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Clinton and Trump: Foreign-policy odd couple with their parties?

Reuel Marc Gerecht
10th June 2016 - Quoted by Howard LaFranchi - The Christian Science Monitor

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee and party outsider Donald Trump may be having a hard time overcoming widespread suspicions about him among the GOP establishment.

But when it comes to foreign and national security policy, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in some ways seems almost as far from the mainstream of her own party as Mr. Trump is from his.

Indeed, as Secretary Clinton and Trump prepare to face each other in the November presidential election, some foreign policy experts wonder if the two candidates each align on some fronts more closely with the opposing party than their own.

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“Hillary Clinton is clearly closer to the liberal interventionist wing of the Democratic Party – a wing that has become so small now that I’d call it a branch,” says Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency Middle East analyst and now a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington.

“If you judge by intervention and a willingness to use it as a tool of American foreign policy, it would appear that Donald Trump is to the left of Hillary Clinton – and conceivably to the left of Barack Obama,” he adds.

Mr. Gerecht says that “where the rubber hits the road” in terms of the projection of American power – the Middle East – Clinton is clearly more interventionist than Trump. As secretary of State, she advocated both the anti-Qaddafi mission in Libya, which occurred, and an early plan for robust arming of Syrian rebels, which didn’t. As a candidate, she has suggested she’d implement a no-fly zone over parts of Syria.

Trump has called recent United States Middle East interventions like the Iraq war and the Libya air campaign “crazy” and “incredibly stupid,” though he does promise to unleash the full fury of the US military against the Islamic State.

That seeming contradiction points up a caveat in assessing Trump: So far as a candidate he’s projected inconsistency or lack of clarity.

Gerecht is one of more than 50 Republican and conservative foreign policy experts – including big names from the George W. Bush administration – who signed an open letter in March disavowing the foreign-policy positions espoused by Trump.

But when it comes to foreign and national security policy, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in some ways seems almost as far from the mainstream of her own party as Mr. Trump is from his.

Indeed, as Secretary Clinton and Trump prepare to face each other in the November presidential election, some foreign policy experts wonder if the two candidates each align on some fronts more closely with the opposing party than their own.

The thinking is that an interventionist Clinton might find more like-mindedness among Republicans than among Democrats – just as a noninterventionist and international trade-basher like Trump might find that attraction to his ideas is stronger among some Democrats.

“Hillary Clinton is clearly closer to the liberal interventionist wing of the Democratic Party – a wing that has become so small now that I’d call it a branch,” says Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency Middle East analyst and now a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington.

“If you judge by intervention and a willingness to use it as a tool of American foreign policy, it would appear that Donald Trump is to the left of Hillary Clinton – and conceivably to the left of Barack Obama,” he adds.

Mr. Gerecht says that “where the rubber hits the road” in terms of the projection of American power – the Middle East – Clinton is clearly more interventionist than Trump. As secretary of State, she advocated both the anti-Qaddafi mission in Libya, which occurred, and an early plan for robust arming of Syrian rebels, which didn’t. As a candidate, she has suggested she’d implement a no-fly zone over parts of Syria.

Trump has called recent United States Middle East interventions like the Iraq war and the Libya air campaign “crazy” and “incredibly stupid,” though he does promise to unleash the full fury of the US military against the Islamic State.

That seeming contradiction points up a caveat in assessing Trump: So far as a candidate he’s projected inconsistency or lack of clarity.

Gerecht is one of more than 50 Republican and conservative foreign policy experts – including big names from the George W. Bush administration – who signed an open letter in March disavowing the foreign-policy positions espoused by Trump.

Trump’s “vision of American influence and power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle,” the letter said in part. “He swings from isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence.” 

If anything, views of Trump within the Republican foreign-policy establishment have soured further, Gerecht says. “Most of these folks [who signed the letter] view Donald trump as a giant wrecking ball in that he’s a danger to American interests overseas,” he says.

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Tags

clinton, foreign-policy, political-parties, trump