Let's Talk About Clinton and Foreign Policy

[Content Note: War; violence; sexual assault.]

So, because I support and defend Hillary Clinton, I am routinely accused of not caring about certain parts of her record, and one of the most common refrains is that I don't care that she's a "warhawk."

I don't think it's any secret that I have disagreements with Clinton on foreign policy, given that I've written about them a number of times, but okay. Let's talk about Clinton and foreign policy.

Clinton is more inclined to support military intervention than I am. As examples: She voted for the Iraq War, which she concedes was a mistake. Her advocacy for intervention in Libya is often criticized, but, as far as I can tell, that was a "best of all terrible options" situation, given that our foreign policy was never going to include not doing something. She has supported the US policy on using drones, to which I have repeatedly objected.

But military intervention hardly represents her entire foreign policy record, which is far more complex.

For a start, Clinton has often said, including during debates during this primary, that she prioritizes diplomacy whenever possible over military intervention, and I believe that.

The same thing could be said for President Obama, of whom I've sometimes had strong criticisms regarding his foreign policy. But I don't think there's a single case where he could have exclusively used diplomacy and chose instead to rely on military intervention as his first approach.

A "warhawk" does not prioritize diplomacy. A "warhawk" does not even consider strategic and targeted military intervention, when they have determined, rightly or wrongly, that military intervention is the last resort.

Hillary Clinton, even if she is more inclined to support military intervention in cases where I might not, is not a warhawk.

Most importantly, a warhawk doesn't spend her tenure as Secretary of State doggedly advocating on behalf of women and children who are victimized by rape as a weapon of war:
"We believe there should be no impunity for the sexual and gender based violence, and there must be arrests and punishment because that runs counter to peace."—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Congo today, where she "unveiled a $17 million plan on Tuesday to fight the widespread sexual violence in eastern Congo, a problem she said was 'evil in its basest form'."
And again:
"The Mugunga Internally Displaced Persons Camp sits in a land of volcanoes and great lakes on the edge of Goma, a provincial capital in the eastern Congo. The camp is now home to 18,000 people seeking refuge from a cycle of violent conflict that has left 5.4 million dead since 1998. … Women and girls in particular have been victimized on an unimaginable scale, as sexual and gender-based violence has become a tactic of war and has reached epidemic proportions. Some 1,100 rapes are reported each month, with an average of 36 women and girls raped every day. … I came to Goma to send a clear message: The United States condemns these attacks and all those who commit them and abet them. They are crimes against humanity. These acts don't just harm a single individual, or a single family, or village, or group. They shred the fabric that weaves us together as human beings. Such atrocities have no place in any society."—Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a piece for People magazine called "What I Saw in Goma."
And again:
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday Guinea's military leaders should quit after soldiers went on a rampage at a protest rally, killing more than 150 people and raping women.

...Clinton said U.S. diplomats had spoken to Guinea's leaders in the "strongest possible terms." The State Department said U.S. officials had expressed "deep outrage" and "condemned the massacre and egregious human rights violations."

…Clinton said she was particularly appalled by the violence against women.

"In broad daylight in a stadium, it was criminality to the greatest degree," she said. "Those who committed such acts should not be given any reason to expect that they will escape justice."
And again:
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton votes to adopt a United Nations Security Council resolution addressing sexual violence in armed conflict at U.N. headquarters September 30, 2009 in New York City. Clinton chaired a Security Council session on 'Women, Peace and Security.'
Nor does a "warhawk" talk about violence against women as a security issue:
"So-called women's issues are stability issues, security issues, equity issues. The World Bank and many other analyses have proved over and over again that where women are mistreated, where they are denied equal rights, you will find instability that very often serves as an incubator of extremism."—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a great interview in the New York Times about the "gender agenda" of the Obama administration's State Department under her leadership.
Nor does a "warhawk" repeatedly talk about how women are key to peacekeeping:
And next week at the Security Council, we're going to be taking steps to improve the United Nations' response to sexual violence committed during armed conflict. I will be speaking next Wednesday on behalf of a U.S.-sponsored resolution to better implement the commitment that we should have to the role that women and girls should play in their lives, in their communities, and their countries, and in particular, to appoint a special representative of the Secretary General to lead, coordinate, and advocate for efforts to end sexual violence in armed conflict. I think we have to elevate that no matter what country we're from. Those of us who have traveled, as I think all of us here have done, have seen the consequences, and some of you have lived the consequences and your families have suffered the consequences as well.

So we intend to make this a centerpiece of my term as Secretary of State. There are people who say, well, women's issues is an important issue, but it doesn’t rank up there with the Middle East or Iran's nuclear threat or Afghanistan and Pakistan. I could not disagree more. I think women are key to our being able to resolve all of those difficult conflicts, as well as provide for a better future.
And again:
The most extraordinary day of the entire trip was a testament to this very idea, what Clinton calls "smart power," and it is something she is very passionate about: that the micro-economies of the poor are deeply important, and when the so-called soft issues—violence against women, food safety and agriculture, sustainable development—are not tended to, the result is chaos, instability, conflict, and war.
And again:
Women's participation in [peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peace building] is not a "nice thing to do." It's not as though we are doing a favor for ourselves and them by including women in the work of peace. This is a necessary global security imperative. Including women in the work of peace advances our national security interests, promotes political stability, economic growth, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Just as in the economic sphere, we cannot exclude the talents of half the population, neither when it comes to matters of life and death can we afford to ignore, marginalize, and dismiss the very direct contributions that women can and have made.
Those are but a few examples of Hillary Clinton's powerful and unrelenting advocacy on behalf of women and children in war zones and destabilized nations and, frankly, everywhere around the world—and a few examples of her highlighting how mistreatment of women and children creates the instability from which armed conflicts emerge.

No other candidate so passionately and eloquently tries to address this source of instability and warfare. None.

Calling Clinton a "warhawk," or talking about her record as disproportionately and exclusively "militaristic," is dependent on ignoring all of this incredibly important and specialized work that she's done.

(Of course, she's done it on behalf of women and children, so it's pretty easy for lots of Very Important People Who Care About Serious Issues to ignore, because who gives a fuck about women and kids.)

It also requires ignoring, as but one example, an entire diplomatic career of facilitating peace, stretching all the way back to her tenure as First Lady, when she played a crucial role in the Irish peace process.

The point is not to say that my areas of disagreement with her don't matter to me, but to say that I view her record as complex. Because it is complex.

That is, naturally, not the narrative we get care of the corporate media, who talk about her Iraq vote in one day more than they have ever talked about her diplomatic successes or work on behalf of women and girls in war zones.

But its concealment doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

She has a long foreign policy history, which includes some things with which I disagree and some things I strongly support. On balance, I find enough to warrant my support of her candidacy. People draw their lines in different places, and there are certainly people who are familiar with the entirety of her record who don't feel there's enough. That's valid.

But it's a rare day indeed when I interact with someone who accuses me of "not caring" about her hawkishness who's even heard of any of the things mentioned above.

If there's a lack of care being taken with regard to Clinton's foreign policy experience, it isn't with the people who are familiar with and appreciate the breadth of that experience, but the people who haven't bothered to report or research anything but that which serves the mendacious narrative that she loves war.

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