I have mixed feelings about Queen of Chaos. There were some moments when I wanted to give it five stars for its invaluable detailed description of the duplicitous “humanitarian” mass violence and chaos of U.S. foreign policy. There were other moments when I wanted to give it zero stars for its deeply offensive commentary on what it dismisses as “identity politics” (mostly LGBT rights, but also immigrant rights and multiculturalism). Ultimately, I decided that both the merits and the flaws needed to be discussed, so I may as well write a full review.
Let me start by discussing the merits.
This book is a timely exploration of Hillary Clinton’s long and sordid history of support for aggressive military intervention overseas. It provides a searing critique of her role in our military interventions in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Syria, and Honduras, as well as her antagonism toward Russia and anyone else who would seek to rival the United States’ influence in Eurasia and the world. Ultimately, the book is not about Hillary Clinton per se, but about the unofficial “War Party” (which includes both Democrats and Republicans) that uses “humanitarianism” as a justification for their aggressive acts of military intervention and destabilization of entire nations.
This central narrative of Queen of Chaos is both deeply disturbing and firmly rooted in the facts and evidence available to the public about the role of U.S. foreign policy in these international conflicts. I’ve read about most if not all of these U.S. interventions individually, but so far this is the first time I’ve seen them all summarized in a single volume. What was before more of a general impression for me is now a clear and explicit pattern of unthinkable and unnecessary mass violence. Hillary Clinton and her colleagues in the War Party have spent the past couple of decades causing chaos and violence in many nations simply because they wanted to enforce their economic agenda and their brand of American exceptionalism on the entire world.
This ongoing campaign of military interventions and support for extremist “rebels” is allegedly undertaken for humanitarian purposes. Its advocates allegedly believe that they are making the world a better place through their actions. Honestly, I suspect that many of them do believe their own rhetoric, though surely not all. Hillary Clinton and others establish a black-and-white scenario where a particular foreign leader is portrayed as the next genocidal Hitler and therefore “must go” so that his own people and his neighbors might be saved from the violence and oppression of his regime. Whatever actual harm may have been done by the accused leader is overshadowed by the exaggerated accusations against him and a whitewashing of whoever is opposing him. Complex internal and regional disputes are transformed into simplistic battles between “good” and “evil” –sometimes literally in those terms. Diplomatic resolution of the conflict is actively discouraged by the U.S. in favor of often-unilateral “intervention” and “consequences” for the target regime. The U.S. (often involving its NATO allies) then intervenes on behalf of the rebels with the ultimate goal being “regime change” and the implementation of “democracy” (a government favorable to the U.S.). The great irony, of course, is that the end result of these interventions is usually either a failed state or a new regime that is at least as repressive as the one overthrown by the U.S., both of which result in tremendous suffering and oppression — which is exactly what the strategy was allegedly trying to prevent.
What I like most about this book is this searing critique of the “War Party” and its pursuit of paradoxical “humanitarian” wars of aggression. Now, on to the flaws.
The first flaw that became apparent almost immediately was the tone. Yes, this is a book about acts of aggression that could quite reasonable be considered war crimes under international law. Yes, these acts resulted in much death and destruction. Yes, a harsh tone is entirely justified. As someone who picked up the book already aware of all of this, it was easy for me to understand why the author often adopted a snarky, derisive tone in her discussions of Hillary Clinton and everyone else associated with the War Party apparatus. At times, I felt myself being snarky and derisive right along with her. However, the tone in these sections of the book also left me feeling like this book is simply preaching to the choir. Would someone who picked up this book loving Hillary Clinton (or even begrudgingly voting for her as a “lesser evil”) have the patience to make it through enough of the book to become convinced by the author’s argument and evidence? Probably not. Given the title and subtitle of the book, I should have realized that the tone of the book would be unabashedly hostile toward Clinton, thus making it a difficult read for anyone who supports Clinton, whether enthusiastically or begrudgingly. However, I was really hoping to find a book that I could use to inform Clinton supporters about the down sides of her much-lauded “experience” in foreign policy. Given the tone, though, I’m not sure that this is the right book for that job. I found it informative, but I’m concerned that the audience who needs to read it most may be too put off by the tone to take the message to heart.
