The Hillary Clinton Doctrine

Comparing Clinton's Foreign Policy to Obama's and Trump's

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Union of Carpenters and Millwrights Training Center in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., May 15, 2016.  Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters

On April 27, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivered his first foreign policy speech of the campaign. In the statement, Trump promised to ensure “global peace,” rebuild the U.S. military, eliminate the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), and change Washington’s approach to NATO. His platform is as ambitious as it is contradictory and implausible. He advocates for a U.S. withdrawal from international conflict even as he wants to boost Washington’s role in promoting world peace. This is a far cry from the likely Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, who has called on the United States to intervene more directly in global conflict. 

Not only are Clinton’s and Trump’s foreign policy platforms vastly different from each other, they are both miles apart from that of U.S. President Barack Obama. The “Obama Doctrine,” as it has become known, has kept the United States out of conflicts that did not pose a direct threat to national security in the White House’s view, but not without consequences. This policy has had its successes, such as the raid that killed former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. But it has also had its failures, such as the missed opportunity to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which would have prevented the conflict from spawning incipient threats. When Obama departs, this foreign policy will go with him; no matter who wins in November, the next president will take a different approach to the world's varied challenges, making foreign policy a crucial issue in this year’s election.


The crux of the Obama Doctrine has been to seek multilateral intervention when possible and unilateral action when necessary. Over the last eight years, Washington has avoided intervening in conflicts that, in the view of the administration, did not pose core national security threats, whether in Asia, Europe, or the Middle East. 

But this seemingly credible foreign policy approach was overshadowed by the administration’s “pivot to

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