She restated the administration’s worst assumptions: “Now, to be clear, though, there is an important role for Russia to help in resolving the conflict in Syria. And we have indicated a willingness to work with them toward an outcome that preserves Syria as a unitary, nonsectarian state, with protections for the rights of all Syrians and to keep key state institutions intact.” Russia has no interest in doing so, and as long as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has Russia and Iran’s help, there will be no transition.
Clinton throws in her usual fluff about Islam (“Let’s be clear, though, Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people, and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism. The obsession in some quarters with a clash of civilization, or repeating the specific words radical Islamic terrorism isn’t just a distraction, it gives these criminals, these murderers more standing than they deserve. It actually plays into their hands by alienating partners we need by our side.”) Actually, these criminals and murderers are Islamic fanatics, and as Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi pointed out, it is important to help moderate Arab states defend themselves and their people against radicals.
As the Islamic State rages, more deadly and widespread than ever, Clinton can only boast that she created a new meeting (“we created the Global Counterterrorism Forum”), the personification of bureaucratic piffle. It was apparently as effective as the Atrocities Prevention Board. The biggest atrocity, of course, in the Obama administration was the Syrian bloodbath.
Clinton correctly states, “We should pursue a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy, one that embeds our mission against ISIS within a broader struggle against radical jihadism that is bigger than any one group, whether it’s Al Qaida or ISIS or some other network.” Too bad she does not have a comprehensive strategy. In fact, her own actions and rhetoric contributed mightily to the problems we now see.
Clinton supported and effectuated the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq, giving fertile ground from which the Islamic State sprouted.She had no effective plan for Libya after the war, so it is now another haven for jihadists.She supported the president’s backtracking on the red line and his decision to let Russia rid Syria of its weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Assad thrived, thousands more died, Assad continued to use WMDs on his own people and the Islamic State flourished.She conceived of and implemented Russian reset, which began a long policy of serial concessions and Russia’s eventual reentry into the Middle East.She has consistently opposed sending any larger contingent of U.S. forces, which makes organizing a large regional force impossible.She supported hobbling our intelligence-gathering efforts by restricting the National Security Agency.She refuses to advocate repeal of the sequester and adequately fund the military.She supports the Iran deal, which opens up more than $100 billion that can be used to support Syria, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups.
Clinton’s hypocrisy knows no ends. She opposed the surge in Iraq and yet now argues, “In the first Sunni awakening in 2007, we were able to provide sufficient support and assurances to the Sunni tribes to persuade them to join us in rooting out Al Qaida. Unfortunately, under Prime Minister [Nouri al-]Maliki’s rule, those tribes were betrayed and forgotten.” (Maliki, because of her own efforts to pull out all U.S. forces, was free to go after the Sunnis.)
Former ambassador Eric Edelman observes, “It is ironic that Secretary Clinton who opposed the ‘surge’ in 2007/8 (arguing that it required a ‘willful suspension of disbelief’) and who presided over the failure to secure a residual US presence in Iraq after December 31, 2011 is now lauding the surge and calling for an effort to replicate it in order to defeat ISIL.” Except she cannot bring herself openly to support a necessary ground component. Instead she erects a straw man. (“I do not believe that we should again have 100,000 American troops in combat in the Middle East.” I know of no Republican who is advocating sending 100,000 troops.)
In short, Clinton has followed the Obama White House in lockstep on a serious of disastrous judgments. She talks a better game than Obama, but what she is recommending is little more than what Obama is doing — perpetuating a failed policy. On the bright side, perhaps she knows what needs to be done and is simply frightened to say so in a Democratic primary. On the other hand, if she does not have the nerve to level with her own party now, how would she ever be an effective commander in chief?
UPDATE: While Clinton now says she favors a no-fly zone, she does not explain how that will work now that Russia is ensconced and John Kerry is negotiating away Syrian sovereignty to Russia and Iran. Likewise, while she boasts of her plan to counter Iranian influence in the region she supports the Iran deal which is a boost to Iran and surrogates like Assad to whom some of the $150B in released sanctions money will flow.