January 23, 2013
By Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
It was not exactly a bravura performance today from the Secretary of State, who testified this morning before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Hillary Clinton came across as defiant, evasive, blasé, and at times hugely unconvincing when answering questions from Republican Senators about the death of four Americans at the hand of Islamist terrorists in Benghazi last September, including the assassination of the US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens. After listening to several hours of Mrs. Clinton defending her administration’s handling of the Benghazi debacle, including UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s preposterous suggestion on Sunday morning talk shows that this might not have been a terrorist attack, the American public will only be left with the impression that this is a presidency that doesn’t take any responsibility for its actions, is highly incompetent, and remains firmly in denial over the scale of the al-Qaeda threat.
Senator John McCain was suitably unimpressed by what he heard, and Senator Rand Paul, who is emerging as a leading voice on foreign policy matters, declared that he would have fired the Secretary of State if he was president. As I noted in an earlier piece, the White House’s handling of the Benghazi attack has been utterly shambolic, with a striking lack of clarity, and not a single senior official punished for one of the biggest national security and intelligence failings in recent years. Today’s testimony only reinforces that impression.
With an eye on a possible 2016 presidential bid, Hillary Clinton did herself no favours with today’s testimony, just a few days before she steps down from high office. It underscores the fact that Clinton has been a less than impressive Secretary of State, whose leadership on an array of foreign policy matters, from Syria to Egypt and Iran, has been underwhelming. Some of her initiatives have been disastrous, including the much-hyped and weak-kneed Russian “reset,” which now appears to have sunk without a trace after Moscow decided not to cooperate. And who can forget Mrs. Clinton’s decision to stand alongside Cristina Kirchner in Buenos Aires, and support the Argentine president’s call for UN-brokered negotiations over the sovereignty of the Falklands? Or her department’s extraordinary attempts to intervene in the internal British debate over membership of the European Union.
The last four years have been a period of marked U.S. decline, coupled with a sneering disregard for America’s key allies such as Britain and Israel. The Secretary of State floundered today before the Senate, struggling to defend a feeble foreign policy that has undercut American leadership and projected weakness in the face of America’s adversaries. The Obama administration’s blundering response to Benghazi is symbolic of its wider failure in the Middle East and beyond, one that does not bode well for the next four years.
First appeared in The Telegraph.
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
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