Jacob Heilbrunn

Is Hillary Clinton a Neocon?

Hillary Clinton demonstrated her toughness in the Middle East once again. Speaking in Qatar, she lashed into the Arab states for failing to promote democracy as well as women's and religious rights. Has she become George W. Bush reincarnated? Is she, in fact, a neocon?

Not exactly. Clinton upbraided her Arab audience for promoting extremism by failing to offer new opportunities to the teeming masses for economic and political development, which, by the way, usually go hand-in-hand (though China is trying to skirt the issue). Clinton also pointed out that for all their huffing and puffing about the Palestinians, the Arab states are behind America when it comes to actually providing them with financial support.

But this doesn't mean that Clinton is promoting democracy at the point of a gun. Quite the contrary. Instead, she's announcing, if I read her correctly, that America can't go it alone, that it shoulders too much of a burden in trying to prod the region toward peace. As the New York Times reports,

The United States, she said, failed to get a lot of countries to do what it wanted, despite speaking out, as it has in the case of Israel. It also bears a disproportionate burden for settling the world’s conflicts, she said.

Hillary is a tough old bird. Too bad that her tenure coincides with a moment when American power and influence abroad do not correspond to her aspirations. As President Obama's speech in Tucson indicated, he is focusing on trying to repair America rather than the rest of the world. He has no choice.

After eight years of the Bush presidency, which disrupted American foreign and economic policy, the glimmerings of a recovery are only starting to emerge. The country is psychologically demoralized, with Foreign Policy magazine, for example, declaring that this time American decline is no myth. The feeling is widespread. As a result, Clinton is speaking loudly and carrying a little stick. Perhaps the rest of the world will have to come to terms with the fact that it may begin to fret that America is not too strong, but too weak.