The final judgment on Hillary Clinton’s performance as secretary of state is still to be made in the future, and there haven’t been many offerings on the subject. In the latest issue of “Foreign Affairs” magazine, Michael Hirsh has a thoughtful opinion article on Hillary’s job performance, which he summed up as “soft-power.”
She left the cabinet post after four years, and her leaving also was “soft” in her parting words and the evaluation by President Barack Obama. Many observers believe she left to ready her campaign for president in 2016. She does have a committee whose work is aimed in that direction.
Hirsh wrote that Hillary displayed “impressive humility and self-discipline for an ambitious politician, who managed to put one of the fiercest presidential primary battles in U.S. history behind her.” It is interesting to note that many local observers, including Republicans, are heard to say she would have made a better president than Obama. It also is believed that Hillary still has a burning desire to be the first woman president.
By any standard measure of diplomacy, Clinton will be remembered as a highly competent secretary of state, but not a great one,” according to Hirsh. He added: “Because of her worldwide popularity and tireless travel — she set a new record for a secretary of state by visiting 112 countries — Clinton helped to undo the damage that the habitual unilateralism of the George W. Bush administration had done to the global image of the United States.” Clinton told Hirsh in 2010 that her “big-picture commitment is to restore American leadership . . . and everything I’ve done is in furtherance of that.”
The author said Clinton had frustration with the White House on more than one occasion because her advice was ignored. She did speak out wherever she went about Internet freedom, women’s rights, public health and economic issues, and her approach was soft, which was emphasized by Hirsh. But at the same time she was a “realistic hawk.”
Hirsh wrote that the effectiveness of the Clinton approach with other countries is not clear at this point. “The outcome of the Arab Spring appears to be increasingly Islamist and antiAmerican, and among the legacies Clinton bequeathed to her successor, John Kerry, is a resurgent jihadist movement in the Arab world — including an al Qaeda that is on the rise, as she admitted only days before her departure.”
Even though Clinton had to deal with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the policy for ending our involvement in those two countries already had been formulated. It may be that Kerry will have his hands full with al Qaeda “on the rise” more so than Clinton ever had to deal with.
Clinton did take her messages to the people on a number of occasions in her foreign trips.
Hirsh concluded that Clinton “shied away from the kind of hard diplomacy that traditionalists identify with foreign policy greatness.” He did say it may be unfair to fault Clinton for the deadly attack on our diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and her testimony on the attack. If Clinton runs for president, that attack is bound to be an issue for her, we believe.
Hirsh made a case for a policy of containment in our foreign policy dealings. He credits Clinton with “slow and steady progress” and that may be what the world will remember the most about her service as secretary of state.