Gary Sick, a Columbia University professor and eminent scholar of the Persian Gulf, has written a short essay on Hillary Clinton’s recent threat to “obliterate Iran” should it attack Israel for the excellent Gulf 2000 listserv he maintains. Notwithstanding the chiefly domestic US political reasons that led Clinton to engage in rather vulgar sable-rattling, Sick analyzes Clinton’s announced strategy of building an Arab security structure designed to isolate Iran, seeing in it both a continuation of Bush administration policies (they just call it the “Sunni-Shia divide”) and a revival of the Clinton administration’s “dual containment” policy towards Iran and Iraq in the 1990s, which enrolled the aid of Arab countries.
This isn’t too surprising, since the architect of dual containment was Martin Indyk, who also heads Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy team and is a contender for Secretary of State in the (now hopefully) unlikely event of her election. Sick’s essay, republished below, highlights something that has become increasingly clear to me in recent years: the continuation, despite superficial differences, between certain Clinton policies and those of the Bush White House when it comes to Middle East policy. It’s not only that the Clintons had their own group of people who favored an invasion of Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein in the late 1990s, but also an attitude of refusing negotiations with Iran (or other designated enemies) and a strategic approach to the region that tends to prioritize not only access and control of oil resources, a perennial feature of US policy, but also puts Israel first in strategic considerations. Considering Indyk’s own AIPAC background this is not surprising, but these policies have been extremely damaging to US interests and, more importantly, the people of the region (notably the Iraqis who suffered tremendously under the Clinton-backed sanctions regime).
This is not to say that Clinton and Bush are the same — over domestic issues and many international ones Hillary Clinton is light years ahead of GW Bush (although arguably not GHW Bush). But in their strategic approach to the Middle East, it’s becoming clearer to me that we are seeing basically the same policies expressed without the bravado of the Bushies. A bad policy, even if implemented with caution, is still a bad policy. Sick, a Clinton supporter, provides an excellent analysis of why one should choose Obama as the better Democratic alternative on foreign policy. Read it all.
Hillary Clinton’s warning that the United States could “obliterate” Iran if that country should “foolishly consider” launching an attack on Israel is, of course, pandering to a broad American constituency that wants to hear tough rhetoric about Iran. It is also intended to appeal to a constituency that needs constant reassurance that America’s relationship with Israel is secure. And, by addressing a strategic hypothetical that would by any measure be many years in the future (“in the next ten years” in her words), it seems intended to convince doubters that a woman is tough enough – perhaps more than tough enough – to be commander in chief.
Continue reading Sick on Clinton’s Arab strategy