With the prospects of a tragic slaughter of Libyan rebels looming ever larger, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton changed her hands-off policy towards Libya and became a vocal supporter of Allied intervention.
According to the New York Times, Hillary changed positions for two main reasons: 1) a victory by the Libyan rebels suddenly went from likely to impossible, and 2) she was able to gain support for military intervention from other Arab states.
Behind the scenes, Hillary created her own alliance with several key players within the Obama Administration. According to the New York Times:
Mrs. Clinton joined Samantha Power, a senior aide at the National Security Council, and Susan Rice, Mr. Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, who had been pressing the case for military action, according to senior administration officials speaking only on condition of anonymity. Ms. Power is a former journalist and human rights advocate; Ms. Rice was an Africa adviser to President Clinton when the United States failed to intervene to stop the Rwanda genocide, which Mr. Clinton has called his biggest regret. Now, the three women were pushing for American intervention to stop a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Libya.
The timing and depth of this about-face tells us two thing’s about Hillary and American foreign policy. The first is that Hillary, to her credit, is able to keep an open mind about different policy options even when she has gone on record as taking a different position.
The second is that American foreign policy often moves at a frighteningly slow pace. While many observers had already determined that the rebels needed help – fast! – America’s diplomatic gears turned ever so slowly.
Perhaps this story will have a happy ending for the Libyan people. If it does, Hillary will get credit for steering the U.S. in the right direction. If it doesn’t, no doubt she will take the brunt of the criticism, and justly so.
Frank Marafiote, Editor
The Hillary Clinton Quarterly