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A double-headed, double dose of
Clinton is not what the world needs



Jonathan Power
TFF Associate since 1991

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February 2, 2008

LONDON - It is not a question of who has the dominant personality- Bill or Hillary Clinton? It is how the world works, a world that is, even in its most liberal quarters, essentially male chauvinistic. Margaret Thatcher chose a cabinet that was 100% male, although it was said they were alternately seduced and scared by her.

If we hadn't caught the penny before we certainly heard it drop in South Carolina. Bill and Hilary is 'two for one' and where she goes he goes too. If she became president, whilst she would have the constitutional authority he would have the political clout. Can you imagine in some moment of tension Vladimir Putin (or Dimitri Medvedev) or the King of Saudi Arabia not picking up the phone first to Bill rather than Hillary for a clarifying 'background chat' on what U.S. policy exactly is.

Come to that, why are we making so much fuss over the likelihood in Russia of Putin promoting his protege, Medvedev, whilst he drops back to prime minister? At least they are not married to each other or twin brothers, as was the case recently in Poland. At least Putin will have a constitutional mandate to hold the number two position whereas Bill will be 'only' a spouse.

In fact, if America can't offer better than two families alternating power between father and son, husband and wife over a period of what could be 28 continuous years then it had better shut up shop with its advocacy of democracy and freedom. Isn't this what they do in the banana republics?

Then there is the question what would a double-headed Clinton regime do? Undoubtedly, despite the confusion of Hillary Clinton's Senate votes, it would be less warlike than the present Bush administration. It would also be wiser and more sophisticated.

But just because the Bush years have been such a disaster it doesn't mean we should overlook how inadequate the Clinton presidency was on almost everything but economic policy. Bill certainly wowed the Europeans. But that was because he appeared smart and intelligent - the archetypal Yank at Oxford. But in truth he was a waffler. That goes back to his time as governor of Arkansas. He talked a great game on the race issue but Arkansas didn't get a Civil Rights Act until after he was gone.

When he became president he had the world at his feet. No Cold War. No major war anywhere in the world. An economy on the cusp of prosperity. But it quickly turned out, especially on foreign policy, that he had no vision, no deep convictions, and no overriding purpose. One of his first acts, presumably to quieten the Pentagon that was nervous and antagonistic because of his draft dodging the Vietnam war and his tolerance of homosexuality in the military, was to launch a cruise missile attack on Iraq, that merely cemented Iraqi public opinion behind Saddam Hussein. His vigorous economic embargo of Iraq likewise hurt the civilians most, creating tens of thousands of deaths of Iraqi children.

A short while after the cruise missile attack he made the decision to pull American troops out of Somalia where they were supposed to be part of a United Nations peacekeeping force. In fact they operated independently under the direct authority of U.S. Southern Command in Florida and had decided to engage in combat with one of the rebel leaders in a very non-UN way. It led to the deaths of 18 American soldiers. Instead of taking the blame himself Clinton turned on the UN. For the rest of his two terms the UN remained the bete noire of much of the American public, an easy target for Senator Jesse Helms who tried to starve the UN of funding. This should have been the era of UN coming into its own with the Security Council working in harmony. Ironically there was more of this under his predecessor, George Bush.

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Indeed, substantive progress in building a sane and sober relationship with post communist Russia occurred more under Bush than Clinton. With Bush there was serious nuclear disarmament. With Clinton almost none.

Clinton lost the Senate vote on the ratification of the Test Ban Treaty because he left it to the last moment to publicly campaign for it. India's and Pakistan's decision to go openly nuclear owed much to the climate of opinion that Clinton's lack of activity on nuclear issues engendered.

And then there was the genocide in Rwanda. When it was gathering speed Clinton gave the impression to his underlings that he didn't want to know. His attempt at peace in the Middle East was left to the last moment and fell apart because Clinton was clumsily partisan, in favour of Israel.

If an artist were commissioned to paint the eight years of the presidency of Bill Clinton it would be a landscape of missed openings. The great historical opportunities that were open to him were squandered, with arguably the exception of making peace with North Korea. Why should America or the rest of the world want a double-headed, double dose of this?

Copyright © 2008 Jonathan Power


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Jonathan Power can be reached by phone +44 7785 351172
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Jonathan Power 2007 Book
Conundrums of Humanity
The Quest for Global Justice

“Conundrums of Humanity” poses eleven questions for our future progress, ranging from “Can we diminish War?” to “How far and fast can we push forward the frontiers of Human Rights?” to “Will China dominate the century?”
The answers to these questions, the author believes, growing out of his long experience as a foreign correspondent and columnist for the International Herald Tribune, are largely positive ones, despite the hurdles yet to be overcome. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, London, 2007.

William Pfaff, September 17, 2007
Jonathan Power's book "Conundrums" - A Review
"His is a powerful and comprehensive statement of ways to make the world better.
Is that worth the Nobel Prize?
I say, why not?"


Jonathan Power's 2001 book

Like Water on Stone
The Story of Amnesty International

Follow this link to read about - and order - Jonathan Power's book written for the 40th Anniversary of Amnesty International



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