Pick Your Poison: Clinton Vs. Trump on Foreign Policy

The Progressive June 15, 2016
   In their remarks to the nation following the Orlando massacre, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump made their differences—and disturbing similarities—crystal clear.
   Trump attacked Hillary Clinton for refusing to label the violence carried out by a mentally-disturbed American-born gunmen of Muslim background as a manifestation of “radical Islam”… To her credit, Clinton rejected such bigotry. However, she called for returning to the “spirit of 9/12,” ignoring how that reaction to 9/11 resulted in a major crackdown on civil liberties and preparation for war…

Defending Israel’s Attacks on Civilians—A Harbinger for Clinton’s Presidency?

The Progressive May 26, 2016 & his May 29 Tikkun column
   A fight is brewing as Democrats prepare to debate U.S. policy on Israel at their national convention in July. Bernie Sanders’ appointees to the platform committee Cornel West and James Zogby plan to challenge the party establishment’s uncritical support for an increasingly aggressive, right wing Israeli government. While the large-scale civilian casualties inflicted by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in military operations in recent years have raised concerns both within Israel and internationally, Hillary Clinton—the almost-certain Democratic nominee for President—has repeatedly gone on record defending the IDF’s conduct. Not only has she failed to even once raise concerns about the thousands of civilian deaths inflicted by Israeli forces, she has been a harsh critic of human rights organizations and international jurists who have.

Turkey’s Creeping Authoritarianism: Is the Resistance Enough?

The Progressive May 13, 2016
   Turkey’s march towards authoritarianism took another dangerous turn this past week with the forced resignation of moderate Islamist Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, apparently at the insistence of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Though constitutionally the Turkish prime minister wields executive authority and the president is largely a figurehead, Erdogan—who served as prime minister for eleven years before term limits forced him to step down in 2014—appears to still be in charge. And he is becoming ever more autocratic.

Hillary and Bernie Part Ways on Israel

The Progressive April 18, 2016
   The foreign policy divide between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders could not have been more obvious than in last week’s debate in Brooklyn… Referring to the fighting between Israeli and Hamas forces during the summer of 2014, Bernie Sanders reiterated both his longstanding position condemning Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and supporting Israel’s right to self-defense. But he also declared that the killing of nearly 1,500 Palestinian civilians by Israel during that fifty-day conflict represented a “disproportionate” use of force. Comparable observations were made at that time by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Secretary of State John Kerry, UN ambassador Samantha Power, senior White House official Valerie Jarrett, the U.S. State Department, the leading Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, and the Israeli veterans’ group Breaking the Silence, as did—as Sanders put it—“countries all over the world.” But Hillary Clinton refused to acknowledge that Israel had done anything wrong.

Hillary Clinton’s Iraq War vote still appalls

The Progressive April 14, 2016
   In 2002, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York voted to authorize the Iraq War; her rival for the Democratic nomination for president, Bernie Sanders, opposed it. Clinton’s vote continues to haunt her on the campaign trail – and for good reason. First, there are the consequences of that illegal and unnecessary war: 4,500 American soldiers killed and thousands more permanently disabled; hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths; the destabilization of a region with the rise of the Islamic State; and a dramatic increase in the federal deficit, resulting in major cutbacks to important social programs. Clinton’s vote, which she now professes to regret, raises troubling implications regarding her role as a potential commander-in-chief. The United Nations charter forbids member states from using military force unless they are under direct attack or receive explicit authorization by the U.N. Security Council.

Hillary Clinton’s double standards on human rights

The National Catholic Reporter April 11, 2016
   During the 1980s, the United States was seriously divided over U.S. policy toward Central America. The Reagan administration was propping up a brutal military-backed regime in El Salvador that was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people, including priests, nuns and catechists, along with labor, student and human rights leaders, as well as peasants who happened to live in areas supporting the opposition. The Reagan administration also attempted to bring down the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua by mining the country’s harbors; sabotaging oil installations; and organizing, training, arming and funding a mercenary army…
   Human rights groups, liberal organizations, peace activists, and Catholic and Protestant clergy and laity organized to challenge U.S. policy. Many activists traveled to Nicaragua in solidarity with the people of that besieged country. Among those was Bernie Sanders… the Hillary Clinton campaign has seized on the Vermont senator’s activism during this period as a means of attacking him as a supporter of communism.

The US role in the Honduras coup and subsequent violence

The National Catholic Reporter March 14, 2016
On March 3, Berta Cáceres, a brave and outspoken indigenous Honduran environmental activist and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize [1], was gunned down in her hometown of La Esperanza. Erika Guevara-Rosas [2], Americas director for Amnesty International, noted how “For years, she had been the victim of a sustained campaign of harassment and threats to stop her from defending the rights of indigenous communities.” She is just one of thousands of indigenous activists, peasant leaders, trade unionists, journalists, environmentalists, judges, opposition political candidates, human rights activists, and others murdered since a military coup ousted the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Despite being a wealthy logger and rancher from the centrist Liberal Party, Zelaya had moved his government to the left during his four years in office… raised the minimum wage and provided free school lunches, milk for young children, pensions for the elderly, and additional scholarships for students. He built new schools, subsidized public transportation, and even distributed energy-saving light bulbs.

Hillary the Hawk

The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, Winter 2016
Despite being an icon for many liberals and an anathema to the Republican right, former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s positions on the Middle East have more closely resembled those of the latter than the former. Her hawkish views go well beyond her strident support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent occupation and counter-insurgency war. From Afghanistan to Western Sahara, she has advocated for military solutions to complex political problems, backed authoritarian allies and occupying armies, dismissed war crimes, and opposed political involvement by the United Nations and its agencies. TIME magazine’s Michael Crowley aptly summed up her State Department record in 2014

On Hillary Clinton, Sexism, and U.S. Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy In Focus February 12 2016
After the strong early primary showings by Senator Bernie Sanders, a few high-profile supporters of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton have seized upon an explanation: sexism — and not only by men. Sanders’ high level of support from young women in particular, they say, reflects the naiveté of younger self-identified feminists. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem, for example, claimed that younger women backing Sanders simply wanted the attention of young men on the Sanders campaign: “When you’re young, you’re thinking, where are the boys?” Steinem said. “The boys are with Bernie”…

The Five Lamest Excuses for Hillary Clinton’s Vote to Invade Iraq

In These Times February 1, 2016: Also published in:
Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Consortium News, Democratic Underground, News.Alayham.com, Antiwar.com, Foreign Policy in Focus, My Trust In Conflict, Portside.org, RINF.com, Reddit, The Scott Horton Show radio, and referenced in other media. e.g., Mondoweiss.net.

Former senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton is the only candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination who supported the invasion of Iraq. That war not only resulted in 4,500 American soldiers being killed and thousands more permanently disabled, but also hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, the destabilization of the region with the rise of the Islamic State and other extremists, and a dramatic increase in the federal deficit, resulting in major cutbacks to important social programs. Moreover, the primary reasons Clinton gave for supporting President George W. Bush’s request for authorizing that illegal and unnecessary war have long been proven false. As a result, many Democratic voters are questioning — despite her years of foreign policy experience — whether Clinton has the judgment and integrity to lead the United States on the world stage.

Hillary Clinton’s strident opposition to the International Criminal Court

National Catholic Reporter January 18, 2016
Supporters of international law have expressed consternation that the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for president — like most of her potential Republican rivals — strongly supported the illegal U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Hillary Clinton’s support for the Bush administration’s request for war authorization effectively placed her in opposition to the United Nations Charter and the Nuremberg Principles forbidding such wars of aggression. Ironically, these important international legal standards were in large part designed by officials from administrations of the very political party she hopes to represent in the contest for the White House.

