A poll taken in Iowa before the presidential caucus found that 70 percent of Democrats surveyed trusted Hillary Clinton on foreign policy more than Bernie Sanders. But her record as Secretary of State was very different from that of her successor, John Kerry, who has overseen groundbreaking diplomatic breakthroughs with Iran, Cuba and, in a more limited context, even with Russia and Syria.
In fact, Clinton’s use of the term “diplomacy” in talking about her own record is idiosyncratic in that it refers almost entirely to assembling “coalitions” to support U.S. threats, wars and sanctions against other countries, rather than to peacefully resolving international disputes without the threat or use of force, as normally understood by the word “diplomacy” and as required by the UN Charter.
There is another term for what Clinton means when she says “diplomacy,” and that is “brinksmanship,” which means threatening war to back up demands on other governments. In the real world, brinksmanship frequently leads to war when neither side will back down, at which point its only value or purpose is to provide a political narrative to justify aggression.
The two main “diplomatic” achievements Clinton gives herself credit for are: assembling the coalition of NATO and the Arab monarchies that bombed Libya into endless, intractable chaos; and imposing painful sanctions on the people of Iran over what U.S. intelligence agencies concluded by 2007 was a peaceful civilian nuclear program.
Clinton’s claim that her brinksmanship “brought Iran to the table” over its “nuclear weapons program” is particularly deceptive. It was in fact Secretary Clinton and President Obama whorefused to take “Yes” for an answer in 2010, after Iran agreed to what was originally a U.S. proposal relayed by Turkey and Brazil. Clinton and Obama chose instead to keep ratcheting up sanctions and U.S. and Israeli threats. This was a textbook case of dangerous brinksmanship that was finally resolved by real diplomacy (and real diplomats like Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif) before it led to war.