As secretary that state, Hillary Clinton, checks her PDA upon departure in a military C-17 aircraft from Malta bound for Tripoli, top top 18 October 2011. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
The autonomous candidate went to 122 countries and faced dilemmas in Afghanistan, Libya and also Syria but insiders say she defies basic categorisation together a eagle or dove

One of the very first major work Hillary Clinton carry out on ending up being secretary the state was controlling Washington’s “reset” through Moscow. In march 2009, at a meeting in Zurich v the Russian international minister, Sergey Lavrov, she had the idea of symbolising the moment with a gift: a red plastic button set in a yellow crate the 2 diplomats could press together.

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The switch was supposed to it is in labelled through the Russian word for “reset”, yet the state room did not obtain the translation fairly right. The Russian word they chose, peregruzka, actually intended “overcharged”.

Lavrov was quick to allude out the error. “You obtained it wrong,” he told her bluntly, relishing the Americans’ embarrassment.

The images of Clinton and Lavrov stop a mislabelled toy switch have because been offered by the administration’s critics to show its alleged naivety in trying to cuddle as much as the Russian bear.

Over the course of the united state presidential election campaign, Donald Trump has repeatedly pointed to the handling of the Russian relationship as an instance of Clinton’s missteps in office. Can not to deny her wide range of international policy experience, Trump has actually instead sought come denigrate it as “bad experience”.

Clinton has suggested that her tireless globetrotting in her four years as secretary the state rescued the us from the diplomatic pit the nation had dug for itself v the Iraq invasion and the unilateral soul of the George W bush administration.

Her years together secretary that state carry out not carry out a transparent overview to exactly how a president Hillary Clinton would certainly act – the presidency is a very different job, through much better powers and also burdens.

Interviews with former aides, an elderly officials and her foreign counterparts paint a complicated picture that Clinton the diplomat that defies straightforward categorisation as “hawk” or “dove”.

But Clinton’s distinctive means of mix soft and also hard us power, she awareness of her nation’s exceptional might and also her instincts because that how and when to usage it are most likely to follow she to the Oval Office.


Hillary Clinton presents she Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, v a reset switch during a meeting on 6 in march 2009 in Geneva. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty ImagesThe story of the toy button has number of layers. Though it fell to Clinton to make the gesture, she was amongst the most sceptical in Barack Obama’s administration over the prospects because that a rapprochement through Russia.

“Everything us did to reach the end to the Russians, she would certainly make sure that we were bolstering relations with Poland and also strengthening Nato and not overlooking human rights,” stated Philip Gordon, that was Clinton’s undersecretary of state because that European and Eurasian affairs. “People forget the the reset had actually those 2 halves and also she was yes, really the guardian of the latter half.”

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Her role has absolutely not been forgotten by Moscow. Under Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin has actually not hidden its choice for Donald Trump, and has seek – through cyber-attacks and leaks aimed at embarrassing the autonomous party – to help his campaign.

As Trump has actually faltered, Russia has hurried to use the remaining months the the Obama management to attain its military aims in Syria. The UN has warned that eastern Aleppo will diminished to rubble by December, leaving an just arrive president tiny or nothing come defend, and also paltry alternatives in the rest of Syria.

There is much in Clinton’s document as secretary that state to imply Putin has reason come hurry. When it pertained to some that the most an important foreign policy decisions made during her four years in ~ Foggy Bottom, Clinton was consistently on the an ext hawkish side of the argument, typically taking a an ext forceful line 보다 her president.

In Libya, she assisted convince a reluctant Obama to take part in a military treatment being championed through European and also Arab states. ~ above Iran, she had actually ridiculed him throughout the primary campaign for saying he would meet the Islamic Republic’s leader unconditionally. It to be “reckless and naive”, she had actually said.

Once she came down on the state department, she took the lead in structure a high wall surface of sanctions roughly Tehran, playing “bad cop” to the outstretched hand that Obama’s “good cop”.

And in the direction of the end of she time together secretary of state, together the Syrian civil war grew ever more horrific, Clinton promoted a robust train-and-equip plan in assistance of the equipped opposition, although she at some point lost that argument with the White House.

Those instincts to be on clear screen when it involved the best foreign and security dilemma facing the Obama management in its very first year in office: what come do about the united state entanglement in Afghanistan.

In 2009, the defence secretary, Robert Gates, and also the us generals to be calling for a surge in troop levels aimed at advertise the Taliban back and stabilising the security situation prior to the government of president Hamid Karzai could be left to was standing on that own.

