Earlier this week, as part of Al Jazeera’s coverage of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Hillary appeared on Al Jazeera English to talk about the war on terror and American foreign policy, see here. She made a series of points that warrant serious discussion by Americans as they reflect on the 10-year record of their country’s still ongoing “global war on terror”:
First, Hillary argues that the “Bush Doctrine” of preventive war, far from having been repudiated, remains central to U.S. foreign policy. People have applied the label, “Bush Doctrine”, to other aspects of the George W. Bush Administration’s approach to the war on terror—e.g., countries are either “with us or with the terrorists”, states that harbor or support terrorists are indistinguishable from terrorists themselves, and democracy promotion as the way to “drain the swamp” in which terrorists breed. But surely the most salient is, as Hillary describes it, a self-proclaimed American prerogative to start a war against a country “on the basis of the possibility that there could be, at some down the road years from now, an attack on the United States” emanating from that country. While Barack Obama campaigned for the presidency promising not just to end the war in Iraq, but to end the “mindset” that got the United States into that war, he has, with his Libyan intervention, extended the notion of preventive war to encompass “preventive humanitarian intervention”.
Second, Hillary argues that Americans have yet to confront the myth, promulgated by the Bush Administration and embraced by virtually all of America’s political class, that al-Qa’ida attacked the United States because they “hate our values”, because Americans allow women to drive and proclaim religious toleration. But, Hillary points out, the record on this issue is clear: al-Qa’ida did not and does not care what Americans do in their “infidel homeland”; it cares about “what we were doing over there”, in the Middle East and the Muslim world more broadly. She notes that the impact of American foreign policy in “fomenting, generating, recruiting terrorists overseas” (a question that then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself posed, asking in a leaked Pentagon memo whether the United States was creating more terrorists than it was capturing and killing) “was never answered by the Bush White House, and is still not being answered by the Obama Administration today”.
Third, there is still a “fundamental state of denial, not just among Republicans and Democrats when they are in office, but among the American foreign policy elite”, about what most people in the Muslim world and much of “what we used to call the Third World” really want. Hillary argues that what countries in the Muslim world and the global South really seem to want is “independence”, and part of that is “an independent foreign policy, something that adheres to the culture, values, beliefs, and concerns of their citizens”. But American foreign policy elites are still not prepared to acknowledge this. They continue believing that, “given the choice, people will not choose to be independent. They will choose to be secular, first and foremost, and pro-American”, even if this means signing up “for a U.S. policy of rendering their own citizens to places to be tortured, even if it means working with the Israelis to keep a civilian population under siege in Gaza, we still somehow think that people will choose to do that”. She explains how, for example, this belief is an important factor driving current U.S. policy toward Syria.
Finally, she notes how “countries like Iran, with an independent foreign policy”, are “going to be able to work with [these newly independent states in the Middle East] more effectively than the United States”.
–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett