Hillary Clinton: Not Obama 2.0

Hillary Clinton: Not Obama 2.0
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Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton'Where's your spoon?' What we didn't learn in the latest debate The Hill's 12:30 Report: Roger Stone gets over three years in prison; Brutal night for Bloomberg Poll: Democrats trail Trump in Wisconsin, lead in Michigan and Pennsylvania MORE won’t be President Obama 2.0 on national security if she wins the White House in November. 

While Clinton, Obama’s former secretary of State, has in many ways promised to be an extension of the current administration, she'd be likely to take foreign policy in a slightly different direction.


The Democratic nominee has a reputation for being more hawkish than Obama and more willing to intervene in foreign conflicts.

But she’s also been a staunch advocate for “smart power,” using a combination of military might and diplomacy to solve problems. And she’s broken with the president in unexpected ways, which suggests the changeover to her administration would not be clear-cut.

“I will do everything in my power to make sure that our men and women in the military are fully prepared for any challenge that they may have to face on our behalf,” Clinton pledged Wednesday night at a forum hosted by NBC News.

“But I will also be as careful as I can in making the most significant decisions any president and commander in chief can make about sending our men and women into harm’s way.”

Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpChasten Buttigieg: 'I've been dealing with the likes of Rush Limbaugh my entire life' Lawmakers paint different pictures of Trump's 'opportunity zone' program We must not turn our heads from the effects of traumatic brain injuries MORE, who has blasted some U.S. interventions that he initially supported, says Clinton is overly eager to commit military forces abroad.

“Sometimes it has seemed like there wasn’t a country in the Middle East that Hillary Clinton didn’t want to invade, intervene or topple,” he said Wednesday during a speech laying out his proposals for expanding the military. 

“She is trigger-happy and unstable when it comes to war.”

Supporters of Clinton scoff at that characterization. 

“I think it’s kind of a caricature,” said James Clad, a former deputy assistant secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush, who has endorsed Clinton.

Still, during her time at the State Department, Clinton was credited with pushing many of the more aggressive moves of Obama’s tenure — and several aggressive ideas that he declined to take up. 

If elected president, she’s likely to build upon that legacy, if her campaign is any indication.

Clinton has been eager to take credit for the U.S.’s 2011 intervention in Libya, which helped drive Moammar Gadhafi from power but failed to create order in the country. 

“I think taking that action was the right decision,” Clinton said Wednesday at the forum. “Not taking it and permitting there to be an ongoing civil war in Libya would have been as dangerous and threatening as what we are now seeing in Syria.”

Syria is another high-profile area in which Clinton would be likely to depart from Obama.

As she did for Libya, Clinton favored a more proactive U.S. engagement in Syria. She was an early proponent of providing direct support to rebels of embattled leader Bashar Assad and on the campaign trail has called for the establishment of a no-fly zone, something the White House has ruled out.  

At the first debate of the Democratic primary in October, Clinton called for the U.S. to “take more of a leadership position” in Syria, to “make it very clear to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin that it’s not acceptable for him to be in Syria creating more chaos, bombing people on behalf of Assad.” 

The situation in Syria has continued to deteriorate, and it’s unclear whether the circumstances would allow for more robust U.S. action should Clinton be elected president. However, observers suspect that Clinton would examine all the options presented to her, barring those that involve U.S. ground troops, which she has ruled out. 

Clinton’s willingness to use military power goes back further, as she memorably voted for the U.S. to invade Iraq in 2002 — a vote she now says was a mistake. 

Aside from Syria, a Clinton administration would likely diverge from Obama in other ways.

In 2008, Clinton was one of the 28 Democratic senators to vote against an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which dramatically expanded the powers of intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency. Obama voted for the bill and has been generally reluctant to overhaul some of the most controversial programs exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

In 2011, Clinton reportedly engaged then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in an intense shouting match over whether the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan ought to be able to veto planned drone strikes if they might seriously upset diplomatic relations. 

The episode, in which Clinton defended the right of her diplomats at the State Department, reflects her reluctance to use force in ways that might damage relations with an ally. 

More recently, she has advocated for Congress to pass legislation allowing victims of terrorist acts to sue nations believed to have supported the terrorism. The bill, which the White House has said it is likely to veto and is set for a vote in the House on Friday, has been mostly discussed in the context of Saudi Arabia and the persistent but unproven suspicion that it was aware of or supported al Qaeda hijackers ahead of the 9/11 terror attacks. 

In that case, Clinton has said that diplomatic niceties ought to come second to the cause of justice. 

Taken together, Clinton’s years as secretary of State, New York senator and first lady provide a roadmap of sorts for how she might use the full arsenal of American power. 

Her record indicates she would be eager as president to confront a complex set of issues all at once, rather than one at a time, according to Mieke Eoyang, a Clinton supporter and vice president for the national security program at Third Way.

While Obama tended to view each issue with a foreign nation separately, Eoyang said, “she might try to solve more than one problem at the same time and see the connections between them."

Compared to Obama, “things will change in a lot of little ways.”