Pundits sometimes cite the decline and fall of the Roman Empire as a metaphor to illuminate what many see as the impending decline and fall of the United States. Between the third and fifth centuries Rome did indeed evolve into a highly centralized and militarized state that was supported by an increasingly impoverished economic base which invites comparison with contemporary Washington. But a better metaphor for America’s current malaise might well be the final days of the Roman Republic. The fall of the Roman Republic in the first century B.C. came about due to the rise of warring factions fueled by the massive corruption within the political class that was itself derived from huge sums of money that were the spoils of the imperial expansion that started with the Punic Wars and which provided opportunities to loot the subject nations to fund one’s political campaign. Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Caesar and Crassus were all both enablers and products of republican decline. Julius Caesar’s famous invasion of Gaul was prompted by his need to obtain money to pay off his debts and finance his political career.
The example of Rome led America’s Founding Fathers to warn about the evils of faction, the corrupting effect of money and the passionate attachment to foreign interests. Unfortunately, highly partisan politics fueled by vast quantities of money some of which comes from sources with openly promoted foreign interests has become a reality in Washington and partly explains the decline of America’s own ruling class. And there is no political dynasty that exhibits the lack of any ethical anchor combined with the excesses that derive from overweening greed and ambition as much as the Clintons.
That Hillary Clinton is spoken of as a virtual president presumptive in much of the media and punditry should give one pause and make one wonder about the state of democracy in America. Clinton became a mediocre Senator from New York elected to office in a state which was so Democratic leaning that she could not lose. She then sought the Democratic presidential nomination only to be defeated by Barack Obama, who better captured the national mood of war weariness in the wake of morally questionable and ultimately counterproductive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Clinton was given the post of Secretary of State to remove her from competition with the new president where she maintained a high political profile but ultimately did very little of note apart from a disastrous intervention in Libya which she has been trying to walk away from ever since.
Hillary and Bill are every bit as hawkish as Mitt Romney and John McCain and are just as comfortable with a neocon driven foreign policy. Bear in mind that most neocons are actually traditional liberals on many issues apart from their readiness to go to war, which makes them a better fit for a hawkish Democrat rather than with a socially conservative Republican. This is why leading neocons like Robert Kagan and David Brooks are leaning towards Hillary. Kagan’s wife, Victoria Nuland, who has done so much to start a shooting war with Russia, was a Hillary Clinton protege at the State Department. If Clinton does become president it is not so farfetched to consider the possibility that Nuland or someone very much like her would be placed in charge of American diplomacy.
As for evidence of Hillary’s willingness to use force internationally, note for starters the reported principal influences on her foreign policy views: her husband Bill plus “liberal interventionists” Madeleine Albright, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Sandy Berger. Albright is famous for saying that the death of 500,000 Iraqi children due to sanctions was “worth it,” while Slaughter is head of the New America Foundation and author of two liberal interventionist Bibles: “A New World Order” and “The Idea That Is America: Keeping Faith with Our Values in a Dangerous World.” Berger is best known for stealing documents from the national archives by stuffing them down his trousers.
Hillary also is an admirer of Henry Kissinger and he of her, demonstrating that her interventionist foreign policy agenda is bipartisan. She notoriously voted for the Iraq War and shares Albright’s belief that the United States is the world’s “indispensable nation,” giving it a free pass to regulate the activities of everyone else. She is a strong supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his policies, she de facto opposes any nuclear agreement with Iran, she criticized President Barack Obama because he did not bomb Syria or arm the rebels, and she sponsored the disastrous regime change in Libya. Bill is on the same page, bombing Serbia, enforcing the punitive and highly destructive sanctions on Iraq, and destroying a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant to distract the American public from revelations about his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky.
The Clintons just package their wars differently than the GOP to enable them to describe intervention as morally justifiable, somewhat like the Obama contrived distinction between “good” and “bad” wars. One might also add that the Clintons are quite probably more cynical about the entire process and willing to manipulate it in ways that would never occur to most Republicans. It is hard to imagine Romney, Bush or McCain being so ethically challenged as to attack Sudan to cover up an Oval Office affair.
And then there is Marc Rich, the fugitive financier pardoned as a last official act by Bill. Rich had fled the US after being charged with income tax evasion, wire fraud, racketeering, and trading with Iran during the oil embargo. He was also an agent for the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, which was known to the CIA and FBI, a fact that surely could have been learned by Clinton if he had done a proper due diligence on the pardon. But Rich and his wife Daniele were major Democratic Party supporters, including substantial gifts to Hillary’s Senate campaign and the Clinton Presidential Library. There was also considerable pressure coming from the Israelis, which together with the money was enough to convince Bill Clinton. And similar pressures will surely prove convincing for Hillary.
The Clinton justification for “liberal intervention” is shaped around the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, abbreviated R2P, which was cited in the attacks on both Serbia and Libya and the support for similar action against Syria. The essentially bellicose foreign policy is also politically calculated to take away the national security issue advantage from the GOP. And it is conveniently tied in with powerful domestic and foreign constituencies to include the military industrial complex, Wall Street, the Israel Lobby and the various nooks and crannies of corporate America that benefit from the war on terror and de facto empire.
The Clintons also suffer from being snobs who like to hang around with rich people in spite of their populist pretensions. They are the ultimate social climbers, always willing to do one more thing to obtain acceptance from the 1% that really matters and ready to reap the rewards that they know come with it. Hillary claims that she and Bill were broke and in debt when they left the White House. They are now worth over $100 million and command as much as $800,000 for a single speaking engagement. Hillary’s minimum paycheck to speak before a group is reported to be $200,000. Does anyone actually think that either Bill Clinton’s sly smile or Hillary’s shrill monotone is worth a speaking fee in the hundreds of thousands of dollars? Or are there expectations of other quid pro quos down the road for those who are coughing up the big money, to include something like $18 million from Goldman Sachs and other banksters who brought the nation to the brink of ruin in 2008?
President Hillary would be a disaster for United States foreign policy as she would operate to the right of Obama, who has certainly been bad enough. It would also come on the heels of a campaign in which Clinton’s major funder would likely be Israeli-American Haim Saban, who has described himself as a one issue guy and that issue is Israel, though he has also pledged to do what it takes to get Hillary elected, suggesting that at least in his mind the two agendas are linked.
How would it all play out compared to the status quo? Hillary Clinton does not currently have anything that equates to a foreign policy but she has provided plenty of indications regarding where she stands on various issues. Where Obama would almost certainly like to come to an arrangement with Iran, Hillary would be unwilling to make any compromises and would leave open only the alternative of war. Obama has clearly expressed concerns about Benjamin Netanyahu and his policies that Hillary does not share and also hesitates over deeper military involvement in the Middle East while Hillary wants regime change for Syria and would be willing to use force to achieve that end. In other areas Hillary would repeat and even double down on the Obama mistakes, listening to Nuland and the neocons to strengthen sanctions against the Russians over Crimea and likely moving to both arm Ukraine and expand NATO. China would be increasingly seen not as a competitor but as an enemy.
Given the Clintons’ lip service to “humanitarian” war and democracy promotion there would also be a lot more meddling in a lot more places around the globe. And it would all be wrapped in “good war” rhetoric that the equally bellicose Republican candidates would have difficulty challenging. It is a bleak prospect and Hillary is by no means past the finish post, but those who hope for a genuine change in direction for the Democratic Party will have to look elsewhere, possibly towards someone like Jim Webb who actually has seen war up close and unlike the armchair warrior Clintons has little enthusiasm for starting a new one.