David Frum

03.07.13

What's Hillary's Legacy as Secretary of State?

Astrid Riecken/Getty Images ()

The Wall Street Journal's Sohrab Ahmari, in a review of a new book on Secretary Clinton, takes a stab:

In practice, the administration's "nuanced diplomacy" meant downgrading the promotion of freedom and human rights, viewed suspiciously as Mr. Bush's policy rather than a long-standing bipartisan commitment. On her first trip to China as secretary of state in February 2009, Mrs. Clinton said that criticism of Beijing's abhorrent rights record can't be allowed to "interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crises." To Ms. Ghattas, the fact that the secretary's statement drew widespread outrage at the time was merely proof that "the world was not ready for her new style of diplomacy." ...

As a June 2012 Pew poll revealed, in much of the Muslim world, where the administration's humble posture was supposed to have had its greatest effect, U.S. popularity generally declined during Mr. Obama's first term. (Only 12% of Pakistanis, for example, held a favorable view of the U.S., down from 19% at the end of Mr. Bush's presidency.)

Meanwhile, the administration's obsession with multilateralism and the hectoring of traditional allies like Israel have yielded few concrete gains. But Ms. Ghattas plays down or elides the Obama team's most serious foreign-policy setbacks. The now-forgotten Russian "reset" and the administration's ludicrous faith in Bashar al-Assad's reformist potential get far less attention here than Mrs. Clinton's willingness to acknowledge "American excesses of power abroad," which, the author claims, has made the U.S. a "palatable" presence around the world.