The second major flaw is in the way that the author handles “identity politics,” including but not limited to LGBT identities. This was the reason why I nearly stopped reading the book and came even closer to rejecting it as a book worthy of review. The author adopts a completely tone-deaf and downright offensive attitude toward the LGBT movement and its struggle for basic human rights and human dignity for LGBT people around the world. While she does in passing indicate vague support for human rights for LGBT people, she spends most of her time on the topic talking about how the L, G, B, and T of the movement are really disparate identities that don’t mesh well into a single community, and how the current emphasis on these identity’s struggles is just a distraction from the more serious work of stopping the imperialist wars of aggression described in the rest of the book. She ultimately just sounds jealous of the attention that such struggles are receiving in the U.S. currently while her own stuffy old brand of pre-intersectionality leftism is languishing on the dusty shelves of history. To be fair, I do agree with her that when Hillary Clinton and the War Party complain about how the Russian government treats their LGBT community, they are doing so in a thinly-veiled attempt to vilify Putin and Russia, thus justifying sanctions and other actions against Russia and its allies. However, she goes about expressing this concern in exactly the opposite way that she should in order to be heard. Her dismissive tone about LGBT concerns is deeply offensive. Mistreatment of the LGBT community in Russia is a very serious concern that she should not take so lightly. The fact that politicians in the U.S. are using it as a weapon in their twisted political games doesn’t make it any less serious of a concern. Failing to emphasize this point is in fact a way of lending support to anti-LGBT sentiment both in Russia and in the U.S.
The third major flaw is in the way that the author handles the leaders who have been targeted by Hillary Clinton and others in the War Party. Yes, it’s very valid and important to point out the way in which Clinton and others in the War Party demonize these leaders in order to mark them as valid targets for regime change. However, I’m concerned that the author may at times succumb to the very black-and-white thinking that she critiques in the War Party. In the author’s mind, Clinton et al are the villains, and men like Putin and Gaddafi and others are just hapless victims of the villains’ underhanded smear campaigns. This is a gross oversimplification of the situation that erases the suffering caused by these targeted politicians. Some of it is exaggeration and hype, but some of it is real. My take on the situation is that most if not all of the leaders targeted by the War Party are in fact problematic leaders. Most politicians in the upper echelons of government are in fact quite problematic. These politicians targeted by the U.S. for “regime change” are no exception. They have their problems, often serious ones. But the War Party exaggerates (and at times fabricates) these problems and uses them as an excuse for even more problematic acts of aggression.
Finally, on a more minor note, the book simply isn’t very well organized. The author does construct a very meaningful narrative about “humanitarian” wars and the War Party that instigates them, and this lends some sense of structure and purpose to the book. But she spends too much time bouncing back and forth between time periods and interventions rather than laying it all out as a single chronological narrative. Some back-and-forth would be acceptable, especially since the book exists at the crossroads between Hillary Clinton’s personal involvement and the larger political and historical forces that are at play beyond her. But I felt like the book could use another round of editing to make it a bit more concise and more chronologically organized rather than diverting time and again into tangential rants about material that had already been addressed earlier in the book.
At the end of the day, flawed as it is, this book will probably be a good read for a lot of people. The provocative title and subtitle will catch many people’s eyes, and some of them will learn some extremely important information about U.S. foreign policy and Hillary Clinton’s role in it. I just wish that it didn’t come along with all of the baggage mentioned above. If anyone can recommend another book that summarizes Hillary Clinton’s “misadventures” that is more accessible to people who currently support Clinton, then please let me know about it. In the meantime, there is definitely enough information in this book to help people understand why so many “progressive” voters in the United States simply can’t vote for someone who is actively working to spread war and chaos through the world in the form of these “humanitarian” interventions.