Opinion

opinion | Eric Fehrnstrom

Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ Dick Cheney

Her opponents won’t say it, but I will: Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party’s Dick Cheney.

How could that be, you ask? Anyone who saw Clinton’s performance in the last Democratic debate would have to conclude she is clueless in the war against terror, refusing even to utter the words “radical Islam.” Only the most credulous among us would not concede that fanatics are riving one of the world’s largest religions apart. The former secretary of state also missed a chance to describe how she would be different from President Obama in his unsuccessful “containment” of ISIS. Oddly, she failed to challenge Bernie Sanders on his ridiculous claim that climate change gives rise to terror organizations. Those deadly commando-style raids we saw in France? Apparently they were not the result of some twisted ideology; it was a fight over scarce water resources.

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No, what makes Hillary Clinton the Dick Cheney of the Democrats is Libya. You heard that right — Clinton is to Obama in Libya what Cheney was to President Bush in Iraq. Against other voices urging caution, they both strongly advocated the invasion of a country that, lacking a follow-up plan to restore stability, fell into complete chaos.

Everyone knows of Cheney’s role as an unapologetic interventionist in Iraq. For that, he has been pilloried on the left. Neither has he escaped criticism on the right. No less an authority than former President George H.W. Bush has chastised Cheney for his bellicose views. As vice president, the hawkish Cheney “marched to his own drummer” and was “very hard-line” in ways that ill served his son’s administration, the elder Bush told biographer Jon Meacham.

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What about Clinton? She, too, was hard-line and marched to her own drummer in arguing for US intervention in Libya. She was able to convince Obama that it was the right policy to pursue, against the advice of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and Director of Counterterrorism John Brennan. Clinton helped assemble the international coalition against the dictator Moammar Khadafy and told reluctant Arab nations that it was important to her personally.

The United States ousted Khadafy, but since there was no effective plan to manage the transition to a better future, the country fell into anarchy. As then-Secretary Gates explained it: “We were playing it by ear.” Today, Libya is an ISIS romper room, where they carry out beheadings, export terror, and massacre civilians indiscriminately.

Of Cheney, Democrats like to point out that, after all these years, he is still unable to admit the failure of the foreign policy he championed. Obama admitted last year that intervening in Libya without an adequate post-conflict plan was his biggest foreign policy regret. But not Clinton.

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Consider this oblivious response to CBS moderator John Dickerson from last Saturday’s debate:

DICKERSON: “How did you get it wrong with Libya if the key lesson of the Iraq War is have a plan for after?”

CLINTON: “Well, we did have a plan.”

Before Libya descended into lawlessness and disorder, Clinton touted her record there. “We set into motion a policy that was on the right side of history, on the right side of our values, on the right side of our strategic interests in the region,” she said in 2011.

Yet, now that history is no longer on her side, Clinton shifts blame for Libya to an “arc of instability” that stretches from Afghanistan to North Africa. The truth is that this frightening crescent of terror and the growth of ISIS are at least partly the result of her failed attempt at regime change in Libya.

Eric Fehrnstrom is a Republican political analyst and media strategist, and was a senior adviser to Governor Mitt Romney.
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