On the positive side, Hillary Clinton is not overtly anti-American as are some of the political types who have come into the Department, in particular in the Western Hemisphere bureau. She has some notable skills. As noted, she served as Chief Laundress during Governor Bill's tenure in Arkansas. During his run for president, she had charge of dampening the "bimbo eruptions." As First Lady in the White House, she had the point when it came to slamming critics, e.g., "vast right wing conspiracy." She, however, outdrove her headlights when she tried to design a national healthcare plan. That horribly botched effort revealed her lack of managerial and leadership skills, as well as her stunning arrogance. She brought those qualities to the State Department, an organization already flush with poor management, weak leadership, and stunning arrogance. I would note that among arrogant government agencies, State is the Saudi Arabia of arrogance--it has huge proven reserves.
Hillary Clinton is a celebrity who wants prestige. Secretary of State is a pretty good gig for those seeking prestige. You confirm your celebrity status, and the mainstream media labels you a "serious thinker." You will get a lucrative book ghost-written for you. You get on TV whenever you want; have cars and planes at your command; people around the world know you; and you have thousands of employees, mostly men, who fawn over you, laugh uproariously at your jokes, and nod like bobble heads on a dashboard while very ostentatiously writing down your words, and . . . wait.
Let's back up.
Let me explain the culture at State. It revolves around public displays of affection for the Secretary; more than that, it is based upon open adoration of the Secretary, who quickly becomes an almost mythical figure possessed of unbounded wisdom and insight. What we have, in other words, is a diluted version of North Korea. You go to staff meetings, and they ring with statements, such as "the Secretary has said," "the Secretary wants," and "the Secretary was right on point this morning." You have not seen grown people--mostly men--try to outdo themselves praising the Dear Leader until you have gone to a morning meeting at State chaired by somebody who just attended a prior staff meeting chaired by the Secretary. As the kids say, "OMG!" People you thought reasonable, lose all reason, all critical faculties as they rush to appear the Most Loyal Servant of the Secretary. These are supposed to be Americans, defenders of the Great Republic, but you expect them to break into Anna's song, absent the irony,
"Yes, Your Majesty;
No, Your Majesty.
Tell us how low to go, Your Majesty;
Make some more decrees, Your Majesty,
Don't let us up off our knees, Your Majesty.
Give us a kick, if you please, Your Majesty
Give us a kick, if you would, Your Majesty
Oh, That was good, Your Majesty!"
All that's while in public. In private, in unguarded moments, career FSOs often reveal contempt for the Secretary and her "political appointees"--many of whom, truth be told, are worthy of contempt but not for the reasons of the Foreign Service; they are worthy of contempt because they don't like America. In short, this Secretary, as with (most of) her predecessors, comes to believe "her" people adore and respect her. Madam Secretary, I am here to tell you it's an act aimed at getting plum assignments.
Back to our story. As explained in a prior post, there is no foreign policy coming from the White House, except a default position of apology, appeasement, and accommodation. As a wise former colleague told me in an email when I let him know I was writing this piece, which would be very critical of Hillary Clinton as SecState, "A Secretary of State should not, of course, have a policy different from the President's, but that does not mean that what she says, how she says it, and the choices she makes in where she goes and what she does must be without character. We remember Seward's Folly and Marshall's Plan. Powell carried a Doctrine with him. What notable thing can one attach to Hillary Clinton? This is especially important with a President who leads from behind and who reflexively takes the least dramatic (and generally least effective) path to any goal. . . . Hillary, the candidate in 2008 with 'experience', should have provided some appropriate leadership here; she has not." He's absolutely right. Hillary Clinton will go down as either one of the most inconsequential or most damaging Secretaries of State, just as Obama will as president. There is no "Hillary Doctrine." Chortling upon hearing of the death of the insignificant Qaddafi, "We came, we saw, he died," does not cut it as doctrine.
The problem with Hillary Clinton's tenure, however, is more fundamental than the lack of a doctrine. Secretary Clinton has no knowledge of or interest in foreign affairs. She is bored by the substance; has no appreciation for core US interests, or how to defend them; does not understand the correlation between military power and diplomacy; and fritters time ineffectually on marginal issues, e.g., women in Africa. She has a close entourage of mostly "high powered" women, e.g., Cheryl Mills, who come from her political campaigns, draw top government salaries, have no foreign affairs knowledge, and worry only about the Secretary's image. She has entrusted some key programs to this entourage, and they have made a hash. Cheryl Mills, for example, received overall control of the Haiti relief effort. That assistance effort has stagnated, amuck in a bureaucratic mire where nobody knows the policy, the priorities, or even how much money has been raised and spent and on what. No link exists between our generous contributions to Haiti and even minimal political gain for the US. Haiti's leaders cavort with Castro and Chavez, and regularly oppose us at the UN and the OAS. You're in trouble when even Haiti's leaders know they can defy you openly, and you will still pour in the cash.
I have seen the Secretary in meetings with staff and foreign dignitaries. She reads her notes, spews out her talking points, and then gets that 1,000 yard stare. She is not at all interested in the goings on. She looks to her staff to extricate her, and tries to leave as quickly as possible. No decisiveness, no standing up for America, just a fatuous empty pantsuit blandness.
She, after all, is just mailing it in.