By Jeffrey Sachs
Hillary Clinton’s recent foreign policy speech was an attack on Donald Trump but was also a reminder that Clinton is a deeply flawed and worrisome candidate. Her record as Secretary of State was one of the worst in modern U.S. history; her policies have enmeshed America in new Middle East wars, rising terrorism and even a new Cold War with Russia. Of the three leading candidates, only Bernie Sanders has the sound judgment to avoid further war and to cooperate with the rest of the world.
Clinton is intoxicated with American power. She has favored one war of choice after the next: bombing Belgrade (1999); invading Iraq (2003); toppling Qaddafi (2011); funding Jihadists in Syria (2011 till now). The result has been one bloodbath after another, with open wounds until today fostering ISIS, terrorism, and mass refugee flows.
In her speech, Clinton engaged in her own Trump-like grandiose fear mongering: “[I]f America doesn’t lead, we leave a vacuum — and that will either cause chaos, or other countries will rush in to fill the void. Then they’ll be the ones making the decisions about your lives and jobs and safety — and trust me, the choices they make will not be to our benefit.”
This kind of arrogance — that America and America alone must run the world — has led straight to overstretch: perpetual wars that cannot be won, and unending and escalating confrontations with Russia, China, Iran and others that make the world more dangerous. It doesn’t seem to dawn on Clinton that in today’s world, we need cooperation, not endless bravado.
Clinton professed her belief “with all my heart that America is an exceptional country — that we’re still, in Lincoln’s words, the last, best hope of earth.” Yet surely President Lincoln was speaking in moral terms, not in Clinton’s militaristic terms. Lincoln did not mean that the last best hope of earth should send NATO bombers into Libya, the CIA into Syria, and Special Ops forces into countless other countries. Surely Lincoln would have been more prudent than to push NATO expansion to Russia’s very doorstep in Ukraine and Georgia, thereby triggering a violent response from Russia and a new Cold War.
Clinton lacks all self-awareness of how poorly she performed as Secretary of State. She trumpets her “successes” as follows:
Unlike [Trump], I have some experience with the tough calls and the hard work of statecraft. I wrestled with the Chinese over a climate deal in Copenhagen, brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, negotiated the reduction of nuclear weapons with Russia, twisted arms to bring the world together in global sanctions against Iran, and stood up for the rights of women, religious minorities and LGBT people around the world.
Pure braggadocio. While Clinton “wrestled with China” over a climate deal, she failed to achieve one. While she “brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas,” she failed to head off the disastrous Gaza War in the first place. While she “negotiated the reduction of nuclear weapons with Russia,” she championed a remarkably confrontational approach with Russia based on NATO expansion to Ukraine and Georgia and a new nuclear arms race that will cost American taxpayers more than $355 billion over a decade. While she claims to have “stood up for the rights of women [and] religious minorities,” her Syrian adventurism left Syria devastated, displaced 10 million people, and destroyed the religious minority communities she claimed to defend.
Clinton declared that she has a plan to defeat ISIS, but ISIS wouldn’t even exist were it not for Clinton’s “regime change” policy in Syria. ISIS emerged as a result of the US policy to partner with Saudi Arabia to topple Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. This mistaken policy created the chaos in which ISIS gained ground and weaponry, including US weaponry that was diverted from American-backed jihadists.
Clinton rightly accused Trump of being unpredictable, yet Clinton is dangerously predictable. She is always trying to prove how tough she is, how tough America is, how exceptional is America’s power. Trump is unqualified to be President because he lacks both the necessary experience and good judgment. Clinton, by contrast, has the extensive experience that proves that she too lacks the good judgment to be President.
Bernie Sanders, by contrast, not only offers a vastly better economic program than Clinton, but also a foreign policy based on wisdom, decency, and especially restraint. As a result, the American people trust Sanders rather than Clinton. She wins the closed primaries while he wins the open ones, that is, primaries that include the independent voters who will decide the November elections.
The Democrats would be foolhardy to accept Clinton as the “inevitable” nominee; she is the voice of foreign policy failure, while Sanders is the voice of hope, the young, and the future, and who is far more likely to beat Trump this fall.