What We Can Expect From Hillary Clinton on Israel/Palestine

Truthout December 5, 2015 [and republished in FreeList.org]    Supporters of the international legal framework – which has, with mixed success, governed international affairs since the end of World War II – have long expressed concerns over the prospect of former senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton becoming president. Her support for the US invasion of Iraq (a flagrant violation of the UN Charter), as well as her hostility toward the International Criminal Court, her support for international recognition of Morocco’s illegal annexation of occupied Western Sahara, and her attacks against the United Nations and a number of its key agencies, raise concerns that her election would bring a return to the Bush administration’s neoconservative rejection of longstanding international legal principles…

Support for Iraq War Still Haunts Hillary Clinton’s Candidacy

National Catholic Reporter August 3, 2015
[Republished by the Huffington Post & TheFreeLibrary.com]
   More than a dozen years later, Hillary Clinton is still being haunted by her decision to break with the majority of her Congressional Democratic colleagues and vote in favor of President George W. Bush’s call to authorize the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Clinton is the only one of the five major announced candidates for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination who supported that illegal and unnecessary war, which not only resulted in 4,500 American deaths and thousands more permanently disabled, but hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, the destabilization of the region with the rise of ISIS, and a dramatic increase in the federal deficit resulting in major cutbacks to important social programs..

The Troubling Implications of Hillary’s Anti-BDS Letter

Foreign Policy In Focus July 10, 2015
[Republished by Arab America, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Groupe Gaulliste Sceaux, the Huffington Post, Tablet Magazine, Truthout, and ZNetwork.org]

On July 2, former secretary of state and front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination Hillary Clinton wrote a letter to Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban, a strong supporter of the right-wing Netanyahu government, denouncing human rights activists who support boycott/divestment/sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli occupation. In the letter, made public a few days later, Clinton made a number of statements which are not only demonstrably false but raise serious concerns..

Hillary Clinton, phosphates, and the Western Sahara

National Catholic Reporter May 12, 2015
[Republished by the Huffington Post]

For more than a half-century, a series of United Nations resolutions and rulings by the International Court of Justice have underscored the rights of inhabitants of countries under colonial rule or foreign military occupation. Among these is the right to “freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources,” which “must be based on the principles of equality and of the right of peoples and nations to self-determination”…

Hillary Clinton’s Legacy as Secretary of State

Hillary Clinton leaves her position as Secretary of State with a legacy of supporting autocratic regimes and occupation armies, opposing enforcement of international humanitarian law, undermining arms control and defending military solutions to complex political problems. She was appointed to her position following eight years in the US Senate, during which she became an outspoken supporter of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, lied about Iraq’s military capabilities to frighten the public into supporting the illegal war, unleashed repeated attacks against the United Nations, opposed restrictions on land mines and cluster bombs, defended war crimes by allied right-wing governments and largely embraced Bush’s unilateralist agenda.

Despite this, Clinton is receiving largely unconditional praise from liberal pundits and others for her leadership, some even claiming that she is some kind of role model for young women!

Part of this unlikely defense of the dishonest and hawkish outgoing Secretary of State may be in reaction to the onslaught of misleading, petty, and sexist attacks from the right, such as her recent grilling on Capitol Hill about last summer’s attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. Such spurious criticisms, particularly those motivated by sexism, certainly deserve to be challenged. However, this should not in any way be used as an excuse to fail to acknowledge the damage Clinton has done, or her embrace of much of the dangerous neo-conservative doctrines of the previous administration.

It is not unusual for a president to want to be his own secretary of state, but rarely has a secretary so badly wanted to be her own president. In assuming her position in 2009, she insisted on being able to effectively appoint most of the key political positions in the State Department, which she stacked with some of the more hawkish veterans of her husband’s administration. Obama, by contrast, appointed members of the White House-based National Security Council who – while still very much part of the foreign policy establishment – tended to be younger, more innovative, and politically liberal. As a result, unlike most administrations – in which the State Department would sometimes challenge the hawks in the National Security Council – it has been the other way around under Obama, as the NSC was forced to play the moderating voice to the hawkish Secretary of State Clinton and her appointees.

