mongering tendencies – such as they are.

After all, what Bill Clinton craves at this stage of his life is being back in the White House where he can prowl at will and whisper in his wife’s ear. He relishes that historically unique position. He relishes being on parade. It’s the status that counts – not the doing. In any case, he has few convictions about the most salient foreign policy issues. Hence, his instinct will be to avoid 3:00 A.M. phone calls, grave crises and the risks they entail. Bold acts that require courage and fortitude never have been his strong suit. Like Obama, he is not cast in the heroic mold.  

We should be thankful for that.

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27 Responses to “IS HILLARY A WARMONGER?” by Dr. Michael Brenner

  1. David Lentini says:

    Seems like a whole lotta fifty-cent words to say that HRC and BC are a couple of empty suits who will do what others tell them to do, based on political naïveté and pathological narcissism.

  2. b says:

    “There is no evidence of HRC having formulated a comprehensive strategy for the U.S, in the world, much less a theoretical model of what international affairs are all about. ”
    CNAS, full of Clinton followers, has published her foreign policy program in a paper called “Expanding American Power”
    That is the program Clinton is likely to follow and it is worse than the PNAC paper that guided Bush II.

  3. AEL says:

    Don’t forget the last member of the axis of evil: North Korea!

  4. Jack says:

    Is someone who has backed every military intervention since the Balkans a warmonger or a peacenik?
    As Chris Martenson notes we are escalating the tensions with Russia.
    Considering that the establishment of the duopoly and all the government enforced business cartels as well as foreigners like the Sauds are supporting the Borg Queen’s candidacy it would seem that we must expect the possibility of miscalculation that could lead to a nuclear exchange if she becomes President.

  5. DL says:

    Excellent analysis, thank you.

  6. PirateLaddie says:

    “It don’t matter how much manure you can stuff into a tow sack. If you can’t lift it, you can’t lift it.”
    An uncle in Mississippi once shared that bit of wisdom with me. Based on her track record (and for that matter, the recent performance of the USofA), I really don’t think Hillary should be thinking in terms of tow sacks — I think the most she can handle is an Armani handbag, topped to the gills, and that only on a good day.

  7. Jack says:

    Mr. Brenner you say that Bill’s “instinct will be to avoid 3:00 A.M. phone calls, grave crises and the risks they entail.”
    My question is can the leopard change it’s spots?
    “But Kim’s most important success……: he may have prevented the Second Korean War.That was no modest feat, given the position of President Bill Clinton, Secretary of Defense William Perry, and Assistant Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, the current Pentagon chief. The three were ready and willing to plunge the peninsula into another conflict, which could have been as horrific as the first one.”

  8. Castellio says:

    The CNAS has “replaced” the PNAC and they believe they’re back in saddle. I find the report painful reading. It begins with self-preening (first paragraph of the forward) and never manages to raise above that misguided sentiment.
    This is truly an “extraordinary group” but not at all in the way they wish us to understand the word.
    As an example (if you can get past the first paragraph) there is this: “Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the presentations were of the highest caliber possible at each session. For instance, the discussion of the Iran agreement and the conflicts raging across the Greater Middle East began with reflections from Dennis Ross, special envoy to the region for three presidents; Elliot Abrams,
    Deputy National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush; renowned Middle East scholar Dr. Vali Nasr; and Martin Indyk, a top diplomat to the region for more than twenty years.”
    The highest caliber possible? This limited and misinformed vision of states, history and human values from those who, in any sane society, would be treated as war criminals and pathological liars?
    Amazing hubris, which usually doesn’t end well.

