In case you missed it over the weekend, Walter Russell Mead had a penetrating essay in the Washington Post assessing Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department. Here’s a taste:
Remember that secretaries of state don’t control U.S. foreign policy. Clinton wasn’t following her own grand strategy when she reigned in Foggy Bottom; her job was to implement President Obama’s ideas. To make a fair and useful assessment of Clinton’s record in office, one must consider some complicated questions:How did Clinton understand the interplay of America’s power, its interests, its resources and its values? Was she able to translate that vision into policies that won enough support throughout the government to be carried out? Was she able to gain or keep the president’s confidence, and was the State Department under her leadership able to hold its own in the bureaucratic battles of the day? To the extent that her policy ideas were adopted, how effective were they? How well did she manage on the inevitable occasions when things went horribly wrong?
piece “Putin Did Americans a Favor”. He argues that Putin’s attack on Ukraine “and his continuing efforts to destabilize its government are invaluable reminders of both the intractable nature of America’s foreign-policy challenges and the potentially terrible consequences for the world if the U.S. fails the test.”In the end, thanks to Putin, “Americans are beginning to discover how ugly the world can get when the U.S. takes a breather. […] Freedom and peace world-wide still depend on American energy and engagement.”
Clinton was an influential secretary of state and a savvy manager with a clear agenda that, at least in part, she translated into policy. So how did it all work out?The answer: Historians will probably consider Clinton significantly more successful than run-of-the-mill secretaries of state such as James G. Blaine or the long-serving Cordell Hull, but don’t expect to see her on a pedestal with Dean Acheson or John Quincy Adams anytime soon.