During the Arab Spring, Clinton pushed for stronger US support for pro-Western dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain, as well as the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. She successfully convinced the initially critical White House to support the right-wing golpistas in Honduras, who ousted that country’s democratically-elected government in 2009. She was a major proponent of NATO’s military intervention in Libya’s civil war and has encouraged a more active US role in the Syrian conflict.

Even when she was right – such as opposing the egregious human rights abuses by the Assad regime in Syria – her defense of human rights abuses by US allies and other brazen double-standards significantly weakened her ability to make a credible case. For example, she insisted that a Russian and Chinese veto of a UN Security Council resolution critical of Syria had “neutered” the Security Council’s ability to defend basic human rights, yet she has defended repeated US vetoes of resolutions critical of Israeli violations of human rights. Similarly, she has criticized the Russians for supplying Syria with attack helicopters which have been used against civilian targets, but has defended the US supplying Israel, Turkey and Colombia with attack helicopters despite their use against civilian targets.

Under her leadership in the State Department, the United States has become even less popular than it was under the Bush administration. Clinton, however, has insisted that it simply because of a failure to explain US polices better rather than the policies themselves.

Support for Women’s and LGBT Rights

To her credit, Hillary Clinton has been more outspoken than any previous Secretary of State regarding the rights of women and sexual minorities. This appears to be more rhetoric than reality, however.

One illustrative case comes in her support for the autocratic monarchy in Morocco, which she has praised for having “women’s rights protected and expanded.” The reality for women in Morocco and Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, however, is very different. For example, Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code absolves the rapist if he consents to marrying his rape victim. Just weeks after Clinton praised the Moroccan regime for its record on women’s rights, Amina Filali, a 16-year old Moroccan girl – who had been raped at the age of 15 and forced to marry her rapist, who subsequently battered and abused her – burned herself to death. Similarly, it was not long after a previous visit to Morocco, where she praised that autocratic monarchy’s human rights record, that the regime illegally expelled Aminatou Haidar, known as the Saharan Gandhi, for her leadership in the nonviolent resistance struggle to the illegal Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. Haidar – a winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and other honors for her nonviolent activism, and who had previously spent years in Moroccan prisons, where she was repeatedly tortured – went on a month-long hunger strike that almost killed her before Morocco relented to international pressure and allowed her to return to her country.

Given Clinton’s backing of neo-liberal economic policies and war-making by the United States and its allies, her advocacy of women’s rights overseas within what is widely seen outside this country as being within an imperialist context, may have actually set back indigenous feminist movements in the same a way that the Bush administration’s “democracy-promotion” agenda was a serious setback to popular struggles for freedom and democracy. Just as US support for dictatorial regimes in the Middle East gave little credibility to President George W. Bush’s pro-democracy rhetoric, Hillary Clinton’s call for greater respect for women’s rights in Muslim countries never had much credibility while US-manufactured ordinance is blowing up women in Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Clinton’s Support for Arab Dictatorships

In the often contentious debates within the administration on how to respond to the civil insurrections in the Arab world challenging US-backed dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt in early 2011, Clinton was among the most reluctant to support the pro-democracy struggles.

Her first statement on Tunisia was nearly four weeks after the outbreak of the uprising, in which she expressed her concern over the impact of the “unrest and instability” on the “very positive aspects of our relationship with Tunisia,” insisting that the United States was “not taking sides” between the repressive dictatorship and the pro-democracy struggle. She went on to note that “one of my biggest concerns in this entire region is the many young people without economic opportunities in their home countries.” Rather than calling for a more democratic and accountable government in Tunisia, however, her suggestion for resolving the crisis was that the economies of Tunisia and other North African states “need to be more open.” Ironically, Tunisia under the US-backed Ben Ali dictatorship – more than almost any country in the region – had been following the dictates of Washington and the International Monetary Fund in instituting “structural adjustment programs,” privatizing much of its economy and allowing for an unprecedented level of “free trade.”

