Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is testifying before the House Select Committee on Benghazi about her role in the 2012 terrorist attack in Libya that resulted in the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens, the first U.S. Ambassador in 35 years to be killed in the line of duty. Three other Americans, Sean Smith, Ty Woods, and Glen Doherty, were killed as well.
Americans deserve to learn the truth about Clinton’s actions as Secretary of State in the days and weeks before the death of these brave Americans.
Yet the debate about Clinton’s precise role in the Benghazi disaster should not obscure a broader point that is obvious to most observers: Hillary Clinton’s failed record as Secretary of State, like the Obama administration’s disastrous foreign policy, has made America less safe at home and abroad.
In the case of Benghazi, despite her advocacy of the intervention that resulted in the fall of a brutal dictator, Clinton appeared to show little interest in the deteriorating situation in Libya. The administration’s approach of “leading from behind” prolonged the Libyan civil war, allowing well-armed militias to proliferate. After the conflict ended, the United States did little to support the nascent Libyan government that followed Qaddafi as it struggled to stabilize the country. As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently admitted, Secretary Clinton’s postwar plan amounted to “playing it by ear.” The result has been extended anarchy in Libya, which has been exploited by America’s enemies, including al Qaeda affiliates and ISIL.
As the Libyan government was left on its own, so too were our personnel in Libya.
Ambassador Stevens and his team requested additional security personnel from State Department headquarters on multiple occasions, only to have the requests denied. Clinton now claims that these decisions were made by her subordinates, but given her role in crafting the administration’s policy toward Libya, she should have been more engaged, both before and in the middle of the worst attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in decades.
This disengagement from a major crisis facing her Department is symptomatic of her broader approach to her role as Secretary of State. Indeed, she really has no major accomplishment to point to from her four years as Secretary of State and the issues on which she engaged the most often had the most disastrous results for U.S. foreign policy.
Like President Obama, Secretary Clinton found it very difficult to figure out which leaders are America’s friends and which are its enemies. In her first year in office, Clinton launched a “reset” with Russia based on the premise that the U.S. really could get along with Vladimir Putin—a policy she continues to claim accomplished “quite a lot” even as Russia illegally occupies Crimea, meddles in Ukraine, and intervenes in Syria.
In 2011, Clinton announced a “pivot” to Asia. Like many other initiatives under Clinton and Obama, the pivot was high on rhetoric and low on action, swinging between conciliation with Beijing and stern warnings about Chinese behavior. The result: overpromises and confusion, with the region even less certain of America’s commitment than before.
Clinton touts her early support for arming Syria’s moderate opposition and more recently, a no-fly zone, to contrast her record with President Obama’s. But even after Syrian troops began to shoot protesters in the streets with live ammunition in 2011, Clinton labeled Bashar al-Assad a “reformer.” The death toll in the Syrian civil war now stands at more than 200,000. Our allies in Europe are enduring a mass migration crisis as Syrians seek refuge. When it mattered, Clinton was unwilling to publicly advocate for the sort of policy change that would have potentially helped end the conflict and prevent these outcomes.
Clinton’s adamant support for the nuclear deal with Iran is the most important indicator that she has learned nothing from her misjudgment of Russia, China, and Syria. This is a deal so deeply flawed that Iran has even been allowed to inspect some of its own military research facilities. The regime in Tehran will also get access to somewhere north of $100 billion of frozen funds as a signing bonus, which even the White House admits may be used to support terrorists such as Hamas and Hezbollah. The foundation for this deal was laid on Clinton’s watch yet she now promises that she’ll be tough on the mullahs as President.
From failed policies to her unsecure email server and lax handling of our nation’s most sensitive secrets, to U.S. personnel put at risk by her inattention, Clinton’s record is one of incompetence and failure.
Not surprisingly, Clinton herself has found it difficult to identify any clear achievements during her tenure as Secretary of State. When an admirer asked her to identify the accomplishment of which she was proudest, Clinton got flustered. She eventually said that leadership is a “relay race” and when you finish your leg, “you hand off the baton.”
America’s standing in the world can’t survive a “handing off the baton” from this administration. On foreign policy, Clinton has nothing to offer but the instability and chaos and failed policies of the Obama years. The last thing we can afford is a White House that must constantly look backwards because it is constantly under investigation.
In a world that is increasingly dangerous and chaotic, Americans need a president with new ideas that can help build a new American century and that ultimately, can keep Americans here and those we send overseas safe. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton failed at that fundamental duty.