The Cable

After Bombastic Election, World May Welcome a More Muscular U.S. Foreign Policy

On election night, Bill Clinton’s former State Department spokesman describes a Hillary Clinton doctrine: diplomacy backed by force.


NEW YORK — After a presidential election that has damaged U.S. standing worldwide, the more muscular foreign policy that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is promising may be precisely what’s needed, according to a former top State Department official.

Former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Jamie Rubin — who rode the spokesman’s podium at Foggy Bottom during Bill Clinton’s administration and is now stumping for Hillary Clinton — said the Democrat is ready to back American diplomacy with military force.

“She’s well aware that for our diplomacy to be successful it needs to be backed up by our resolve and our willingness to act if necessary militarily,” Rubin told Foreign Policy at the Javits Center in New York, where Hillary Clinton is holding her election night event.

Still, the euphoria of a likely victory speech here for Clinton now could fade quickly in the face of tough realities at home and abroad.

Rubin’s assessment was particularly grim in light of the nearly six-year Syrian civil war that has killed more than 500,000 people, spurred a global refugee crisis, and confounded President Barack Obama’s administration. Obama has been reticent to deepen the U.S. military’s role in the fight against the Islamic State, but Clinton has indicated she would take a sharper approach.

Careful not to critique Obama, Rubin said Clinton’s suggestion of a no-fly zone reflects a recognition that “if the United States is going to play a diplomatic role, to be able to deliver a successful outcome in Syria, that it needs to have perhaps greater leverage.”

He said Clinton will also have to clean up after Republican nominee Donald Trump, whose suggestions that he would pull back from NATO has spooked U.S. allies.

“We’ve had an election that has unfortunately raised a lot of anxieties around the world, especially for the NATO countries,” Rubin said. “There’s going to need to be a stabilization phase, where people around the world need to be convinced that America’s still the leader and the friend and the indispensable nation.”

But as the Clinton campaign quietly looks ahead to the transition and the next administration, Rubin waved off questions about his potential future role and the next secretary of state.

“Nope,” he said, turning back to his aides. “Nope, nope.”

Photo credit: Sven Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

Molly O’Toole is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, covering immigration, refugees, and national security. She was FP’s sole 2016 presidential campaign reporter, on the trail from New Hampshire to Nevada. Previously, she covered the politics of national security for Atlantic Media’s Defense One, where she reported from Congress, the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department. Before that, she was a news editor at the Huffington Post. Molly has also reported on national and international politics for Reuters, the Nation, The Associated Press, and Newsweek International, among others, from Washington, New York, Mexico City, and London. She received her dual master’s degree in journalism and international relations from New York University and her bachelor’s from Cornell University and in 2016 was a grant recipient of the International Women’s Media Foundation. She will always be a Californian. @mollymotoole

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