Time and again, people who don’t like Hillary Clinton’s policies claim that they are making the rational, adult choice in supporting her. She’s “experienced,” after all. She was Secretary of State and a Senator and a First Lady. Sure, she’s in Wall Street’s pocket. Sure she’s tried to go to war with every country in the Middle East. Sure we didn’t agree with her on free trade until basically yesterday when she did an abrupt about-face and threw a deal she wrote under the bus. But, people keep saying, as sober, responsible adults we sometimes have to make compromises - and look, Bernie Sanders is great but he isn’t electable so let’s not set ourselves up for disappointment. Also, Hillary has so much experience! Remember how we said that word before? Experience! She knows about things that are in the world because of all the time she’s been around doing stuff!
This line of reasoning is annoying, but it’s everywhere, so it’s time for us to have a chat with America about Hillary’s “experience.” We’re not here to deny that it exists, of course. We pride ourselves on being fact-believers and information-knowers and we are well aware that Clinton has been a public servant for decades. It’s important to remember, however, that “experience” and “good ideas” are not interchangeable, and that even as they express their support, most supporters know that Hillary only has one these things.
We’re living in scary times filled with vague threats of terror and disturbing internet videos and sad stories about idiot government officials who don’t have a heart when it comes to accepting the human costs of a war we helped instigate. It sucks and many of us are rightfully concerned that a GOP president would only make it worse. With that said, however, don’t support for Hillary Clinton for her “foreign policy experience” if you don’t like where we are now, stuck in a terror-fueled panicmania in which wearing shoes pinpoints you as a likely airplane bomber and being Muslim is a social crime. Hillary’s policy isn’t what’s going to solve this, it’s what got us here.
Again and again, from Iraq to Iran to Syria to Libya, Hillary has advocated for foreign policy positions that are are bellicose and dangerous. As a state department official she wasn’t in a position to make decisions, but her favored strategy in Iraq back when she was a Senator not only cost us billions of dollars and many American lives, but also destabilized the entire region. This recent wave of global terrorism is, in large part, a result of unnecessary military interventions she supported. She has since advocated similarly “tough” positions in Iran, Libya, and Syria. She lost a presidential election over these “tough” positions. She’s witnessed the dissolution of multiple governments due to the chaos that followed Iraq. John McCain accidentally posing with terrorists wasn’t even enough to convince her that indiscriminately arming rebels for short-term military gain isn’t an effective way to conduct policy. Whatever the political (and human) cost, she continues to advocate for hawkish foreign policy positions that are discredited and out of touch with what Americans want. Experience or not, she’s not using genius-brain-science to make up her policy. It seems more like she’s using blind anger.
Our media and public discourse generally fails to distinguish between being “tough” on foreign policy and being “effective,” so the misunderstand that leads many to mindlessly fall into the Clinton camp is partially our fault. In an recent article in the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf correctly notes that we “stumbled into a quagmire [in Iraq] partly because so many mistakenly equated hawkish interventionism with “muscularity” and “toughness,” even as they conflated anti-war arguments with weakness.”
As you panic about terrorism, remind yourselves that a helpful discussion on foreign policy focuses on smart strategy and the likelihood of success in a broadly defined sense, not “toughness.” Smart foreign policy isn’t about retribution and showing muscle, it’s about stabilizing regions and getting results. Meanwhile, if you have the experience and can’t use it to reach logical conclusions, then the experience is of no value. Commenting on Bernie Sander’s comparable lack of experience is fair, but dismissing his ideas as less valuable and not acknowledging that Clinton’s involvement seems to keep making the problem worse is stupid.
And now let’s talk primaries for a moment, because it’s also stupid to believe that the contest in which we Democrats determine who our candidate for president is going to be should have a predetermined outcome. This idea runs counter to the entire purpose of the primaries. Don’t vote for who you think is electable, vote for who you agree with. The most “electable” person is the person who stands the greatest chance of being elected, not the biggest behemoth who seems like they have the most to lose by not coming out on top.
So let’s stay calm, think about our positions, and then let’s stop pretending that being an “adult” means voting against your own interests. We’re here to tell you that responsible voting is informed voting and informed voting means not voting for somebody whose policy ideas run directly counter to your own.
Rant over. Over and out.