Here we see vintage Clinton, moralizing based on pure hubris, flaunting her lack of positive foreign policy experience, and trying to avoid real argument by casting the bad guy lens on her opponents from the start. If Sanders’s more compassionate foreign policy views are considered dated liberalism, then it’s probably no coincidence that I used to be liberal. Compassionate approaches are important, not just for human reasons, but for the practical reason that wars are much more easily entered than withdrawn from.
We should be concerned about the very real danger of Clinton’s deeply undereducated foreign policy team finding itself on the job again. Whatever people think they are capable of, they consistently seem to miss (or underestimate) that inconvenient human trait that people will always humanize their own particular set of circumstances. So they swoop in with grand hawkish plans which have little more beneficial effect than to insult the people who they’re dealing with.
Clinton can always say that if someone has a problem with her hawkishness, then there’s a lot more of that on the Republican side. But this is less an exoneration of Clinton than a recognition of the unfortunate commonality of self-flagellating hawkish thinking. In the case of the Republicans, the pretense is ostensibly national security. But if strict, harsh measures are used as a deterrent against militant extremists, those measures will be very effective in deterring those who are uncomfortable with strict, harsh measures, i.e. not militant extremists.
Clinton could point to her efforts to oppose dictators (from Saddam to Assad) as a sign that she’s on the right side of the argument. But whenever she doubles down on her hawkish approach to those dictators, she’s overlooking the fact that people actually living under a dictatorship will invert their notions of “democracy” and “dictatorship.” To them, a democracy represents a false choice between a couple of bogus candidates, like for instance Clinton or Trump, while a dictator is someone who’s particularly skilled at focusing on non-divisive issues. Does anyone else recognize how forcing a false narrative that the people are unified against their dictators would potentially harm American interests?
The Clintons could point to the Kosovo intervention if they want to boast about the last time hawkish policies were effective. Although I’m inclined to chalk it up to the Serbs being the first to realize the uselessness of hawkishness, and keeping quiet about it until America figured it out for itself. Considering the number of spectacular foreign policy blunders which Kosovo has inspired, I’m tempted to say that Serbia may have been the one on the right side of history in that story.
Finally, Clinton could point to the way Sanders has misrepresented South American democracies, or supported militarism of his own, as a way of saying that he’s no saint either. Although for his part, he can claim that unlike her, he isn’t completely sold out to Kissinger-style tactics. If he beats her in the end, I’d like to think it’ll be because he opposes her on this very important issue.