Saturday, October 13, 2007

Odd Views on Diplomacy

Barack Obama criticized Clinton for her vote on the Kyl/Liebermann Amendment, saying that she was once again giving Bush a blank check for war, this time against Iran. I dislike her vote for this act, but I’m not sure I agree with Obama’s accusation. Clinton claims that the vote does not authorize military action and cannot be so construed, and I think I actually agree with her on that.

But her justification comes across to me as extraordinarily flimsy. For one thing she gives more than one reason, and in my experience multiple excuses are usually only given when the real reason is being concealed.

First she reminded the audience that she voted against an amendment that actually did authorize the use of military instruments.

So you vote for a bad bill only because it is less bad than another, worse, bill? That makes no sense to me. If Bush asked for a bill that would build internment camps and imprison all non-Christians she would vote against it. Then if he changed and said he would only imprison all Muslims she would vote for it because that’s bad, but it’s better than the original?

Then she said she voted for it because it supports diplomacy. She wants to negotiate, but she wants to do so from a “position of strength.”

This strikes me as a very strange perception of diplomacy. How exactly does labeling the ones you want to negotiate with as terrorists put you into a position of strength? Before you negotiate with someone you first publicly call them bad names and place nasty labels on them, and only then do you sit down with them and ask them to make nice.

Let me put this another way. If you publicly call me a liar and a thief, and then you come to me and ask me to discuss being good neighbors, I can tell you that my reaction is going to be to tell you to take a long walk on a short pier. We are not going to be good neighbors.

Based on what she has said about that vote I can’t really make out why she did it, because I don’t really believe that her diplomatic acumen is that lacking. Based on my assessment of her character, I believe she cast that vote because it was politically expedient. It was designed to make her “look tough on national security” and to strengthen her relationship with the military. All of the rhetoric afterward is just that; rhetoric to satisfy her liberal base.

Politicians in general say and do whatever they think will get them elected. That’s why our system is failing as badly as it is. There is no systematic method of ensuring that, once elected, they will actually do what they promised to do during their campaigns and few of them do. Hillary Clinton is particularly facile in shifting rhetoric and action to pursue her goals. I don’t for one second believe that she will actually keep any of her promises.

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