  9. mbrenner says:

    You’re certainly right that the CNAS report represents the intellectual and political environment Hillary inhabits. So does almost everyone else in Washington power circles – it has become the received wisdom. That is unlike the reception to Paul Wolfowitz’s notorious March 1992 memo that laid out a plan for American world domination. CNAS is sort of Wolfowitz-lite.
    However, this is not to say that Hillary in the Oval Office will follow it as a blueprint. On the eve of a new presidency, there are always pieces of paper floating around (and names floating around) that everyone scrutinizes for signs of what’s to come. They almost always prove to be something less.
    Of course, we rightly can assume that Hillary will not move to counter the current thrust through sagacious appointments. And she will continue along the same aimless/dangerous paths we now are following. But that doesn’t mean that she’ll act out the script in terms of military action in Syria, picking a fight with Russia or invading Libya. If for no other reason than that doing any of that would consume all the political air around her presidency before she’s had a chance to get the seat warm or shape a domestic agenda which is her true interest.

  10. mbrenner says:

    My understanding is that that is not at all an accurate account.
    Let’s recall Clinton’s adamant refusal to get involved in the wars of the ex-Yugoslavia – until forced to act by committing the US to participate in an extraction force to remove UNPROFOR were the French to move on their pledge to leave unless it ended its passivity. Chirac forced Clinton to do something he didn’t want to do. On Kosovo, Clinton ruled out the sending of any American forces and never wavered despite repeated appeals from Wesley Clark at the time the air operation was faltering. Recall the famous incident of the helicopters that sat in a muddy field for seeks on end because Shelton declared that they couldn’t fly when spattered with dirt.
    Clinton was lucky insofar as he faced no serious crises.
    Clinton, like Obama, was and is a coward.

  11. jld says:

    However for gentle idiots (and likely a huge majority!!!) all this counts as “experience”:

  12. ToivoS says:

    I find Brenner’s statement “Clinton was and is a coward” puzzling. Are you saying he is a coward because he didn’t become more directly active in the Yugoslav civil war of the 1990s? I thought his policies leading up to the Dayton agreement were sensible and excessively agressive after.

  13. D says:

    I got worried when she said that “‘Don’t do stupid s#it’ is not an organizing principle.” That’s exactly what it is, and a damned good one at that.

  14. kao_hsien_chih says:

    Accounts vary about how close we came to a Second Korean War: a version of the Forbes article, that Clinton would have happily started a war that was almost single-handedly stopped by Kim Young Sam, “true” or not, is almost universally accepted among Koreans. While WJC may not have been a “warmonger” in the sense that he actively relishes warfighting, he always seemed like someone who underestimates the difficulty of fighting a war and the willingness of foreign peoples to resist while overestimating the ability of US to forcibly impose its will on others–and surrounded himself with advisors who believed such. No, Clinton did not “eagerly” jump into the Balkan affairs, but he did so thinking that a few bombs will be enough to force the Serbs to surrender all their sovereignty, and wrapped up his plans on foul and, quite frankly, sickeningly evil lingo like “bombs for peace.”
    Yes, I think the Clintons are warmongers par excellence, not necessarily because they love wars and slaughter, but are careless about wars and slaughter that they bring, that they are oblivious to their consequences and the destruction, and would happily lob bombs to entertain their fancy. These people are worse than normal warmongers. They are simply evil monsters of devilish proportions that must be stopped at any cost–even if that means indirectly helping Trump get elected.

  15. Castellio says:

    What domestic agenda?
    I understand that is not the focus of your post… but without a clear view of her domestic aims and ambitions – which you are suggesting will be the primary focus – its hard to see how she won’t default to her past foreign affair habits and the actual goals of her primary supporters.
    Hasn’t she promised to invite Bibi to the White House as an esteemed guest as soon as elected?
    There is no coherent constituency rooted in domestic affairs which is voting in Hillary, other than the elites preference for neoliberal economic policies.

  16. Babak Makkinejad says:

    That is how it looked like to me then and now; either he was a fool or was being foolishly advised.
    His North Korean policy, later, was a disaster, in my opinion; he succeeded in making it impossible for the United States to extricate herself from North East Asia in any foreseeable scenario.
    Bush II and Obama, in my opinion, also succeeded in further entrenching the United States in the affairs of the Near East – with no end in site and no relief possible under the document that “b” had posted its URL here.

  17. Babak Makkinejad says:

    This document, by supporting the Two-state solution, is supporting continued bloodshed and violence – with further aggravation of Muslim sensibilities and affront to Islamic solidarity that it entails and the receiving end of which, besides Israel, would be the United States.

