Hillary Clinton was the neoconservative choice long before Donald Trump came calling

By Bonnie Kristian, March 30, 2016

Speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) this month, Hillary Clinton trod what is for her familiar foreign policy ground. “[W]hile the turmoil of the Middle East presents enormous challenge and complexity, walking away is not an option” for America, she said, pledging a Clinton-led United States to “an enduring interest in and commitment to a more peaceful, more stable, more secure Middle East”—or, in other words, to long-term maintenance and expansion of the Bush-Obama wars.

It’s language like that which has long garnered the support of foreign policy interventionists from across the political spectrum, including neoconservatives who tend to disagree with Clinton and her ilk on other policy concerns. As Politico reported this month, some of these prominent “hawks are debating whether to hold their noses” and support Clinton in pursuit of a “more muscular U.S. role abroad.” For many of them, it doesn’t sound like much of a debate.

This predilection is telling, though not particularly surprising in light of recent history. Indeed, the “hawkish foreign policy elites” the Politico piece featured have pledged their chief allegiance to an interventionist foreign policy for years, even at the expense of other major issues. And though Clinton herself has tried to downplay this connection in the past—after all, the “neoconservative” label doesn’t mesh well with her “progressive who gets things done” shtick—observers from across the political spectrum have noticed the connection for a while during her time in public service.

In the summer of 2014, for instance, the New York Times observed a growing number of heavyweight hawks like Max Boot and Robert Kagan lining up behind Clinton. “It’s easy to imagine [Clinton] making room for the neocons in her administration,” the piece noted.

It is worth mentioning that at the exact time of that article’s publication, one of the presidential frontrunners was the decidedly not neoconservative Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), a fact which was clearly on the minds of Clinton’s interventionist fans. Particularly in the case of a Paul win, “voters seriously concerned with national security would have no responsible recourse” but prioritize interventionism, Mark Salter, former chief of staff to Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), told the Times.

For Salter and his fellow interventionists, every other policy consideration—like fiscal responsibility, respect for the Constitution, individual rights, religious liberty, a free health care market, and more—is trumped by a willingness to double down on the last 15 years of wildly expensive and often ineffective interventionism.

But neoconservatives don’t seem to care, as unrepentant hawks from Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) to former Vice President Dick Cheney to the aforementioned Kagan (who since that Times piece has deemed Clinton the only way to “save” America) and more have either explicitly expressed their public support of an interventionist foreign policy irrespective of partisan lines—or else just barely restrained themselves from doing so to save partisan face.

Thus their affection for Clinton makes sense in light of her record, which has been marked by a consistent willingness to launch America into foreign wars for at least two decades. Even in her role as first lady, a position with no formal foreign policy authority, Clinton had an itch for intervention. For instance, she personally pushed her more moderate husband to insert an American presence into the Balkan conflict in 1998. In her words, “I urged him to bomb.”

Clinton more recently offered the exact same advice to President Obama about Libya in 2011. “She is probably more assertive and willing to use force than her husband,” said the late Richard Holbrooke, a diplomat and foreign policy adviser on Clinton’s 2008 campaign. “Hillary Clinton is a classic national-security Democrat,” he added.

“Hillary Clinton is a classic neoconservative,” he might have instead said.  The neoconservatives themselves—with their overwhelming prioritization of intervention above all else—might well be inclined to agree.

Bonnie Kristian is a fellow at Defense Priorities, contributing writer at The Week, and a columnist at Rare.

This piece was originally published by Rare on March 30, 2016. Read more HERE

Photo courtesy of Getty.