Ranged against them were the vice-president, Joseph Biden, and Obama’s inside circle, who wondered about the worth of yet an ext deployments, saying for a lot smaller army presence to conduct counter-terrorist operations against al-Qaida, rather than counter-insurgency against the Taliban. Clinton sided v the generals.

“Clearly she had actually very great relations through Secretary Gates and the an elderly military leadership at the time and also so was inclined to support their arguments,” claimed Derek Chollet, who served as major deputy director of Clinton’s policy planning staff.

Clinton had appointed a veteran diplomat and one of her many fervent supporters, Richard Holbrooke, as her envoy because that Afghanistan and Pakistan. He had actually a memorably acerbic, hard-charging manner however on this argument he to be a dove, dubious that the generals’ faith in quick military fixes. Clinton continued to be personally faithful to Holbrooke – however she did no follow his advice.

“The American military and also the White home campaigned to acquire Holbrooke fired,” a former western diplomat said. “On two occasions she conserved Holbrooke, yet she didn’t back him much past that, and also in certain she backed the American military versus Holbrooke’s advice. She was consistently hawkish.”


Pakistani soldiers pay tribute to your colleagues who shed their resides in a Nato attack, during their funeral in Peshawar, Pakistan ~ above 27 November 2011. Photograph: Mohammad Sajjad/APOn Holbrooke’s advice, she aided persuade congress to be an ext generous come Pakistan, in a bid to placate its fear of gift abandoned and also so hopefully moderate its support of the Taliban.

But in the midst of that effort, as soon as US and also Pakistani armed forces leaders to be on the brink of carrying out major joint counter-insurgency operations, catastrophe struck. In November 2011, us gunships wrongly opened fire ~ above a Pakistani border post, death 24 Pakistani soldiers and plunging bilateral relations right into crisis.

Islamabad responded by closing every road access to Afghanistan for Nato it is provided trucks and, v the us military determined not to recognize a mistake, Washington refuse to publicly apologise.

Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s foreign minister at the time, credits Clinton with gradually persuading the US federal government to damage after Catherine Ashton, the EU’s international policy chief, arranged an informal meeting in the foyer of an Istanbul hotel wherein all three women to be attending an global conference.

“The two federal governments had completely stopped talk to each other,” Khar recalls. “The united state was simply showing this arrogance in handle with nations that are less powerful.”

Khar had actually only ever before dealt v Clinton in formal meetings wherein the two sides would review their ready talking point out to every other. Yet in Istanbul both females spoke frankly for much more than 20 minutes.

“I told her the the united state stance was just throwing united state to the extremists, whose voices were just growing,” Khar recalled. The exchange would certainly eventually aid persuade Clinton to recognize the united state error publicly – and apologise because that the loss of lives.

“After that ns was persuaded she had actually wisdom the was missing in many parts the the US international policy world, whereby there is too lot bravado,” Khar said. “She might step back from the us position because she taken the long-term repercussions. She had a much more realistic perspective.”

David Miliband, that as UK international secretary overlapped v Clinton for her an initial 16 months at secretary that state, called her “the best listener in politics” and argued that her mix of an individual skills and also beliefs defy straightforward categorisation.

“I don’t think ‘hawk’ walk justice to her human being view,” claimed Miliband, currently president the the worldwide Rescue Committee. “The truth that she is ready to use pressure – and also sees the worth of the hazard of using pressure – doesn’t make it the only tool in her kitbag.”

“In fact, I would say she has actually a the majority of commitment come diplomacy and also development, lubricated by personal relationships, which space sometimes called dovish – which mirrors that the hawk versus dove is no a really satisfactory set of boxes come put people in,” Miliband said.


Hillary Clinton chats v her brother counterpart, David Miliband, in ~ the state room in Washington on 3 February 2009. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty ImagesClinton’s faith in the strength of an individual diplomacy is prove by the practically one million mile she took trip while secretary that state, come a full of 112 countries. Man Kerry recently surpassed she mileage, but has not so far broken Clinton’s document for countries visited. That, her pendant say, is testament to her commitment come addressing diplomatic difficulties that carry out not routinely make the prior pages.

She spent a an excellent deal of effort in the fall of 2009 do the efforts to assist heal one of the deepest wounds in the Caucasus: the historical rift between Turkey and also Armenia, which had actually not had diplomatic relations due to the fact that Armenian freedom in 1991.

