After Carly Fiorina said at the Republican debate, “If you want to stump a Democrat, ask them to name an accomplishment of Mrs. Clinton,” Politico Magazine tested the proposition and asked 20 Democrats. I was asked, and I was not stumped. Here is my contribution:
Hillary Clinton has four major accomplishments from her tenure as Secretary of State: winning the United Nations resolution supporting military intervention in Libya, the New START arms control treaty with Russia, renewing diplomatic ties with Myanmar and setting in the motion talks that culminated in the Iran nuclear deal.
We don’t see the Clinton campaign or other Democrats leap to cite most of these accomplishments because they come with degrees of future uncertainty and, in the case of Libya, associations with the tangentially related Benghazi attack. But they are significant accomplishments nonetheless.
Clinton is often mocked for failing to “reset” relations with Russia. But the New START treaty is being followed and helping contain tensions. She won Russia’s support for UN sanctions on Iran that helping bring the rogue state to the negotiating table. And she cajoled Russia to abstain on the Libyan resolution, which was critical to securing its passage in the UN Security Council. (In fact, she may have “reset” too well. Vladimir Putin, who was not president at the time, opposed the resolution and that may have contributed to his decision to reclaim his post.)
The aftermath of that Libyan intervention has been messy, with rival governments fracturing the country, although unity talks are currently taking place. Myanmar has not been perfect, either. The promise of released political prisoners has only been partially filled. And the military is being accused of manipulating the upcoming general election. Still the participation of the previously banned National League for Democracy party is a step forward.
These are reminders that, in the real world, progress is often halting. But the fact remains that Clinton struck major and consequential diplomatic achievements, even if the final historical judgment on their lasting impact is years away.