Hillary Warrior Princess: Would a Clinton Presidency Lead to a Showdown With China?

Image result for hillary; yang jiechi

980 × 551 – scmp.com

By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea! You and me, you and me, oh how happy we’ll be!

Then Secretary of State Clinton and then Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi were anything but happy when they discussed freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
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The long march of Hillary Clinton to the presidency has had many bumps in the road.  In 2008 there was Senator Barack Obama.  Even in 2016 there have been some formidable obstacles — emails, the Clinton Foundation, walking pneumonia.  Then there was the little dust-up with former DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz who was seen by pro-Sanders millennial voters as cooking the books to ensure that friend Hillary won the Democratic nomination the second time around.  (http://edition.cnn.com/2016/07/24/politics/dnc-email-leak-wikileaks/)   As my millennial daughter, a Bernie supporter, observed:  “You can accuse the Republicans of many things —  racial insensitivity, sexist tendencies, anti-immigration nativism — but you can’t accuse them of fixing the nomination.  No one would have thought of Trump.  It would have been Jeb Bush.”

Among the points of millennial angst over a potential Clinton presidency, according to young relatives and friends I have talked to, is that Hillary, as a perceived hawk and certified friend of military advocate John McCain, will likely plunge the U.S. into another war.   They point out that, unlike their hero Bernie, then Senator Clinton voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq.  They view her record as Secretary of State with equal skepticism.   They see her assistance in the removal of dictator Gaddafi in Libya as  the equivalent of President George W. Bush’s  removal of Saddam in Iraq,  resulting in  chaos and the rise of violent extremism.

Then there is the “Iron Lady” factor.  While no one would accuse Hillary of not being a strong person, it is a fear of some millennials — who would be the ones who would have to fight in any potential military conflict during a Clinton presidency — that she may overcompensate and overdo it.  Her self-proclaimed goal of “breaking the last glass ceiling” into the White House would make her the first woman president in the over two hundred year history of the United States.  (http://edition.cnn.com/2016/06/07/opinions/womens-voices-on-hillary-clinton-clinching-nomination-roundup/).  Like Margaret Thatcher, who was no shrinking violet when she became the first woman Prime Minister in the UK, Hillary Clinton may wish to demonstrate that she is just as tough as the boys in playing the global political game.  This desire may be especially compelling in the new age of the bullies — Putin in Russia, Xi Jinping in China, Kim Jong Un in North Korea, and Duterte in the Philippines.

Anti-foreign interventionist millennial voters certainly watched, along with everyone else, Meryl Streep’s  Oscar-winning performance as “Iron Lady” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1007029/).  They saw the depiction of Margaret Thatcher when she told British admirals curtly to “sink it” in reference to the Argentine Navy cruiser the ARA General Belgrano during the Falklands War.  (http://belgranoinquiry.com/)   With the same sangfroid and potential hubris running through Hillary Clinton’s veins, would she follow Thatcher’s lead in a military crisis with an equally dramatic but risky venture?

That seems to be what Donald Trump was trying to get at in his September 7th foreign policy speech in Philadelphia.  In referring to Secretary Clinton as “trigger-happy and unstable when it comes to war” (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/09/07/trump_foreign_policy_speech_clinton_trigger_happy_unstable_and_reckless_she_brings_failure_and_death.html)  Trump appears to be seeking to further raise the fears of especially younger voters about her alleged hawkishness.

In being one of the Obama Administration champions of the Asia “pivot” or “re-balance”,  Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State was one of assertiveness with regards to Asia.  She famously penned an article for Foreign Policy  magazine in October of 2011 titled: “America’s Pacific Century” where she declared that “The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action.” (http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/10/11/americas-pacific-century/).  Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution even declared that “Hillary’s chief great-power legacy was indeed the rebalancing of U.S. interests toward Asia, and it has been vastly underappreciated by the chattering class. And under Kerry, count me as one of those who worries the Asia rebalance hasn’t gotten enough attention from the administration, too.” (https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/missing-hillary-clintons-hand-in-the-asia-rebalance/).

And, of course, in the middle of Asia is China, the Middle Kingdom.  Hillary Clinton has made, as one of her foreign policy pledges in the current presidential campaign, a promise to “hold China accountable:  “Hillary will work with allies to promote strong rules of the road and institutions in Asia, and press China to play by the rules—including in cyberspace, on currency, human rights, trade, territorial disputes, and climate change—and hold it accountable if it does not, while working with China where it is in our interest.”  (https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/national-security/).  Of course, this begs the question over whether the implication is that the current Obama Administration has NOT held Beijing sufficiently accountable.

And in addressing current issues with regards to China, none are more pressing than the maritime territorial disputes that have arisen in the past few years.  These were pointedly addressed this summer from an international law perspective in a suit brought by U.S. ally, the Philippines, to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague, specifically with regard to China’s claims in the South China Sea.   The PCA, in its ruling which Beijing has chosen to ignore, basically shredded China’s nine-dash-line.   (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/13/world/asia/south-china-sea-hague-ruling-philippines.html?_r=0).

And presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is on record as being very tough on China in this regard during her tenure as Secretary at Foggy Bottom.  In the summer of 2010, she went head-to-head with then Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, a long-time friend of the Bush family  since the time he served as Foreign Ministry liaison, interpreter and guide to Tibet for George Herbert Walker Bush while the elder Bush headed the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing in the mid-1970s. (http://articles.latimes.com/2000/dec/20/news/mn-2466 )  At the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi that year, Secretary Clinton declared that freedom of navigation was “a national interest” and that”the U.S. supports a collaborative diplomatic process by all claimants for resolving the various territorial disputes without coercion.”  She noted further that “We oppose the use or threat of force by any claimant.”   The normally unflappable Yang Jiechi, who nonetheless earned the nickname “Tiger Yang” from the Bush family, responded by claiming that Clinton’s remarks were “an attack on China.”  (http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/28/china-beijing-asia-hillary-clinton-opinions-columnists-gordon-g-chang.html).  Yang also reportedly noted to the Singaporean Foreign Minister that China is “a big country” while the other territorial claimants are “small countries and that’s just a fact.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/29/AR2010072906416.html).

Secretary Clinton was equally forceful with regard to the territorial dispute between U.S. treaty ally Japan and China in the East China Sea.  In a meeting with Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington in January 2013, during the final weeks of her tenure as Secretary of State, Clinton “affirmed that the United States would stand by its longtime ally in its territorial dispute with China over islets in the East China Sea claimed by both countries…We oppose any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japanese administration, and we urge all parties to take steps to prevent incidents and manage disagreements through peaceful means.”  (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-usa-idUSBRE90H1AX20130118).  Yet at an ASEAN Summit in Hanoi in November 2010, Secretary Clinton had stated unequivocally that “With respect to the Senkaku (Diaoyu/Diaoyutai) Islands, the United States has never taken a position on sovereignty, but we have made it very clear that the islands are part of our mutual treaty obligations, and the obligation to defend Japan.”  (http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/10/30/vietnam.clinton.visit/)

In other words, Hillary Clinton, while urging a peaceful resolution of this outstanding maritime territorial dispute between a U.S. treaty ally (Tokyo) and Beijing, is on-record as committing U.S. troops — and lives — should that failed.  The millennial voters, who would be the ones whose lives would potentially be on the line to defend a number of uninhabited rocks in the East China Sea against Chinese forces, may well have reason  to wonder:  exactly what would Hillary Warrior Princess  do as Commaner-in-Chief in the Oval Office?

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