After a year the talks, both political parties had worked out on an accord designed come normalise relations and also open their shared border. Top top 10 October, with prodding native Clinton, the two countries’ foreign ministers, Ahmet Davutoglu and also Eduard Nalbandian, flew come Zurich to sign the document.

Lavrov, his French counterpart, bernard Kouchner, and also the EU foreign policy chief, havier Solana, and other dignitaries from about Europe were gathered in ~ Zurich college to witness the event. However at the last minute, Nalbandian balked.

The Armenian international minister had actually heard the Davutoglu was going come lard his speech through a patent Turkish rotate on the 2 nations’ pains history.

He checked out consult Clinton and she seek to fix the rift native the earlier seat that her main black BMW, calling Davutoglu and Nalbandian alternately. Because that three hours neither foreign minister budged.

Back at the university hall, the other international ministers had actually taken to watching football on television. Lavrov threatened to walk out.

In the end, Clinton clinched a deal whereby neither Davutoglu no one Nalbandian would deliver remarks, leave Clinton to do the talking. Nalbandian still appeared nervous, so to ensure that did not shot to bolt the american drove come the venue through him wedged in between Clinton and also her undersecretary, Gordon.

Despite all preparation and the frantic initiative in Zurich, the accord was never ever ratified by either nation as Turkish-Armenian connections were as soon as again soured by dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. However for Gordon, the illustration demonstrated Clinton’s strategy patience.

“The illustrative suggest is: also though this was a lengthy and facility trip and she had gone the extra mile to be there, she didn’t get mad. She no blame her staff. She no blame the parties. She rolled up she sleeves and also said: every right, how can we solve this?” the said.

Over four years at the vast state room headquarters in Washington, Clinton won the commitment of her staff by the exact same attention come detail. She bespeak showers installed, because that example, after a opportunity encounter through a young mrs diplomat who cycled to work each day.

“It would have actually been fully easier for she to speak forget it. That too much beneath me,” a previous state room legal adviser, Harold Koh, said. “But she checked in top top it and also made certain it happened.”

Clinton left the state department in January 2013 as the most renowned member of the administration, despite without any dramatic accomplishments to her name. The chronic foreign policy troubles remained unsolved and also unchanged.

“She did an extraordinarily an excellent job of do the world like America again,” a former senior European diplomat said. “She was sky high in regards to popularity and also air miles, but we every knew at the time that the tricky policy concerns were quiet there. As soon as Kerry came charging in, trying to settle all these issues, it to be a reminder the she had actually rather stayed above the fray.”

Clinton’s pendant say the is one unfair assessment. Kerry’s signature achievement, the 2015 Iran atom deal, benefited from good timing. Any type of such covenant would have actually been difficult until the reformist Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, concerned office in June 2013 – five months after ~ Clinton had actually left.

With the brand-new international situations thrown up by the fluctuate in the Arab world, Clinton was very much in the fray, though the concern of whether she took the right technique in handling them – and also in specific the chronic foreign policy dilemma that whether and also when to conduct humanitarian interventions – is quiet fiercely debated.


Hillary Clinton come in Naypyidaw on 30 November 2011. Clinton went to 122 nations as secretary that state. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty ImagesIn Libya, Clinton’s decision to earlier military treatment was largely influenced by she meetings v opposition figures, and also European leaders, and also she only comprised her psychic after meeting G8 and also Arab organization ministers, as well as Libyan the contrary leaders, in Paris in march 2011.

“It was awkward for the United states to walk to this G8 meeting. Typically the us speaks very first but us didn’t have actually a plan from the White residence yet and also she had remained in listening mode, listening come the French, the Italians and also Brits, saying we need to act and … that i think that had actually an impact on her and led she to support action,” Gordon said.

At the UN, Clinton and also the US long-term representative, Susan Rice, to be able to secure a Russian abstention come a UN defense council resolution that permitted “all vital measures” to protect civilians indigenous their own leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

The populace in inquiry in the spring of 2011 were the civilians in rebel-held Benghazi, endangered with extermination by Gaddafi. Led by France, coalition aircraft struck Libyan government columns together they approached the east city. The difficulty then was once to stop battle in a case where a government offensive arguably stood for a potential risk to civilians.

“It was around protecting civilians and looking because that a solution but over time as that systems didn’t materialise, that was type of clear where this to be going come end,” Gordon said.

According to previous aides, Clinton herself explained the Libyan treatment as a restricted humanitarian action in the first few weeks, and also only readjusted her usage of vocabulary as the conflict entered a stalemate in the early summer the 2011.

To part in the administration, however, it seemed self-evident from the begin that the logic of defending civilians would ultimately attract the US and also its allies into an ever before deeper problem that might only finish with Gaddafi’s removal.

The idea the it being a restricted humanitarian operation was a real one however it was a naive one,” Jeremy Shapiro, who offered as an torture on phibìc Africa and also the Levant ~ above Clinton’s plan planning staff.

“The idea the you space going to intervene in a civil battle to save a bunch of people and then walk away while the civil war goes on and while a genocidal massive murderer still has the top hand in armaments appears untenable. Us tried that once prior to in walking away from Iraq after ~ the an initial Gulf war and also it was a catastrophe politically and also operationally.”

With the loss of Tripoli and then the fatality of Gaddafi in October 2011, American, British and French leaders were at first hailed as liberators. It to be only when the precarious post-revolutionary tranquility imploded into factional strife – finishing in the assault on the us consulate in Benghazi in September 2012 – the the standard wisdom in Washington top top the intervention adjusted from triumph to disaster.


Barack Obama and also Hillary Clinton participate in a transfer ceremony the the stays of the united state ambassador come Libya, kris Stevens, and three other Americans eliminated in Benghazi, at andrews air pressure base near Washington in 2012. Photograph: Jason Reed/ReutersClinton come under sustained assault in Congress because that the fail to administer adequate defense for she diplomats, but more comprehensive questions were raised as well about the treatment as a whole and the dealing with of its aftermath.

Former aides deny the her fist drifted elsewhere, saying that brand-new authorities in Libya one of two people spurned uses of assist or were not sufficiently organised to take benefit of them. Part have also argued the Libya’s chaos must be measured versus the humanitarian catastrophic of Syria, in i beg your pardon the us opted no to beat a significant part militarily. The fatality toll, approximated to it is in approaching half a million, mirrors the costs of non-intervention.

In she last year in ~ the state department, Clinton occurred a setup with the then CIA director, David Petraeus, to eight Syrian rebels, as a way of hold both the Assad regime and the jihadists at bay. The scheme was at first rebuffed by the White House but then taken up after she left top top a very little scale.

Clinton pendant argue that if the management had taken her argued route, a vacuum would certainly not have actually been created on the the contrary side, into which Gulf-funded extremists have poured in. The vacuum left by the lack of united state leadership, they say, has actually also enabled Russia to intervene on the side of Bashar al-Assad’s regimen with murderous consequences.

Hillary Clinton speak after the opening session of the second ‘Friends of Syria’ conference in ~ the Istanbul Congress center on 1 April 2012, in Istanbul. Photograph: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images“There were many of us who at an early stage thought us should have actually done an ext than us did ~ above train-and-equip,” stated Wendy Sherman, who was Clinton’s undersecretary that state for political affairs. “That said, I know the president’s reluctance, no least since the American human being were wake up but since it is a slippery slope, and also you don’t recognize where it will lead. I recognize why the decisions to be so hard. I think we had a moment some years back where it might have do a considerable difference.”

The no-fly ar Clinton has supported in her presidential project as a method of saving civilian lives, is widely seen as unfeasible provided the heavy Russian air presence and also the high likelihood that it would bring about head-on US-Russian confrontation. The moment for a no-fly zone was while Clinton was at the state department, her movie critics say.

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Some the her former officials speak they could not recall the choice being serious discussed, however Sherman insists the was effectively considered.

“It was absolutely serious discussed,” she said.

Even if the “hawk” epithet walk not do justice come Clinton’s worldview, her document as secretary the state leaves tiny doubt the if elected, she will certainly be an ext at ease in deploying us military could than her predecessor.

But in the practically four years since she left the state department, the civilization has adjusted rapidly, and arguably no in us interests. Extensively speaking, united state allies have grown weaker and its adversaries stronger. Those adversaries are currently acting through some haste to make sure that, by the moment she does arrive in the Oval Office, her room for manoeuvre has shrunk further still.

This write-up was amended top top 24 October 2016. Due to the fact that of an editing and enhancing error, a misplaced quote of Wendy Sherman’s made the unclear what Hillary Clinton’s undersecretary that state because that political to work said might have make a “substantial difference” in Syria. She to be speaking around train-and-equip, not a no-fly zone.