Hillary Clinton unveiled her foreign policy in a speech at the Brookings Institution yesterday, laying out positions that are more activist than the Obama Administration’s stances, despite putting her shoulder behind the Iran deal. The NYT reports:
[M]ost of her speech and discussion afterward was an effort to navigate a careful line between claiming credit for the Iran deal while also expressing skepticism by positioning herself as tougher than her former boss and perhaps more devoted to keeping rifts with Israel from breaking out into the open. She was clearly positioning herself as the candidate best poised to take on Iran’s challenge and influence in the Middle East.
“Distrust and verify” would be her approach, she insisted, turning Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” line about the Soviet Union on its head. She went on to describe Iran as a “ruthless, brutal regime,” words far harsher than Mr. Obama has used as he has sought to coax the Iranians along in the years of perilous diplomacy. She added, “I will not hesitate to take military action” if Iran seeks to obtain a nuclear bomb despite its commitments, a deliberately stronger formulation than Mr. Obama’s “all options are on the table.”
She also implied criticism of the president’s handling of Vladimir Putin:
[Mrs. Clinton] sought to distinguish herself from the president on foreign policy, calling for a tough reassessment of American policy toward Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and she seemed, by implication, to suggest that the Obama administration had not responded strongly enough to the annexation of Crimea and the continuing military action in Ukraine. She noted the recent reports of Russian troops in Syria and argued “we need a concerted effort to up the costs on Russia and Putin — I am in the camp that we have not done enough.”
Polls show a deep dissatisfaction with America’s current foreign policy approach, and Hillary is showing she’s aware of that. Furthermore, her own instincts on foreign policy are significantly to the right of President Obama’s. She has a hard line to walk: Much of the Democratic base is closer to the president’s position, but distancing herself from the president on Russia and Iran will help her in the general election—and reflects her personal views. Moreover, her GOP opponents are going to tag her with the Libya mess, and her endorsement of the Iran deal, however nuanced and finely parsed, will be another controversial stance in 2016.
Nevertheless, Clinton has staked out a foreign policy position that differs significantly from the stance of the man she served as Secretary of State.