Hillary Clinton wants you to know she's not a shrinking violet like President Obama, wuss in chief. In fact, she's ready to arm your Middle Eastern rebel group. Just ask!
Indeed, it seems these days like Clinton is trying to cast herself less like her old boss, and more like Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, the decider in chief. The former secretary of state and odds-on-favorite to be America's next president recently gave an interview to The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, published over the weekend. The interview is widely believed to be part of a broader campaign to distance herself from the Obama administration, in large part by highlighting how many more people she would have the U.S. bomb and how many more people she would have the U.S. arm. In the Middle East, of course, where 30 years of U.S. bombs and arms have an unimpeachable record.
Here is perhaps the most important excerpt:
Do you think we'd be where we are with ISIS right now if the U.S. had done more three years ago to build up a moderate Syrian opposition?
HRC: Well, I don't know the answer to that. I know that 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.
They were often armed in an indiscriminate way by other forces, and we had no skin in the game that really enabled us to prevent this indiscriminate arming. [The Atlantic]
The "We had no skin in the game" line is just a lie. The U.S. was arming Syrian rebels. This was reported throughout 2012 and 2013. Sometimes the reports even made the effort to describe those America was arming as "moderate," to try to distinguish them from the black-flag-flying beheaders. But the distinctions can be blurry. Some of the "moderate" Free Syrian Army members have been defecting to Islamist groups like the Al Nusra Front, and presumably ISIS — at least those members who haven't given up and retired to Turkey.
Relatively early in the Syrian conflict, back when the U.S. was still waiting for the discouraging messages from the British Parliament and a discouraging op-ed from Vladimir Putin, ISIS, and other Islamist groups were growing at the expense of our beloved "moderate" gun-wielders. This dynamic wasn't hard to predict, as the opposition to Assad was concentrated in Sunni Muslim groups who detested the Alawite dictator. Money and materiel flows up from Persian Gulf states to radical Sunnis.
Committing to the "moderate" Free Syrian Army exclusively would have meant creating a civil war within a civil war, getting into a proxy war with Saudi Arabia, and risking humiliation — all while getting a lot of innocents killed. If the stated objective was that once the U.S. went in big with anti-Assad forces, then Assad's fall had to be assured, the result would have been similar to Egypt, where once the U.S. let Mubarak's regime fall, the Muslim Brotherhood was the only organized option on the ground.
Like other hawks, Clinton has faith that beggaring rebel groups are composed mainly of tolerant liberal democrats — or at least enough of them to be worth some material support. Taken at face value, it's a conviction so imbecilic it should all but disqualify her from the presidency. Though of course, Clinton's response to Goldberg on ISIS and Syria is all about empty opportunistic signaling.
What would have happened if America had gone all in with the Syrian rebels? The black-flag-flying beheaders would have shot any of Syria's tolerant liberal democrats in the neck, taken their U.S. weapons, and made off at double-speed into western Iraq, where they have been capturing more U.S. materiel (that which was supplied to Iraq) to fire at the soon-to-be-coming U.S. fighter jets. The turnaround time on American-supplied arms being turned against U.S. interests used to be about a decade or two. Think early '80s Iraq or Afghanistan's mujahideen. Now it is more like 10 months. If Clinton had her way, we'd be closing in on 10 weeks from the time the CIA delivers weapons to the time they are pointed at U.S. clients and airplanes.
Clinton's strategy of trying to say that she would have embraced Obama's foreign policy — but harder! And bigger! — amounts to admitting she would double down on failures, engage in drive-by wars, and get America stuck in confusing entanglements with gun-wielding losers and child-beheaders. Will some Democrat with an ounce of sense speak up and try to defeat Clinton before we get George W. Bush's third term?