A profile of Hillary Clinton in the latest issue of the New York Times Magazine makes the case, convincingly, that the Democratic frontrunner is the most hawkish candidate in the race, from her upbringing as the daughter of a Navy training officer to her disagreements, as secretary of state, with President Obama over use of force. The piece outlines her relationships with several powerful current and former members of the military, and notes that the “single greatest influence” on her thinking about the military is a retired George W. Bush-era four-star general named Jack Keane.
Fox News viewers may recognize Keane as one of the network’s frequently consulted military analysts, a role he has used to call withdrawal from Iraq a “disaster,” to argue against closing Guantanamo Bay, and to call a 2014 Pentagon report on climate change evidence of a “misguided priority” in the Obama administration.
While campaigning for president, Clinton has called out Bernie Sanders for his criticisms of President Obama, despite her own frequent disagreements with the president on foreign policy issues. She has positioned herself as the candidate who would carry on the president’s legacy if elected. As the Times Magazine profile notes, she has said in national security speeches that her plans for dealing with threats in the Middle East represent an “intensification and acceleration” of the president’s, not a clean break from them.
But Keane, who has informally advised Clinton on military affairs for 15 years, dispenses tough-guy criticisms of the president regularly.
In 2013, Keane claimed on Fox News that Obama’s timetable for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan was based on politics and not “the conditions on the ground,” comparing the situation to Vietnam. General David Petraeus, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates all disagreed, supporting the president’s timetable and calling it “conditions-based.”
In 2014, the Pentagon issued a warning of security risks connected to climate change, arguing that droughts, crop failures, and natural disasters could lead to the instability that breeds extremist groups like ISIS. Keane said the report made “no sense.” From NewsMax:
It made “no sense” for the Pentagon to publish a report on climate change, and was evidence of a “misguided priority” by the Obama administration, Keane said, adding that he had seen no report from the Department of Defense on the Islamic State.
“I can’t imagine that [report] having much impact on our allies, who are facing an assertive and aggressive China in the Pacific, that we’re going to come help them with climate change. Or, our allies in Eastern Europe facing the threat of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, that we’re going to come help them with climate change,” he said.
And just this year, Keane loudly criticized the Obama’s push to close the Guantanamo Bay prison complex. In February, the president gave a speech expressing his continued commitment to shutting down Gitmo. Among his reasoning was that the prison is “counterproductive to our fight against terrorists, because they use it as propaganda in their efforts to recruit.”
On Fox News, Keane argued that closing Guantanamo Bay is irresponsible, and that the facility is no longer used in propaganda from terrorist groups. However, ISIS’s use of orange jumpsuits when it executes prisoners is widely presumed to be a reference to Guantanamo prisoners. A 2010 issue of Inspire, al Qaeda’s propaganda magazine, features essays by two former Gitmo detainees. And as recently as last year, the group Human Rights First argued that there is “no doubt” that Guantanamo is a “powerful propaganda tool for violent terrorists,” as Media Matters notes.
The most pernicious thing about Keane isn’t his wrongheaded hawkishness, however, but the fact that his the perpetual state of war he argues for helps him to line his own pockets. As Lee Fang detailed in an article for Nation in 2014, Keane is paid as a special advisor to Academi, successor to the bloodstained war contractor Blackwater, as a board member for a the major defense contractor General Dynamics, and for positions at several other companies in the for-profit war business.
Every time he goes on TV or in front of Congress to advocate for U.S. military intervention against ISIS, Hillary Clinton’s “single greatest influence” on matters of war and peace has a monetary interest in making the case for war.