Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hillary Clinton, Secretary of the State of Nature

The word is now about that Obama may name Clinton his Secretary of State, perhaps in the awful tradition of Madeleine Albright (who, some may remember, dismissed tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian fatalities as a 'necessary price' [1] during the years of Clinton bombing campaigns, little reported in the US).

In the Context of Policy

With Obama's choice of Rahm Emanuel, hawk and privateer, for White House Chief of Staff, a pick of Clinton would signal just how liberal the Obama administration is not going to be. Of course, as of this writing, it's quite possible he will pick real liberals for domestic policy while adopting a hawkish stance abroad. Americans, usually conservative across the board, might like to keep the imperial foolishness abroad but adopt an FDR liberalism at home. But despite popular hopes, there is little chance of that with the likes of Austan Goolsbee or Robert Rubin or Larry Summers advising Obama on economics.

We do know one thing. In the best of times, Americans are both grossly ill-informed (thanks to the slavish and complicit media) and largely indifferent to what is happening even in Canada or Mexico, let along Iraq or the Palestinian Territories or Kashmir. Now, with the economy clearly forecasting an early fall for the American empire, Americans won't just be indifferent to foreign suffering. They will welcome a little 'entertainment' in the form of 'surgical strikes' in Afghanistan or Pakistan. (Never mind that there is simply no such thing as a surgical strike, especially when a drone is being piloted remotely from Florida or Wyoming.)

My prediction: Obama will do something akin to Clinton not long after taking office. In June of 1993, Clinton launched cruise missile attacks, ostensibly on the Iraqi Intelligence Service in Baghdad. No strategic or tactical success, but woman and children were killed, including Iraq's leading woman poet.

The George Packers and Thomas Friedmans, not to mention whole institutions like CNN, the Wall Street Journal, the Brookings Institution, will readily provide the 'intellectual' rhetoric and 'expertise' to support something like this. (I omit the Times as a wholly supportive institution because Bob Herbert, Paul Krugman, and one or two others might dissent.)

Clinton at State as a Political Strategy

The choice of Hillary to head State could also be a brilliant political move if there are any fears regarding her political plans. From the standpoint of 'keeping one's enemies closer,' it would officially make Obama Hillary Clinton's boss, so future saber-rattling by Clinton could be cast in a new light of irresponsibility. With Clinton at State in a time of international turmoil, Obama could keep her abroad for extended periods or at crucial times, hampering her ability to run domestically. Getting her out of the Senate would also limit her ability to claim credit for a role in solutions to domestic problems at a time when domestic issues are clearly trumping international ones in the eyes of American voters.


1. Interview with Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes, May 12, 1996:
Stahl: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.

1 comment:

movie buff said...

if Hillary becomes the Sec. State, hopefully she will not be excessively distracted by outside drama or personal career plans, etc.