America was supposed to make big changes while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. Clinton would spearhead a reset in U.S.-Russia relations. She’d usher in an era of new, internet-enabled democratic activism. And rather than focus on protracted wars in the Middle East, the U.S. would pivot toward Asia.
None of that quite came to be. If there is a connective thread in Clinton’s tenure, it was an overestimation in the U.S. ability to shape events around the world and an underestimation of the unintended consequences of change.
In places like Egypt, rather than democracy, there is a return to an even more aggressive police state, where thousands of opponents are in jail, free speech no longer exists and Islamist jihadists are expanding their grip. Rather than improved relations with Russia, the U.S. is trying to dodge a proxy war with the former Soviet bloc in Syria. Through competing airstrikes, the U.S. is supporting opponents to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while Russia has helped prop up the regime. And in Asia, rather than a pivot, the U.S. has only kept one eye on a rapidly changing region. China has increasingly claimed its stake to the South China Sea, and in North Korea Kim Jong-un’s ballistic missile launches have rattled his U.S. allied partner in the south.
In other words: The job that was supposed to best prepare Clinton to be the next president could also be the albatross of her campaign, thanks to the chaotic world that emerged since she left the post in 2013.