- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2009

COMMENTARY:

The Clintons have won. Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton sailed through her Senate confirmation hearing this week. Her critics did not even lay a glove on her - nor did they even try. Barring a miracle, she will be America’s face to the world. Only President-elect Barack Obama will have more clout. Mrs. Clinton’s appointment to head Foggy Bottom should concern everyone.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee failed to ask tough, probing questions of Mrs. Clinton - questions that, in a different time and more honest era, would probably have derailed her nomination. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, has solicited nearly $500 million in donations for his charitable foundation. Yet, many of his donors are shady individuals with ties to dictators, corrupt businessmen and Islamist regimes. More than $60 million comes from the Middle East - the Saudis have been particularly generous. This is a clear conflict of interest.

Mr. Clinton is raising massive sums of money from influence-seekers, people who want to shape U.S. foreign policy. He is personally and professionally benefiting from their largess, and by extension so is Mrs. Clinton. Her husband’s fund-raising activities make it almost impossible for Mrs. Clinton to be an impartial, objective advocate for U.S. national interests. Republican panel members, however, could not muster the courage to confront her.


Mrs. Clinton makes a big deal of projecting “smart power” - using the full range of diplomatic tools to advance U.S. strategic goals. Hence, she calls for “engaging” rogue states, such as Iran, Syria and North Korea; enhancing cooperation with our traditional European allies; coaxing China and Russia to be more amenable on the international stage; removing the restrictions on travel and remittances to communist Cuba; and bolstering the United Nations in order to stop the genocide in Darfur. Above all, she shares Mr. Obama’s view that the pivotal battlefield in the war on terror is Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hence, American forces need to be “responsibly” withdrawn from Iraq, and some transferred to the Afghan campaign. In short, Mrs. Clinton is a liberal globalist, who believes American “soft power” will restore our moral standing in the world.

She is wrong. Afghanistan and Pakistan are not the central fronts in the struggle against Islamic fascism. Iran is. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a messianic Shi’ite revolutionary, whose goal is to forge a world Muslim empire. He is not interested in “engagement.” Nor are Tehran’s other ruling mullahs. Their aim is to export Shariah law across the globe - by the sword if necessary.

Iran will not stop until it acquires a nuclear bomb. Washington can dangle all the diplomatic carrots and economic incentives it wants. They will not persuade medieval clerics to change their fevered minds. Rational peace-making is not the answer to ideological fanaticism. Only vigorous containment and the projection of “hard” military power can curtail Iran’s aggressive impulses.

Moreover, Russia, China, Germany and France refuse to impose the kind of crippling, comprehensive sanctions that can bring Tehran to heel. It is the height of hubris to think the eggheads at Foggy Bottom can persuade these nations to jettison their appeasement policies.

Nor can the State Department rein in the dictators in Damascus and Pyongyang. Syria is a client state of Iran. Its mission is to spread terror - in Iraq, Gaza and Lebanon. It bankrolls Hamas and Hezbollah. Its regime is profoundly anti-Semitic and anti-American. Negotiations will accomplish nothing, except give Syrian strongman Bashar Assad more time to destabilize his neighbors and sponsor terrorist proxies throughout the region.

For years, the Bush administration has tried to convince North Korea’s Stalinists to abandon its nuclear weapons program - to no avail. In fact, Pyongyang has sold Syria vital nuclear technology. Instead of containing these dangerous regimes, diplomatic multilateralism has only emboldened them.

Mrs. Clinton’s approach is not innovative or forward-looking; rather, it represents a return to the Clinton administration. During the 1990s, the focus was precisely on what Mrs. Clinton now champions - soft power, intense diplomacy and treating terrorism as a law-enforcement matter.

The results were disastrous. Islamist extremism gathered steam. Al Qaeda established havens in Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan. Iran embarked upon regional domination. The sanctions on Iraq crumbled. Pakistan acquired the bomb. Murderous Palestinian thugs, such as Yasser Arafat, were legitimized and feted at the White House. North Korea became a nuclear menace. Russia was allowed to crush Chechnya. Saudi Wahhabism gained a foothold in the Balkans. China acquired sensitive U.S. missile technology and launched its massive military build-up. And the World Trade Center, the Khobar Towers, the U.S. Embassies in East Africa and the USS Cole were the targets of terrorist atrocities. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were the final, damning verdict on the Clintons’ illusory foreign policy.

Now, Mrs. Clinton promises more of the same - all under the guise of “change.” It is back to the future. The Clintons failed America once. They will fail us again.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times.