While recently released Hillary Clinton e-mails triggered uproar across Arab social media because of their revelations about the Barak Obama administration’s role in manufacturing the “Arab Spring”, their impact in the US seems quite muted.
This is may be because the US media is so focused on the US forthcoming elections, even though it is widely believed that the White House ordered Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to release these e-mails at this time precisely for this reason. The point was to embarrass the Democrats as a means to muster support for the Trump campaign.
Observers of US affairs generally agree that foreign policy issues, in general, have relatively little influence on voters’ decisions, whether in presidential or legislative elections. If this is the case, what is the point of declassifying Hillary Clinton’s e-mails dating to just under a decade ago? Why now, as the race between Trump and Joe Biden enters its last lap? Did the Trump campaign really believe the release of these confidential e-mails would have a significant last-minute impact on voters’ views?
If so, much depends on how Republican campaign strategists handle them, and specifically on how successful they are in linking these e-mails’ revelations of the crimes Clinton committed as secretary of state under president Obama to the issues of foremost concern to voters in the US today.
To use these documents to weaken Biden, Republicans will need to home in on the hypocrisy of the Democrats who claim to represent American values while their foreign policy flagrantly tramples on them.
The Republicans could claim, for example, that the very Democrats who abused US values during the Obama era would have no compunction against doing the same if re-elected to the White House. They would argue that Hillary Clinton arrogantly endangered the lives of millions in the Middle East when she chose to ally with the Islamists and their chief organisational entity, the Muslim Brotherhood, despite her knowledge of this group’s extremist views, their antagonism to women’s rights and their intolerant attitudes towards affiliates of other faiths.
In addition to betraying American principles opposed to discrimination and the dissemination of hatred by working with the Muslim Brotherhood whose ideological-terrorist offspring struck the US (as was the case with Al-Qaeda), she deceived the US public by claiming that her government supported the Arab Spring revolutions in order to promote the spread of democracy, civil rights and humanitarian values.
The Clinton e-mails reveal that Washington was colluding with Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood to supplant existing governments with Islamist extremists who had succeeded in deluding her that they would more willingly do Washington’s bidding than the rulers that she described as despots.
Republicans might add that the Clinton plan that pretended to promote democracy ended up destroying three Arab countries (Syria, Libya and Yemen), and giving an unprecedented boost to terrorist groups who killed millions and displaced many more.
In order to turn the Clinton e-mails into a successful campaign gambit, the Republicans will need to arouse US voters’ conscience and persuade them that a Biden administration will follow Obama’s and Clinton’s lead in sowing anarchy abroad in the name of spreading democracy. As mentioned above, as a general rule, foreign policy issues carry relatively little weight in elections.
But voters might be less likely to cast their vote for a candidate they fear would follow policies that would abuse US values and implicate Americans in acts tantamount to crimes against humanity, as the Democrats had done during the time when Clinton was secretary of state.
Republicans might also underscore how Clinton and Obama jeopardised the lives of US diplomats in Libya. The US ambassador to Libya was killed in 2012 by one of the extremist groups Clinton backed against former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. It was the same mistake that the US committed when it supported Osama Bin Laden who would subsequently turn against the US.
Although US policy at the time when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state may have won the support of a handful of Arab liberals, it stirred widespread anti-American feeling among the vast majority of the Arab people, because it was they who ended up paying the price for the violence and upheaval caused by the US’s adventure to ostensibly spread democracy in the Arab world.
This said, Republican strategists will still have to connect the dots between the Democrats’ hypocrisy abroad and manifestations of their hypocrisy at home. They will need to show that Democrats’ policies abroad and their policies at home are two sides of the same coin.
They could argue, for example, that the dissemination of anarchy and conflict abroad in the name of democracy is not inseparable from Nancy Pelosi’s constant attacks against Trump for failing to observe Covid-19 guidelines and then, herself, being caught on camera in a beauty salon flouting those same guidelines, or her failure to object to anti-Trump protests in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder even though those demonstrations flagrantly violated precautionary measures to which the Democrats claim to be more committed because they are more concerned for the US public’s health and wellbeing than their Republican rivals.
Finally, the Republicans can use the contents of the Clinton e-mails to warn US voters that a Biden-Harris victory would jeopardise US interests in the Middle East, whereas the Trump administration had succeeded in gaining widespread popularity for US policy because of its respect for these peoples’ cultural specificity and its unwillingness to toy with their fates as the Obama administration had.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 15 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly