With the US’s primary season drawing to a close, Hillary Clinton has made history as the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. US elections in November would be another milestone in the trail for women’s rights, which, as Clinton noted years ago, are human rights. If Clinton does win to become President, there is a likely possibility that she is likely to face a challenge similar to the one that Obama faced in 2013. As a matter of fact she may be poised to tackle even a larger question than what Obama tussled; what is America’s role in the world? At this stage, it might be unwise to make strong predictions about how a President Hillary Clinton would deal with these issues but, based on what we now know, there isn’t much doubt where she would be coming from.
Interesting argument is whether Clinton is more hawkish on foreign policy than President Obama. But what sort of hawk is she? And if she were to be elected to the White House, how would her approach differ from Obama’s? Clinton has been described by Vali Nasr — a foreign-policy strategist who advised her on Pakistan and Afghanistan at the State Department — as a member of the traditional American foreign-policy establishment. Clinton believes, like presidents going back to the Reagan or Kennedy years, in the importance of the military in solving terrorism and in asserting American influence. The shift with Obama is that he went from reliance on the military to intelligence agencies. Throughout her career she has displayed instincts on foreign policy that are more aggressive than those of President Obama and most Democrats. It set her miles apart from her rival-turned-boss, Obama, who avoided military transgressions and tried to restore Americans to a world in which the United States was no longer the forceful hegemon. And it will likely set her apart from the Republican candidate she will meet in the general election. For all his bluster about bombing the Islamic State into oblivion, Donald J Trump has not demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has over her career as the first lady and secretary of state for the United States of America.
While President Barack Obama expressed desire to strengthen the US-India strategic partnership, his approach to India has been largely business-oriented, seeking a larger Indian purchases of US weapons, while putting pressure on Pakistan to end terrorism targeting India and Afghanistan. More importantly, the US is actively partnering Pakistan and China to bring about ‘reconciliation’ with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Well-placed Afghans complain bitterly of the pressures they are facing from this US-China-Pakistan axis to keep making concessions to the Taliban. Interestingly, even some in the Obama administration are concerned about what is transpiring. President Obama had declared, with undue optimism, that the longest war in American history would come to a responsible conclusion, and it would be left to his successor to figure out how and whether the Taliban could be lured into political negotiations.
US politics is witnessing an opportunistic move by the Obama administration to persuade India to back US efforts to rein in the Chinese in the Western Pacific, given China’s expanding maritime border claims on South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. At the same time, the US colludes with China to determine the future of Afghanistan in a manner that can promote Pakistan’s regional ambitions. Hawks in US congress believe there has been much talk but little action by Obama policies to curb Pakistan who they claim is sponsoring terrorism. In contrast, Clinton has taken a personal interest in relations with India. Unlike her husband, and John Kerry, her viscerally anti-Indian successor, as the secretary of state, Clinton did respond in a friendly manner to India’s concerns and policies across both its eastern and western land and maritime borders. This was evident in her approach to India’s role in the ASEAN Regional Forum when she had chosen to call a spade a spade when it came to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism leading to the emergence of extremist outfits that threated Pakistan itself: “You cannot nurture vipers in your backyard and expect that they will bite only your neighbour.” In these circumstances, Pakistan can expect a tough time when considering a rather more mutually beneficial relationship with the US after the coming presidential elections.
Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence analyst who conducted Obama’s initial review on the Afghanistan war, says, “I think one of the surprises for Gates and the military was, here they come in expecting a very left-of-centre administration, and they discover that they have a secretary of state who’s a little bit right of them on these issues — a little more eager than they are, to a certain extent. Particularly on Afghanistan, where I think Gates knew more had to be done, knew more troops needed to be sent in, but had a lot of doubts about whether it would work.”
Jack Keane is one of the intellectual architects of the Iraq surge; he is also perhaps the greatest single influence on the way Clinton thinks about military issues. Keane has stated “I’m convinced this president, no matter what the circumstances, will never put any boots on the ground to do anything, even when it’s compelling. One of the problems the president has, which weakens his diplomatic efforts, is that leaders don’t believe he would use military power. That’s an issue that would separate the president from Hillary Clinton rather dramatically. She would look at military force as another realistic option, but only where there is no other option. It would challenge the US voters if Hilary Clinton’s hawkish instincts compete equally with the country’s mood. Americans are weary of war and remain suspicious of foreign invasions. And yet, after the cutting down of US forces during the Obama years, there is polling evidence that they are equally dissatisfied with a portrait of their country as a spent force, managing its decline amid a world of rising powers like China, reviving states like Vladimir Putin’s Russia and lethal new forces like the Islamic State. If Obama’s minimalist approach was a necessary reaction to the maximalist style of his predecessor, then perhaps what Americans long for is something in between — the kind of carbon steel pragmatism that Hilary Clinton has spent a lifetime sharpening. Fair to say, the sheer genius she puts into her bid sets an example of hard work for others eager to follow her path into public service.