Steve Chapman

When he ran for president in 2000, George W. Bush promised to "stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions." When he ran in 2008, Barack Obama trumpeted his opposition to the Iraq invasion while asserting that our "strength abroad is measured not just by armies but rather by the power of our ideals."

They didn't quite practice what they preached. But Hillary Clinton is different. She won't disappoint anyone hoping for greater restraint, because she has no use for it. The former secretary of state is a long-standing and unblushing advocate of frequent military intervention abroad.

Unlike Obama, Clinton supported the Iraq invasion. In the months before the war, she defended Bush's handling of Saddam Hussein in a way calculated to make her look presidential. "I know a little bit about what it's like on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, making these difficult decisions," she confided.

Her Iraq vote dogged her during the 2008 primaries. But as secretary of state, she proved that it had not affected her thinking. Over and over, Clinton has opted for getting into wars rather than staying out.

As a candidate, she tried to mollify anti-war Democrats on Iraq by promising to "draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home starting with the first 60 days" of her administration. She may not have been sincere.

After Obama took office and began the withdrawal, Clinton lobbied to keep a sizable force there.

In Afghanistan, she favored a bigger troop surge than the one Obama eventually approved, and again, she wanted American forces to leave later rather than sooner. The earlier departure, she warned the president, "would signal we were abandoning Afghanistan," Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote in his memoirs.

"It's not that she's quick to use force, but her basic instincts are governed more by the uses of hard power," her former State Department adviser Dennis Ross told The New York Times. But if Clinton is not "quick to use force," who is?

The civil war in Libya was just another chance to do that. While Gates was highlighting the dangers of getting pulled into the conflict, Clinton was dying to scratch her chronically itchy trigger finger. A big reason the president eventually agreed to bomb Libyan targets was that, as Gates pointed out, Clinton was pushing him so hard in that direction.


Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.
 

 
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