Over at Foreign Policy, Peter Feaver reviews from recent Washington Post and New York Times profiles on Hillary Clinton the pluses and minuses of her tenure as secretary of state. Pluses: she plays well with others (the president, Robert Gates, the foreign service), and she helped cover up the Copenhagen debacle. (“According to the NYT, Secretary Clinton apparently deserves some credit for salvaging a fig-leaf exit strategy from the ill-fated Copenhagen conference on climate change. Whether the State Department also deserves some blame for the way Copenhagen ran off the rails, the paper does not say.”) That’s it.
The minuses: (1) “Secretary Clinton does not appear to be the key foreign policy player on any topic of importance,” and (2) “Secretary Clinton has yet to help the Obama administration forge and explain a coherent grand strategy, or even coherent interlocking mid-level strategies.”
Mr. Feaver is perhaps a dry humorist. He wraps up, proclaiming, “Where the positives and negatives will ultimately net out depends on whether the Obama foreign policy begins to bear some positive fruit.” He and these accounts, of course, ignore that Clinton has utterly failed to do her job, which is to “be the key foreign policy player” and “forge and explain a coherent grand strategy, or even coherent interlocking mid-level strategies.” That is the job, after all. Moreover, there are a string of foreign policy mishaps, gaffes, and misjudgments that touch every continent. (OK, not Antarctica.)
She has all the efficiency of an officious hall monitor, all the social skills one could expect of a junior foreign-service officer, and all the pals one could hope for in the elite media. What she doesn’t have is a trace of competence or the force of personality to rise above the gaggle of those who pass for “policy gurus” in this administration. Sort of like saying that except for never wanting to fight, Gen. George McClellan was a great general. Yes, except for the “doing” the job part, Clinton’s been a boffo secretary of state.
UPDATE: A knowledgeable reader suggests that, in fact, Feaver is using understatement to critique Clinton’s performance. Given Feaver’s work on the George W. Bush National Security Council, it is not hard to conclude that he views Clinton’s tenure as less than successful.