Another example of her failure to recognize the pro-democracy yearning in the Arab world, Clinton insisted during the early days of the Egyptian revolution that the country was stable. She further insisted that US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak was “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people,” despite the miserable failure of the regime in its nearly 30 years in power to do so. As the protests grew, Clinton called for the regime to reform from within rather than supporting pro-democracy protesters’ demand that the dictator step down, saying, “We believe strongly that the Egyptian government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” As the repression increased, Clinton pressed for restraint by security forces and called for an “orderly, peaceful transition” to a “real democracy” in Egypt, but still refused to call for Mubarak to step down, insisting that “it’s not a question of who retains power. That should not be the issue. It’s how are we going to respond to the legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people and chart a new path.”

On the one hand, she recognized that whether Mubarak would remain in power “is going to be up to the Egyptian people.” On the other hand, she continued to speak in terms of reforms coming from the regime, stating that US policy was to “help clear the air so that those who remain in power, starting with President Mubarak, with his new vice president, with the new prime minister, will begin a process of reaching out, of creating a dialogue that will bring in peaceful activists and representatives of civil society to … plan a way forward that will meet the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people.”

Despite nearly 800 Egyptians being killed over the 18-day period by the US-supplied military and police, Clinton insisted, “There is no discussion of cutting off aid.” Up until the final days of the uprising, Clinton was publicly advocating a leadership role for General Suleiman, the notorious “torturer-in-chief” of the Egyptian regime, whom Mubarak had named as his vice-president.

Similarly, that March, when Saudi-backed forces of the repressive Bahraini monarchy brutally crushed nonviolent pro-democracy demonstrators in that Persian Gulf kingdom and the killings, torture and repression were being condemned throughout the world, the Wall Street Journal reported that Clinton had emerged as one of the “leading voices inside the administration urging greater US support for the Bahraini king.” While insisting that the United States back right-wing Israeli governments because Israel is “the sole democracy in the Middle East,” Clinton has done her best to make sure other Middle Eastern countries remain undemocratic.

Clinton’s fondness for autocratic allies includes those in Central Asia. For example, despite evidence to the contrary, Secretary of State Clinton has claimed that the Karimov dictatorship – which has massacred demonstrators by the hundreds, boiled opponents in oil and forced hundreds of thousands of children into forced labor – was “showing signs of improving its human rights record and expanding political freedoms.” Similarly, when asked about the dictator’s claim that he was committed to leave a legacy of freedom and democracy for his grandchildren, one of Clinton’s top aides responded, “Yeah. I do believe him. I mean, he’s said several times that he’s committed to this. He’s made a speech last November where he talked about this.” In response to some skeptical follow-up questions by journalists, the official replied that “we think that there is really quite an important opening now to work on that stuff, also work on developing civil society, which again President Karimov has expressed support for. So, yeah, I do take him at his word.”

During her first year as Secretary of State, Clinton visited Morocco during an unprecedented crackdown on human rights activists. Instead of joining Amnesty International and other human rights groups in condemning the increase in the already-severe repression in the occupied Western Sahara, Clinton instead chose to offer unconditional praise for the Moroccan government’s human rights record. Just days before her arrival, Moroccan authorities arrested seven nonviolent activists from Western Sahara on trumped-up charges of high treason, who were immediately recognized by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience. Amnesty called for their unconditional release. Clinton decided to ignore the plight of these and other political prisoners held in Moroccan jails.

These activists were demanding implantation of a series of UN Security Council resolutions, endorsed by previous US administrations, for a referendum on the fate of the occupied territory. Clinton, however, has endorsed Morocco’s plans for annexing the territory under a dubious “autonomy” plan and simply called for “mediation” between the Moroccan kingdom and the exiled nationalist Polisario Front, a process that would not offer the people of the territory a say in their future.

Support for the Israeli Occupation

Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara was not the only foreign military occupation backed by Secretary of State Clinton.

