Politics & Policy

Hillary, the Ultimate Hawk

Since the 1990s, she has been one of Washington’s most enthusiastic supporters of American military intervention abroad. Is a dovish Democratic party going to accept that?

Last week Jonah Goldberg noted that Hillary Clinton is, thus far, the only announced candidate for president who voted for the Iraq War. While that is true and interesting on its own terms — especially since it was the single most important factor in her loss to Barack Obama in 2008 — her record of hawkishness goes far beyond Iraq. In fact, the Democrats — the anti-war Left included — are right now in the process of uniting behind a woman who has supported every single major American military intervention since 1992. She even supported a proposed intervention — in Syria, against the Assad regime — that President Obama ultimately rejected.

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After more than a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — wars that Senator Clinton voted to launch — it’s easy to forget her husband’s hawkish legacy from 1993 to early 2001. At the beginning of his presidency, he presided over a more aggressive mission for U.S. peacekeepers in Somalia, culminating in the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident in Mogadishu on October 3, 1993.

The next year, in 1994, U.S. forces invaded Haiti. In 1995, NATO — with the U.S. in the lead — launched Operation Deliberate Force against Bosnian Serb targets in the former Yugoslavia. (Later, Ms. Clinton falsely claimed that when she visited Bosnia, her plane landed “under sniper fire.”) President Clinton’s Balkan operations culminated in the 1999 Kosovo War and bombing campaign against Serbia, followed by deployment of peacekeeping forces that secured and ultimately guaranteed Kosovo’s independence.

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Throughout his administration, Clinton engaged in long-running, low-intensity conflict with Saddam Hussein as American pilots enforced the northern and southern no-fly zones over Iraq. In 1998, Clinton launched Operation Desert Fox, an intense four-day bombing campaign designed to degrade Saddam Hussein’s capacity to manufacture weapons of mass destruction.

Then, finally, there were Clinton’s cruise-missile strikes against terrorist targets in Afghanistan and Sudan — part of an ineffective effort to damage al-Qaeda and kill Osama bin Laden.

That’s quite a list. And lest anyone think Hillary Clinton regretted her husband’s military actions, recall this quote from her 2000 Senate run in New York:

There is a refrain . . . that we should intervene with force only when we face splendid little wars that we surely can win, preferably by overwhelming force in a relatively short period of time. To those who believe we should become involved only if it is easy to do, I think we have to say that America has never and should not ever shy away from the hard task if it is the right one.

Her record since her husband’s administration is crystal-clear. In addition to her votes to launch the Afghan and Iraq wars, as Time’s Michael Crowley notes, she opposed the troop withdrawal from Iraq, supported the surge in Afghanistan, supported the Libyan bombing campaign, and defied public opinion to support President Obama’s decision to seek congressional authorization to bomb the Assad regime; her State Department made the legal case for the ongoing drone campaign; and she has of course supported the most recent aerial assault on ISIS.

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#related#Is there any doubt that a Republican with a similar record would be decried as bloodthirsty — as a warmonger, or worse? If the Democrats nominate her — without even meaningful primary opposition — is there even a true anti-war Left in this country?

American forces have been in near-continual combat since Hillary Clinton has been in the public spotlight, and it appears she’s supported their use every single time. Some of those choices have been necessary, such as the decision to respond to 9/11 and the decision to strike ISIS and save Iraqi Christians from genocide. In my view, the decision to invade Iraq was correct even though voting for it cost her the presidency in 2008. But should she have supported bombing Assad just as ISIS was gathering strength? Should she have supported jihadist rebels against Moammar Qaddafi?

While it is possible to debate in good faith each and every combat deployment since 1993, one thing is clear: The party that thinks of itself as a party of peace is set to nominate by acclaim one of the most hawkish politicians in recent American history — John McCain in a pantsuit.

— David French is a staff writer at National Review, an attorney, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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