Hillary Clinton says she hasn’t made up her mind whether to run for president. Yeah, right. In any case, there is no reason not to press her, a former secretary of state who has already criticized (before she apologized) the president’s Syria policy, her views on a number of issues regarding the Middle East. I’ve noted before that if Republicans spend any significant time on Benghazi talking point (yes, the White House did play politics from the get go, so now what?), they are both foolish and doing a disservice to the country. Far better to expand the oversight into the broader failures of the Middle East. For that, not only Hillary Clinton but other major players including Leon Panetta, Robert Gates, David Petraeus and Dennis Ross would be useful witnesses both to inform the public as to what went wrong and to lay out the challenges ahead.
There are a whole bunch of questions to ask:
Which one if any recommended pulling all troops out of Iraq? What about setting a certain end date for troops in Afghanistan?
What was the impact of these moves?
What could we have done early in the Syrian civil war to help force out Bashar al-Assad and prevent the Islamic State from gravitating there?
What impact did our failure to act have on Iraq and Syria?
Considering the rising of the Islamic State, the revolution and then coup in Egypt, the Syrian blood bath and Iran’s progress toward a nuclear-arms capability, did we spend too much time on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Did we make things in the region worse by publicly pressuring Israel?
How did Libya collapse after the “light footprint” war?
Do we have the right size of military to deal with all the threats we face?
Was it a mistake to pull anti-missile installations from Poland and the Czech Republic, let Russia into the World Trade Organization, push through an arms agreement that Russia violates or punt on the Syria red-line issue, allowing Russian influence to increase?
Did we put enough emphasis on human rights in the Middle East?
Unfortunately, Congress and the media are often obsessed with sound bites, gaffes or crude political questions (Will Benghazi matter in 2016?) rather than getting to the nub of serious foreign policy issues and holding politicians accountable for failure. Given how badly things have gone in the Middle East, it behooves us to try to figure out why and what decisions brought us to this chaotic state of affairs. It is remarkable in fact that the press is so uninterested in looking at the reasons underlying the eruption of violence and the rise of a terrorist organization arguably more potent than al-Qaeda.
If you didn’t know better, you might think that with all those interviews, Sunday shows and hours of cable TV, there would be time for some serious reporting and analysis. It’s almost like they don’t want to plow ground that would be unfavorable to the administration and its former secretary of state. Congress and the 2016 presidential contenders should not be so passive. This president and the next will likely be dealing with the consequences of the first six years of the Obama administration. It would behoove us to learn some lessons, lest we repeat the same errors.