As a Senator, Clinton was an outspoken defender of Israel’s colonization efforts in the occupied West Bank and highly critical of the United Nations for its efforts to uphold international humanitarian law, even taking the time to visit a major Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank in a show of support. She moderated that stance somewhat as Secretary of State in expressing concerns over how the right-wing Israeli government’s settlements policies harms the overall climate of the peace process, but she has refused to demand that Israel abide by international demands to stop building additional illegal settlements. An outspoken critic of Palestinian efforts for UN recognition, Clinton has even equated Palestine’s legal right to have its state recognized by the United Nations with Israel’s illegal settlements policy.

When the Netanyahu government reneged on an earlier promise of a temporary and limited freeze and announced massive subsidies for the construction of new settlements on the eve of a recent Clinton visit to Israel, she spoke only of the need for peace talks to resume. Indeed, Clinton refused to travel to nearby Ramallah to meet with Palestinian leaders and focused the discussions with Israeli officials on Egypt and Iran, not Palestine.

In 2011, Clinton successfully pushed for a US veto of a UN Security Council resolution reiterating the illegality of the settlement drive and calling for a settlement freeze, saying, “We have consistently over many years said that the United Nations Security Council – and resolutions that would come before the Security Council – is not the right vehicle to advance the goal.” She has never explained why the UN Security Council, which has traditionally been the vehicle for enforcing international law in territories under foreign belligerent occupation, should not continue to play such a role, particularly given the US failure to stop this right-wing colonization drive on its own.

Clinton has even opposed humanitarian efforts supportive of the Palestinians, criticizing an unarmed flotilla scheduled to bring relief supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip, claiming it would “provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.” Clinton did not explain why a country had “the right to defend themselves” against unarmed ships carrying relief supplies that were clearly no threat to Israel. Not only did the organizers of the flotilla go to great steps to ensure there were no weapons on board, the only cargo bound for Gaza on the US ship were letters of solidarity to the Palestinians in that besieged enclave who have suffered under devastating Israeli bombardments, a crippling blockade golpistas and a right-wing Islamist government. Nor did Clinton explain why she considered the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the port of Gaza to be “Israeli waters,” when the entire international community recognizes Israeli territorial waters as being well to the northeast of the ships’ intended route.

Clinton’s State Department issued a public statement designed to discourage Americans from taking part in the flotilla to Gaza because they might be attacked by Israeli forces, yet they never issued a public statement demanding that Israel not attack Americans legally traveling in international waters. Indeed, Clinton spokesperson Victoria Nuland tried to position the United States to blame those taking part in the flotilla rather than the rightist Israeli government should anything happen to them. Like those in the early 1960s who claimed civil rights protesters were responsible for the attacks by white racist mobs because they had “provoked them,” Nuland stated, “Groups that seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that risk the safety of their passengers.” Not only did Clinton never encourage caution or restraint by the Israeli government nor mention that the International Red Cross and other advocates of international humanitarian law recognize that the Israeli blockade is illegal, it appears she successfully convinced the Greek government to deny them the right to sail from Greek ports.

In short, Clinton’s legacy at the State Department has been one of continuing the policies of her predecessors in the Bush administration of opposing international law and human rights. It remains to be seen whether John Kerry, who joined Clinton as one of the right-wing minority of Congressional Democrats who supported the invasion of Iraq, will do much better. In any case, it is important to challenge the myth that Hillary Clinton is a figure who deserves support or admiration for her role of Secretary of State, or that she deserves another opportunity for influencing US foreign policy.

Hillary Clinton’s First 100 Days

Hillary Clinton has received mixed though generally favorable reviews, both internationally and domestically, during her first 100 days as secretary of state. Public opinion polls in the United States give her a more than 70 percent-positive rating.

Still, concerns linger regarding her eight years in the Senate, during which she supported some of the more controversial initiatives of the Bush administration, such as the U.S. invasion of Iraq, criticisms of the World Court and United Nations, and defense of Israeli occupation policies and military offenses against its neighbors.

Clinton has been slow to appoint a number of key officials, including regional assistant secretaries, and many of the appointments she has made have been of center-right veterans of the foreign policy establishment, many of whom were prominent in her husband’s administration — not the younger, more innovative figures many had hoped to see. Indeed, given that Barack Obama as a candidate promised not just to end the war in Iraq but to “end the mindset that led to the war in Iraq,” the prominent State Department roles given to supporters of the illegal invasion of that oil-rich country have been disturbing.

In certain ways, Clinton’s path has been made easier simply by the fact that her boss is not George W. Bush. Indeed, the enthusiasm overseas for Obama’s election has been unprecedented. Yet the penchant for unilateralism and disregard for the views of its allies for which the Bush administration became so notorious was also in evidence during her husband’s administration, such as the Clinton administration’s support for Israeli occupation policies, the enactment of the embargo of Cuba, and the continuation of draconian sanctions, accompanied by unauthorized air strikes, against Iraq, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths.

Despite this, Clinton has demonstrated that U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration will be very different from that under Bush. In one of her first actions as secretary, she met with a large group of career State Department personnel — well-regarded experts in their respective fields who were consistently ignored under the previous administration — to thank them for their service and welcome their input.

On her trips abroad, she has put her experience as a campaigner to work, spending as much time listening as talking, trying to shore up the image of the United States, so badly damaged under the Bush administration. Her style is far more frank and open than the conservative intellectual Condoleezza Rice or the career military officer Colin Powell.

It is not unusual for a president to want to be his own secretary of state, but rarely has a secretary so badly wanted to be her own president. Despite this, she has demonstrated an ability to be a willing subordinate to the commander in chief.

Despite her decidedly hawkish record while on Capitol Hill, Clinton has shown herself willing to adjust to the more moderate policies of Obama. For example, despite her harsh criticism during the primary campaign of Obama’s call to negotiate with Iran, it was Clinton herself who invited the Islamic Republic to take part in multiparty talks on Afghanistan.

Similarly, while in Israel, she raised concerns about Israel’s mass demolition of Palestinians’ homes and construction of new settlements in the occupied West Bank.

While referring to policies that constitute flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions as simply being “unhelpful” is certainly an understatement, this was still more criticism of Israel than she ever said publicly during her eight years in the U.S. Senate.

Still, while most of the international community recognizes that a unified Palestinian Authority — which would include moderate members of Hamas — is necessary for the peace process to move forward, Clinton told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on that same trip that a coalition government with a party that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist would be unacceptable, even threatening to cut off all humanitarian aid. By contrast, she has expressed no similar concern that Israel’s new coalition government is dominated by hard-line parties that oppose Palestine’s right to exist, and has even pledged to continue sending billions of dollars in unconditional military and economic aid to that right-wing government.

Human-rights activists were disappointed in her deliberate downplaying of human-rights violations during her visit to China. And she has had awkward moments during her travels responding to questions about U.S. military bases, now in more than 130 countries around the world.

Yet she has also emphasized the importance of “soft power” — the use of America’s political, diplomatic, economic and human capital to advance the country’s strategic interests — rather than reliance primarily on military means. She has stressed the need for international action to fight climate change. And she gained the respect of many in Latin America by acknowledging, during a trip to Mexico, U.S. culpability in the violence in the northern part of that country resulting from the insatiable appetite of Americans for illegal drugs.

Unfortunately, the fundamental problems with U.S. foreign policy in the early 21st century, rooted in hegemonic aspirations and imperial designs, go far beyond what Secretary of State Clinton or even President Obama can change on their own. Even the most enlightened foreign affairs minister or prime minister in 19th-century London could not fundamentally change the character of the British Empire. For those of us desiring a more radical change in the United States’ role in the world, we cannot simply hope for change emanating from Washington.

Instead, we must recognize our responsibility as citizens to bring about the change ourselves.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-zunes/hillary-clintons-first-10_b_207345.html