Around the world with Hillary Clinton

Last week, my phone rang off the hook with reporters calling to populate their thumb-sucking Hillary legacy stories with insta-quotes. Most of the calls started out with the requisite sigh, and followed with this question: “So, what did Hillary Clinton accomplish at the State Department?” The “did” had that questioning inflection that indicated a shared conventional wisdom: We all know it wasn’t much, but I need you to tell me so I can pretend it’s not what I think.

Yes, o’ lords of the conventional wisdom, ’tis true. “Not much” pretty much sums it up.  Now, I suspect I am among those secret Hillary fans that believe she coulda woulda done much more if it hadn’t been for a White House that runs national security out of its back pocket. Her instincts seem hawkish but compassionate, committed to American values and American leadership. Of course, what do I know. Maybe she secretly thought something else. Emphasis is on the word “secret.” Because if she thought anything momentous about the great questions that affect us — terrorism, Islamist extremism, the rise of China, the failed reset, the failing economy — you’d never really know it. Instead, she talked a lot about “first lady” hoohah like “women,” as if, somehow, the success of the Muslim Brotherhood, the return of the Taliban, the disaster in Mali, or the genocide in Syria really was, er, good for women.

In fact, what Hillary Clinton really did, and did a lot, was travel. She went here, she went there. Anywhere but home, it seems. Anywhere but near Barack Obama, perhaps. Interested in her peripatetic travels? Check out this awesome graphic from the Washington Post that tells you where our last six secretaries of state went, how often they went there, and what clearly piqued their interest. James Baker? He hit Egypt 14 times and Russia 14. Warren Christopher? He went to Syria 29 times. (Great work, Mr. Secretary.) Albright really liked Europe. Powell? Didn’t travel much. Rice made up for him. But Hillary Clinton? She didn’t beat everyone on travel, but boy did she get around. She didn’t get to Chad or Cameroon, but Ivory Coast? Uh huh. Zambia. Yup. China? Seven times (beating out all her predecessors).

Is this the stuff of history books? Perhaps not. But it does tell us one thing: Match up the list of accomplishments with the frequent flyer miles, and Mrs. Clinton didn’t get much done for all that flying. Then again, when the world is at peace, what else is a SecState to do other than enjoy the scenery?

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About the Author

 

Danielle
Pletka

  • As a long-time Senate Committee on Foreign Relation senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia, Danielle Pletka was the point person on Middle East, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan issues. As the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka writes on national security matters with a focus on Iran and weapons proliferation, the Middle East, Syria, Israel and the Arab Spring. She also studies and writes about South Asia: Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.


    Pletka is the co-editor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the co-author of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011) and “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (AEI Press, 2012). Her most recent study, “America vs. Iran: The competition for the future of the Middle East,” was published in January 2014.


     


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    Email: dpletka@aei.org
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