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Hillary Clinton’s Legacy

Bret Stephens has a devastating column in today’s Wall Street Journal questioning the conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton has been a good secretary of state. He goes down a litany of trouble spots and shows that the strategic position of the United States has declined as a direct result of Clinton’s decisions, policy, and direction.

So what will Clinton’s legacy be? Early on in her term, when it appeared that President Obama was delegating primary responsibility for foreign policy crisis management to Vice President Biden and Senator John Kerry, press reports suggested Clinton was prioritizing women’s issues.

As Clinton’s term winds down, women will form the central pillar of her legacy. Alas, Clinton will be remembered not for women’s empowerment, but rather for their betrayal. In short remarks to a gathering of Egyptian women, Clinton said she told Mohammad Morsi, Egypt’s new president and a longtime Muslim Brotherhood activist, that democracy has to be inclusive. In her press conference following her meeting, however, her talking points about inclusion seemed to be little more than throw away lines. The fact of the matter is that while feminists might be fighting for new rights, Egyptians feminists appear to now be fighting for rights that are being stripped away.

Clinton’s actions regarding the rehabilitation of the Taliban are far more shameful. Clinton has made reconciliation of the Taliban a central pillar of her political strategy to end the Afghanistan war. Wars can end in either victory or defeat. Reinstalling the Taliban—who remain as ferociously opposed to women’s rights as ever—is nothing other than embracing defeat. The idea promoted by her diplomats in emails to Afghan officials that the Taliban simply reflect Pushtun culture is an argument less rooted in fact than in a desire to excuse the Taliban’s worst excesses by embracing cultural relativism.

President Obama has named Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as among his closest international friends. That’s all well and good. But it should be no reason to speak out against the purging of women from the civil society, or a murder rate of women that, according to Turkey’s own statistics, has increased more than 1,000 percent during Erdoğan’s rule.

Clinton may cloak herself in the feminist mantle, but her record is something else. Legacies rest more on fact than on handlers and sympathetic journalists. The simple fact is that under Clinton’s watch—and largely because of her policies and silence—women in the Islamic world have suffered their worst setbacks in generations.