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September 29, 2014

Hillary Clinton's Hard Choices

Scott Stockdale

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In her highly touted, recently released book Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton has managed to produce a tome almost totally devoid of insight.

In pedestrian prose, she drones on page-after-page about world issues and meetings with those making the decisions about these issues, while telling us almost nothing that hasn't already appeared in the world media.

Is it any wonder that she was stumped when asked the question: “What did you do as Secretary of State?”

In January 2011, while preparing for the annual Forum for the Future Conference in Doha, she told her aids: “I'm tired of repeating the same old things every time I go there ... I want to say something that really breaks through this time.”

While this sounds impressive, Mrs. Clinton seems to think that her issuing dictums solve any and all problems.

In Feb 2011, at the Munich Security Conference she repeated the following remarks she had made at Doha: “This is not simply a matter of idealism ... It is a strategic necessity. Without genuine progress toward open and accountable political systems, the gap between people and their governments will only grow, and instability will only deepen.”

On page 340, she wrote about the idealism that swept through the White House staff in response to the people of Egypt demonstrating in Tahrir Square, against the autocratic rule of military strongman Mubarak. Her comments - clearly equivocal - indicate that this was merely window dressing.

“The argument for throwing America's weight behind the protesters went beyond idealism. Championing democracy and human rights had been at the heart of our global leadership for more than half a century. Yes, we had from time to time compromised those values in the service of strategic and security interests, including supporting unsavoury anti-Communist dictators during the Cold War, with mixed results.”

After Mubarak was deposed, Secretary Clinton again emphasized her and America's commitment to human rights and democracy. On page 349 she said:  “America was prepared to work with the leaders that the Egyptian people chose. But our engagement with those leaders would be based on their commitment to universal human rights and democratic principles.”

A year later, after the Muslim Brotherhood won the presidential election, Secretary Clinton told Coptic Christian leaders, in a meeting: “that America would stand firmly on the side of religious freedom.” (p. 349)

Subsequently, on the same page, she admits that the Muslim Brotherhood failed to govern in an inclusive and transparent way and allowed the persecution of minorities, including Coptic Christians to continue. And this was after telling Coptic Christian leaders that America would stand firmly on the side of religious freedom. However, she proceeded to explain America' position - again on the same page.

“Once again the United States faced our classic dilemma: Should we do business with a leader with whom we disagreed on so many things in the name of advancing core security interests?

After General Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi removed President Morsi, in July 2013, in the wake of massive public protests against his Islamist rule, and began a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, she said: “As of 2014 the prospects for Egyptian democracy do not look bright, as “Sisi “appears to be following in the classic mold of Middle Eastern strongmen.”

She didn't, of course, add: “As usual with America's support.”

Throughout the book, Secretary Clinton makes much of her meetings and relations with the powerbrokers of the world. The book is full of pictures of her meeting with these people, burnishing her credentials as a world leader in her own right.

On page 352, she explains her motivation in this regard: “When I became Secretary of State I developed personal relationships with Gulf leaders both individually and as a group through the Gulf Cooperation Council, a political and economic association of the Gulf countries. We created a U.S. -GCC security dialogue to intensify our cooperation.”

Subsequently, when in mid-February 2011, crowds gathered in Manama, Bahrain, at the Pearl Roundabout, demanding democratic reforms and equality for all Bahrainis regardless of sect, the Bahrain government responded by inviting troops from Saudi Arabia and UAE in to quell the protests. Secretary Clinton wrote that on March 14, 2011 Saudi troops crossed the border into Bahrain with some 150 armoured vehicles and about five hundred police from the UAE followed.

She said she was concerned about this escalation and worried about a bloodbath if Saudi tanks started rolling through barricaded streets in Manama. And this is what happened.

Secretary Clinton said she was in Cairo at the time and was dismayed by reports coming in from Bahrain, so she spoke candidly about her concerns. She wrote on page 358: “The situation in Bahrain is alarming,” I said. “We have called on our friends in the Gulf – four of whom are assisting Bahrain security efforts – to force through a political solution, not a security standoff.”

And one can't help but get the impression that former Secretary Clinton actually thinks she accomplished something by issuing this dictum.

On page 358, when a BBC reporter pointed out to her that these countries are your allies, you arm them and train their armies and yet when the Saudis decide to send troops into Bahrain and Washington made clear it wasn't pleased about that – they said: “Don't interfere. This is an internal GCC matter,” Secretary Clinton responded: “Well they are on notice as to what we think,” and: “And we will intend to make that very clear publicly and privately, and we will do everything we can to try to move this off the wrong track.”  And the rest is history, as they say.

She added that her words, while reasonable, were more pointed than “how we usually speak in public about the Gulf countries and, “In Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, our partners were angry and offended.” And that was that. A bloodbath did in fact ensue in Manama, Bahrain, but one must not cloud the issue with facts.

The above examples of how Secretary Clinton describes handling America's problems throughout the world are indicative of how she handled pretty much all the situations she was faced with, whether it be China's bellicosity in the Pacific, or the turmoil in Libya – which the world is all too familiar with.

Throughout the book, she clearly indicates that she is very impressed with the way she was able to establish personal relations with powerbrokers around the world. The fact that most often the outcome on the ground – which is what affects people's lives – did not coincide with her rhetoric, doesn't seem to phase her in the least. Could this be because her vanity makes her susceptible to flattery?

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