  18. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Dr. Vali Nasr is a Shia but I am afraid that he might have gone to the Dark side, like the late Dr. Fawaud Ajami.

  19. The Beaver says:

    Dr Brenner
    His friend Kofi at the UN was always his saviour, at that time, so that he did not have to get invoved into wars. Kofi Annan was always ready to dispatch an Envoy to “negotiate” even with Saddam Hussein.

  20. mbrenner says:

    There are the social issues that move the core of her support.

  21. Dubhaltach says:

    When I read the question that forms the title of this posting I thought to myself surely this is a rhetorical question. Secretary of State “”We came, we saw, he died!” whose mentor is Secretary of State “½ million dead children is worth it” a war monger? Yes a war monger and a war criminal, who openly consorts with and admires other warmongering war criminals.
    The New York Times has a lenghty and devastating critique of her warmongering and its results here with reference to Syria here:
    What’s apalling about the Syria intervention is that Clinton had form. She linked up with Albright to press her husband to recognise the KLA and provided the major impetus for the formation of what one can only describe as a mafia state.
    See: https://consortiumnews.com/2016/02/21/kosovo-chaos-undercuts-clinton-success/
    And that’s before we get into her connivance at the violent and illegal overthrow of the duly elected governments of Haiti, and Honduras, to say nothing of her loudly voiced support for the Nicaraguan death squads of Duarte.
    She’s directly responsible for promoting the idea of “humanitarian war” as a cynical fig-leaf for war to accomplish decidely non-humanitarian goals.
    She’s both reckless and vicious and absolutely hysterical in her Russophobia.
    Really Dr. Brenner, even as a rhetorical question do you have to ask?
    and other countries

  22. Peter Reichard says:

    Hillary is a remorseless psychopathic killer, witness her gleeful response to the death of Khadaffi and callous disregard for the chaos and mass human suffering her Libya policy has brought about. Agree with Dr. Brenner that war by miscalculation is the great danger here as someone, thinking this woman will back down, will thus call her bluff only to find out that she WILL pull the trigger.

  23. Castellio says:

    I’m not trying to be cantankerous: but regarding domestic policy, what is she hoping to do that anyone believes she is going to do?

  24. Many thanks P.L. for this post and thread! Has HRC ever opposed the use of the Armed Forces of the U.S. in any way shape or form?

  25. Jack says:

    Attempt to take away guns from the people for one. She is a weather vane and latches on to the issue du jour. She’ll likely add the various agendas of the SJW crew as long as it doesn’t impinge on her owners and those in the social circuit that she and Bubba so desperately want to be accepted. In other words whatever she does it will ultimately make life more difficult for the working and middle classes.
    George Carlin had it right.

  26. Jack says:

    Never IMO. Isn’t it ironic that the Boomer draft dodgers have turned out rather happy to send other people’s kids to die on foreign shores for no important national interests?

  27. Dubhaltach says:

    In reply to Jack 19 June 2016 at 01:08 PM
    Colonel, Jack,
    Jack has raised a very important point. AFAIK (quick research using google and skimming) the overwhelming majority of the current generation of political leaders in the West and by “West” I mean US + UK + “Old” British Commonwealth + non-former Soviet Bloc Europe have never served in any capacity in any of their respective armed forces.
    Certainly that is true of the UK and has been since at at least Blair’s time.
    Certainly it is true of Denmark.
    I truly believe that some time serving your country should be a sine qua non of being in politics. Some things you need to experience to understand. The current set-up leads to politicians having completely unrealistic expectations and also being a lot more prone to buying snake oil – Would a political leadership that had served really buy all that COIN guff? I doubt it.
    Then there’s other point Jack has raised about sending other peoples’ kids to die for no good reason.
    Rhetorical question: Who values human life more – somebody who knows from experience how fast military operations can go haywire or somebody whose sole experience comes from TV, Cinema, and that other form of military fiction the think-tank position paper?

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