Recently Jeff Goldberg interviewed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton about America’s response to the Arab Spring.
When we met last month, in her State Department office, she was, as usual, fluent, comprehensive, and in total control of the details. She was also insistent that the administration’s approach to the Middle East betrayed no inconsistencies or hypocrisies (there is much on this subject below, in a transcript of the interview). We didn’t spend a great deal of time on the Middle East peace process (though my belief, expressed repeatedly, is that she is the best-qualified person in America to bring the Israelis and Arabs to a negotiated settlement); instead, we discussed the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and what it might mean for women, and we also spent some time on the debate between foreign policy realism and idealism.
It was during this part of the conversation, when the subject of China, and its frightened reaction to the Arab Spring, came up, that she took an almost Reaganesque turn, calling into question not just Beijing’s dismal human rights record, but the future of the Chinese regime itself. The Obama administration has been ratcheting up the rhetoric on China’s human rights record lately, especially since the arrest of the dissident Ai Weiwei, but Secretary Clinton, in our interview, went much further, questioning the long-term viability of the one-party system. After she referred to China’s human rights record as “deplorable” (itself a ratcheting up of the rhetoric), I noted that the Chinese government seemed scared of the Arab rising. To which she responded: “Well, they are. They’re worried, and they are trying to stop history, which is a fool’s errand. They cannot do it. But they’re going to hold it off as long as possible.”