Leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Wednesday delivered a foreign policy speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington. By itself, the choice of the venue was revealing.
Brookings served as Ground Zero for centrist think tank advocacy of the Iraq War, which Clinton (along with potential rival Joe Biden) notoriously and vehemently advocated. Brookings’ two leading “scholar”-stars — Kenneth Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon — spent all of 2002 and 2003 insisting that invading Iraq was wise and just, and spent the years after that assuring Americans that the “victorious” war and subsequent occupation were going really well (in April 2003, O’Hanlon debated with himself over whether the strategy that led to the “victory” in his beloved war should be deemed “brilliant” or just extremely “clever,” while in June 2003, Pollack assured New York Times readers that Saddam’s WMD would be found).
Since then, O’Hanlon in particular has advocated for increased military force in more countries than one can count. That’s not surprising: Brookings is funded in part by one of the Democratic Party’s favorite billionaires, Haim Saban, who is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel and once said of himself: “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.” Pollack advocated for the attack on Iraq while he was “Director of Research of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.” Saban became the Democratic Party’s largest fundraiser — even paying $7 million for the new DNC building — and is now a very substantial funder of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. In exchange, she’s written a personal letter to him publicly “expressing her strong and unequivocal support for Israel in the face of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement.”
So the hawkish Brookings is the prism through which Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy worldview can be best understood. The think tank is filled with former advisers to both Bill and Hillary Clinton, and would certainly provide numerous top-level foreign policy officials in any Hillary Clinton administration. As she put it today at the start: “There are a lot of long-time friends and colleagues who perch here at Brookings.” And she proceeded to deliver exactly the speech one would expect, reminding everyone of just how militaristic and hawkish she is.
The context for her speech was the Iran Deal, which Clinton supports. It would be virtually impossible for her not to do so — there is no way anyone could win the Democratic nomination while opposing a key foreign policy legacy of the sitting Democratic president — but, regardless of the motives, she has the right position on that. But that deal is vehemently opposed by AIPAC and of grave concern to the hawkish foreign policy circles on which she has long depended, and so the core purpose of the speech was to assure those nervous precincts that, despite the Iran Deal support, she’s still the same aggressive, war-threatening, obsessively Israel-devoted, bellicose hawk they’ve grown to know and love.
To achieve that, Clinton repeatedly invoked the Netanyahu-cartoon image of Iran as a Grave and Evil Terrorist Menace. This was her formulation of the issue she seeks to address: “how to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and more broadly, how to protect ourselves and our allies from the full range of threats that Iran poses.” She even compared the country to the Supreme Villain of the Moment: “Iran, like ISIS, benefits from chaos and strife.”
Clinton proclaimed that she “too [is] deeply concerned about Iranian aggression and the need to confront it. It’s a ruthless, brutal regime that has the blood of Americans, many others and including its own people on its hands.” Even worse, she said, “Its political rallies resound with cries of ‘Death to America.’ Its leaders talk about wiping Israel off the face of the map, most recently just yesterday, and foment terror against it. There is absolutely no reason to trust Iran.” She repeated that claim several times for emphasis: “They vow to destroy Israel. And that’s worth saying again. They vow to destroy Israel.”
She vowed that in dealing with Iran, she will be tougher and more aggressive than Reagan was with the Soviet Union: “You remember President Reagan’s line about the Soviets: Trust but verify? My approach will be distrust and verify.” She also explicitly threatened Iran with war if they fail to comply: “I will not hesitate to take military action if Iran attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon, and I will set up my successor to be able to credibly make the same pledge.” She even depicted the Iran Deal as making a future war with Iran easier and more powerful...
Read the full article at The Intercept.