This week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a major speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, which has the folks at the Daily Beast swooning—the normally clear-thinking Tunku Varadarajan hails the speech as an unapologetic embrace of America’s role as global leader and refutation of moral cowardice and cultural relativism:
Try this for size: “The United States can, must and will lead in the new century.” In order to do that, Clinton promised “a new global architecture,” “built to last and withstand stress.” And in a muscular departure from the way in which this administration—for fear of seeming Bush-like—has been shrinking from the unembarrassed propagation of American values, she uttered these plainspoken, unadorned words: “Democracy needs defending.”
Human rights, too, came in for a robust airing: China was scolded, and exhorted to follow “the rules of the road” in its aspiration to be a great power; as was Russia, for its invasion of Georgia. The message: We may live in a multipolar world, but we have higher standards by far than those who would style themselves as our equals.
Clinton used phrases like “American might,” words that we are more accustomed to hearing from Republicans—words that we’ve come to believe that many Democrats can’t bear to voice. How refreshing, therefore, that she should reach into a vocabulary of pride that most American citizens would applaud.
I have no problem giving credit where credit is due—it’s great to hear unequivocal condemnation of other nations’ humanitarian failings for a change, and I’m glad to hear someone in the Obama Administration seemingly unworried about America looking too strong and independent. But while Varadarajan is correct to note the contrast between Hillary and her boss (which just might be intentional), talking a good game is a far cry from doing the right thing.
Hillary did, after all, back down on the economic sanctions that would have had the best chance of having any sort of effect on Iran’s nuclear goals, and she can’t bring herself to simply say, “Yes, Iran wants a bomb.” And her speech wasn’t all music to conservatives’ ears—she also hailed the United Nations as the globe’s “single most important” institution. Riiiiiight…..
Meanwhile, former Clinton speechwriter Heather Hurlburt lists some revealing takeaways from the speech:
The administration considers the use and spread of nuclear weapons to be its biggest foreign-policy challenge.
And boy, are they rising to meet it head on. As Charles Krauthammer explains here and here, Obama somehow believes that by reducing America’s own nuclear weapons and announcing that we’ll only consider nuclear retaliation against certain types of attacks (biological attacks are no longer nuke-worthy), he can inspire other nations to do the same. Because we all know that the people inclined to do bad things with nuclear weapons can’t withstand the magic of a high-minded symbolic gesture!