Foreign and Defense Policy, Middle East and North Africa

Clinton and Obama go to war over Syria and Iraq

Image Credit: Toms Norde (Flickr) (CC-BY-2.0)

Image Credit: Toms Norde (Flickr) (CC-BY-2.0)

If you want evidence that Barack Obama’s foreign policy is imploding, just look at how desperately one of its chief architects – Hillary Clinton – is distancing herself from it. In an interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Clinton took a not-so-veiled swipe at Obama, declaring that his “failure” to support the moderate opposition in Syria “left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.”

Said Clinton:

The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled…. Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.

Obama quickly swiped back, telling The New York Times that idea that arming Syrian rebels would have stopped the rise of ISIS has “always been a fantasy.” Said the president:

This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.

This is absurd. As Gen. Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka explained a year ago, there is plenty the US could have done to stop the rise of ISIS.  As I argued last fall, Obama should have bombed both the Syrian regime and ISIS after Assad repeatedly violated Obama’s red line. Even after his failure to enforce his red line, Obama could still have hit ISIS with drones – as the Iraqi government was pleading with him to do. Instead, he stood by and did nothing while they massed their forces, marched into Iraqi cities, and proclaimed a radical Islamic state.

Now, Obama tells the Times, “We’re not going to let [the Islamic State] create some caliphate through Syria and Iraq.” Too late, Mr. President, they already have. The only questions are how big that caliphate will get – and when it will train its sights on the American homeland.

No wonder Clinton is distancing herself from this Obama-created debacle in Iraq and Syria. But it’s not that simple. If she wants to achieve separation, she will have to answer some tough questions in the period ahead, such as: how hard did she really fight for arming and training the Free Syrian Army? Did she threaten to resign? What specifically did she advocate doing to help the opposition? Did she advocate air strikes against ISIS? And – most importantly – did she oppose Obama’s complete withdrawal from Iraq, which also “left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled”?

And when she’s done answering those questions, she is going to have to figure out a way to disown her now disastrous “reset” of relations with Russia – which has invaded Ukraine, annexed Crimea, and helped separatists shoot down a civilian airliner. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In other words, Obama’s secretary of state is going to have a hard time separating herself from Obama’s foreign policy. But the fact that she is trying to do so shows just what a disaster it is – and how vulnerable it makes her in 2016.

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5 thoughts on “Clinton and Obama go to war over Syria and Iraq

  1. It should also be pointed out that Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and every Democrat in the House and Senate supported Obama’s decision to abandon Iraq, not get involved in Syria and not oppose Putin. That includes the “high cheek boned” Native American Lizzie Warren who is the favorite of the far, far left.

    • It should be pointed out that the current Secretary of State, Kerry, the last Secretary of State, Clinton, and the current Vice President, Biden, all supported George W. Bush’s invasion.

      That should have produced awareness that it was a bad idea.

  2. And it should also be noted how many of the Democrats were for the Iraq war before and after Bush took as back there in March 2003.

    “We stopped the fighting [in 1991] on an agreement that Iraq would take steps to assure the world that it would not engage in further aggression and that it would destroy its weapons of mass destruction. It has refused to take those steps. That refusal constitutes a breach of the armistice which renders it void and justifies resumption of the armed conflict.”

    Senator Harry Reid (Democrat, Nevada)
    Addressing the US Senate
    October 9, 2002
    Congressional Record, p. S10145

    “People can quarrel with whether we should have more troops in Afghanistan or internationalize Iraq or whatever, but it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons.”

    Former President Clinton
    During an interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live”
    July 22, 2003

    “I come to this debate, Mr. Speaker, as one at the end of 10 years in office on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was one of my top priorities. I applaud the President on focusing on this issue and on taking the lead to disarm Saddam Hussein. … Others have talked about this threat that is posed by Saddam Hussein. Yes, he has chemical weapons, he has biological weapons, he is trying to get nuclear weapons.”

    Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (Democrat, California)
    Addressing the US House of Representatives
    October 10, 2002
    Congressional Record, p. H7777

  3. As long as foreign military expeditions our financed purely and without borrowing by corporate income taxes, I think the U.S. public will show toleration.

  4. Hillary Clinton is a classic liberal interventionist, and understand the politics of espousing it.

    The only push-back she is likely to get from a Republican is that she doesn’t intervene enough.

    People will be skeptical of her plans for adventures, but they will be even more concerned about the Republican who claims that she doesn’t want enough of them.

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