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Madame Secretary
Assessing Clinton's Tenure

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?

The conclusion?

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.

Read the whole thing.

When you’re done with that, check out WRM’s WSJ 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.”

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  • PKCasimir

    This is an inside-the-beltway, non-assessment of Hilary Clinton’s tenure as SecState. Historians won’t grade her on her ability to “hold her own” on the bureaucratic battles within the Obama administration but what her successes and failures were in furthering America’s interests in the world. I can’t think of a single success, but a lot of failures and misses.

  • Pete

    “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, ”

    Poor old Mead is clueless. He has spent too much time blovating to whoever will listen to him and not enough time doing objective thinking because such thinking is politically incorrect in his elite circles.

  • Andrew Allison

    Way too easy on her, esp. the Benghazi cover-up.

  • johngbarker

    The source article is much more analytical and critical than the abridgement. WRM writes that the promotion of gender equality beyond our borders is not a novel idea but may bring us into serious conflict with more traditional societies. Likewise promoting freedom enrages authoritarian regimes and propels us into conflict with them. WRM has gazed into the abyss in this brief piece.

  • adk

    This “assessment” is either a joke or an early application for a job in the future Clinton Administration. “Bedrock convictions” and Mrs Clinton don’t belong in the same sentence (unless self-promotion is included.) Senator Clinton was, eg, a firm supporter of Israel; SoS Clinton became its harsh critic. And the “Bin Laden is dead, GM is alive” horse had already been sold once to the current occupant of WH.

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