In his speech last night, Bill Clinton said this:
"My fellow Democrats, sixteen years ago, you gave me the profound honor to lead our party to victory and to lead our nation to a new era of peace and broadly shared prosperity.
Together, we prevailed in a campaign in which the Republicans said I was too young and too inexperienced to be Commander-in-Chief. Sound familiar? It didn't work in 1992, because we were on the right side of history. And it won't work in 2008, because Barack Obama is on the right side of history."
But Clinton was too inexperienced to be commander-in-chief in 1992.
He was handed an enviable situation in foreign policy: 12 years of Reagan and Bush had resulted in victory without a shot in the Cold War, and the defeat of Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War. Clinton then managed in his first two years to preside over an embarrassment in Haiti, a debacle in Somalia, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, and genocide in Rwanda. Over the rest of the decade, Clinton managed to allow further erosion in the position of American strength he inherited.
Clinton didn't, as he now claims, lead us "to a new era of peace." He inherited a hard-won peace, failed to lead, and part of his legacy is 9/11. It was understandable (if unfortunate) that in 1992, after the end of the Cold War, the American people would think they could afford a president who would fatuously think it enough to claim to be "on the right side of history" (whatever that means), rather than being willing to make tough decisions. I doubt Americans are so complacent today.