Democratic Primary Candidates Define Their Foreign Policy

Gareth Porter says Hillary wants to support the Syrian opposition and overthrow Assad, while Bernie’s priority is to defeat ISIS

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SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome back to the Real News Network. I’m in discussion with Gareth Porter on Hillary Clinton’s track record on foreign policy. Gareth is a historian and investigative journalist on U.S. national security policy. He writes for the Middle East Eye, and the recipient of the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, and is the author of five books, the latest of which is Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. Gareth, good to have you back.

GARETH PORTER: Thanks very much, Sharmini.

PERIES: So Gareth, Hillary Clinton on Libya was a very interesting moment defining her reign as Secretary of State. Give us a description of that moment of the kind of policy she was pushing for.

PORTER: This goes back to 2011, the period when the Libyan situation was quickly evolving, and the opposition to the Gaddafi regime was trying to get the support of the United States and other Western powers to intervene, to overthrow the Gaddafi regime. And it was at that period, in the spring of 2011, going back to March of 2011, that essentially Hillary Clinton took charge of a move within the Obama administration to get a security council resolution that would establish, would lay the basis, then, for a possible military intervention.

And it was very clear, and she’s claimed this in her own memoirs and other accounts of this say the same thing, that it was Clinton who was pushing for the UN resolution which would essentially establish a legitimate basis for the overthrow of the regime. Now, you know, there was a certain degree of dishonesty about this, because there was never any mention of the use of military force. It was carefully kept out of the language of the UN Security Council resolution. And within the Obama administration, nevertheless, it was clear that they were discussing the possibility at that point of military intervention. And she definitely was the one who was pushing hardest for this.

There was a coalition of people within the administration, those people who were supporting the idea of military intervention for humanitarian purposes. And they were making the argument, this was Samantha Power at that point, and Susan Rice, who were part of the coalition with Hillary Clinton in favor of this idea of humanitarian, quote-unquote, intervention in Libya. And they were making the argument that this had to be done in order to prevent Gaddafi and his regime from committing mass slaughter, which they were suggesting would approach genocidal proportions. And so that was the, the argument that was being made within the administration, and then articulated publicly by Clinton herself.

Now, it’s very important to understand that the Defense Intelligence Agency, which represented the interests, of course, of the Pentagon, was taking a very hard look at that argument. And they were saying, they were putting out analysis that said very explicitly that they found no evidence to support the idea that there was going to be a slaughter on the scale that the people who are making that argument were suggesting. So we know that within the administration they had an analysis from the intelligence community that was explicitly denying that that was a danger.

So, so there was, again, a degree of, shall we say, dishonesty at the very least on the part of those people who were pushing the argument. And we know that Obama himself was reluctant, that he had not favored that position, and that he was pushed in that direction primarily because Hillary Clinton, as a major political figure, was throwing her support behind that position.

PERIES: Now, Gareth, we know that Hillary was a vigorous supporter of the invasion of Libya. But you’re saying that Obama was a bit reluctant about it. Why are you saying that, and how do we know that?

PORTER: Well, there were accounts that were published later on. Particularly there was one account that indicated that the, that there were two factions within the White House, that–the faction that was led by Hillary Clinton, of course, as I said, was supported vigorously, a military approach, that Obama himself and others who were on the White House staff, as well as the Pentagon and the armed services, that is to say, the Secretary of Defense Gates and the Pentagon were opposed to that, to that position.

And so, so this is a pretty well-established fact, that Obama initially was opposed and that it was Hillary Clinton’s role not just as secretary of state but as a political figure who had strong ties with the Democratic party, with the news media and so forth, that made a big difference in that debate on the policy.

PERIES: And there is a lot of speculation in terms of the motivation for that invasion, including banking and oil interests, and especially with the French involved in the bombardment of Libya. And the condition the country’s in now. A lot of that, the current situation, rests on her shoulders. Give us a sense of why she took that position.

PORTER: Well, I mean, this is, this is difficult to establish, because you’re talking–you’re talking about what she was thinking rather than what she did and what she said. You know, my sense is that this really reflects the fundamental impulses, or the fundamental impulse, I should say, that Hillary Clinton brings to foreign policy. She is, I think it’s accurate to say, a sort of neoconservative-lite. She’s somebody who is not quite as hair-trigger an advocate of war, but who is, who leans somewhat in the same direction as the neoconservatives. And that’s why some people, you know, say that she’s in the school of Henry Jackson. It was Henry Jackson’s school of, you know, tough, hawkish foreign policy.

She was, for example, definitely in retrospect a supporter of the hard line in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. I mean, she said in her 2015–or 2014, excuse me, 2014–her 2015 interview with the Atlantic magazine that she supports the, the policy that was pursued late in the Cold War by the Reagan administration to defeat Communism, to defeat the Soviet Union. She thinks that that was the, the right thing to do. And she was quoted as saying, well, we did a number of things, for example, in Latin America that we’re not particularly proud of. But, but definitely it was good that we had an overarching goal of defeating Communism, defeating the Soviet Union. And that’s what counted.

So I think that she had a structure of thought about foreign policy that is definitely oriented towards interventionism, towards regime change, and the use of force in a wide variety of circumstances. And I think that’s the key, not some conspiratorial view about, you know, oil or gas, or other economic interests. I think that it’s really a reflection of her personality and her personal style that relates to foreign policy.

PERIES: Thank you, Gareth. There’s a lot more to talk about in terms of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy, and I hope you join us again very soon.

PORTER: Thanks very much, Sharmini.

PERIES: Thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

End

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