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Has Hillary Learned Nothing From Iraq?

Oddsmakers consider Hillary as the most likely next president, [1] with a 50 percent or greater chance of getting in. (Rubio or Trump come in second, at about 10 percent.) So her foreign policy signals are closely watched: would her policies basically resemble Obama’s? Or a sort of updated “neocon lite”? Or something else? She’s not going to tip her hand, and probably doesn’t need to, as the Republicans seem bent on self-destruction. Every Republican save Trump and Rand Paul have made it clear they would try to create more belligerency with virtually every country in the world not a formal American treaty ally, particularly Russia and Iran. Their threats seem so reckless that they should automatically be disqualifying. Meanwhile Rand Paul is largely ignored, and Trump, running as a kind of bombastic realist, is hammered relentlessly by the tandem GOP and liberal establishments for wanting to restrict immigration.

Last week Hillary spoke at the Council of Foreign Relations. She gave a denser and more detailed speech [2] than what Republicans typically give, and clearly is knowledgeable. But some of those listening closely were troubled [3], with good reason. Building to her theme that the United States should take stronger measures against the Syria’s anti-Islamist Assad government, Clinton said:

In September I laid out a comprehensive plan to counter Iranian influence across the region and its support for terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas. We cannot view Iran and ISIS as separate challenges. Regional politics are too interwoven. Raising the confidence of our Arab partners and raising the costs to Iran for bad behavior will contribute to a more effective fight against ISIS.

And as we work out a broader regional approach, we should of course be closely consulting with Israel, our strongest ally in the Middle East.


In other words, not six days after ISIS slaughtered 130 people in Paris; a few more after it brought down a Russian airliner over Egypt and blew up a Hezbollah neighborhood in Beirut, Hillary Clinton is calling for tougher measures against… wait for it… ISIS’s enemies in the Mideast. Is it time to ask, with Hillary Clinton leading the Democratic field, who needs Doug Feith and Paul Wolfowitz?

Does it need to be spelled out? For Hillary, the ISIS terror may be a sort of pretext to take the war to those whom Bibi Netanyahu considers his primary enemy, Iran, and Iran’s Lebanese Shi’ite ally, Hezbollah.

In the Democratic foreign policy debate several weeks ago, Hillary foreshadowed this. Asked by the moderator which enemies she was happy to have, she included “Iranians” [4] in a list of otherwise standard Democratic domestic bogeymen. Did she mean all 78 million Iranians? The Tehran government which had just concluded an historic arms control agreement with the United States, Russia, China, and Europe? What was the point of the remark? It would have been easier to overlook had she not doubled down on it at the Council of Foreign Relations last week.

After the George W. Bush presidency, we ought to have had enough of this. The Middle East situation with ISIS is genuinely difficult: those who study it most closely are uncertain which measures would play into ISIS’s hands by alienating more young Muslims, which are needed to contain and eliminate a bloodthirsty terror state on Europe’s doorstep. Europe already has millions of young Muslims inside its borders, and many are marginalized and receptive to ISIS propaganda. But no one really think that Hamas—a religious Palestinian group which would not have existed without Israel’s encouragement (Israel wanted to create an alternative to the secular PLO during the first intifada) is anywhere in the same league. Hezbollah carried out terror operations 30 years ago: today it is the armed militia of Lebanon’s Shi’ite community, and has been fighting effectively against ISIS. Iran is trying to rejoin the family of nations; its president was scheduled to visit Paris last week, a visit postponed by the terror strike. Is Iran a day at the beach? No. Its government is brutally repressive, probably on the scale of say, China. But by Mideast standards it is better than average. So what point is Hillary trying to make by putting lumping all of those groups together with ISIS?

My own guess is that Hillary is trying to signal right wing Zionist donors, particularly Sheldon Adelson sidekick  [5]Haim Saban—the biggest contributor [6] to Clinton campaigns over the years—that she is really on board with them, despite nominally running as a “progressive” Democrat. But who knows her real motives. The point is, Hillary should be called on it—by her fellow Democrats, and especially by Republicans.

The United States has already once this century seen neoconservatives leverage anger at a terrorist attack to start a war against a country that had nothing to do with the original attack. That was the Iraq war, and we and the peoples of the Europe and the Mideast are still paying the price.

Don’t let Hillary (an Iraq war supporter) lead us down that path again.

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative.

16 Comments (Open | Close)

16 Comments To "Has Hillary Learned Nothing From Iraq?"

#1 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 23, 2015 @ 6:32 am

I’m pretty sure all is lost for us. Our leadership is become as mad as any of the militarists down through the years who dreamed of conquering the world through violence. They seem to think that expanding war is some sort of panacea for what ails us, instead of having become the big part of what does ail us. I suppose these things have to play out to their inevitable end.

#2 Comment By Philip Giraldi On November 23, 2015 @ 7:28 am

The Clintons are all about Israel and all about money, with the two frequently overlapping. With that in mind, there is nothing that Hillary says that should surprise anyone. The sad part is that she is already anointed by the power brokers and is likely to be elected president as Scott notes. She will undoubtedly prove to be a disastrous head of state and we Americans will all have to pay the price.

#3 Comment By Jack Ross On November 23, 2015 @ 8:16 am

This is much more about Hillary’s deep psycholigcal need to not be seen as a weak woman than Haim Saban’s money.

Why haven’t you mentioned Bernie Sanders? He did very well in the second debate and has definitely found his voice on foreign policy. And his past record is quite good on immigration, however obscured by the needs of the primary, and his enemies have definitely taken note if not really seizing on it yet.

Stranger things have happened than for a white-haired secular Jew to be the voice of the silent majority. Sometimes there’s a man . . . well, he’s the man for his time and place.

#4 Comment By Fred Bowman On November 23, 2015 @ 8:22 am

Americans need to get over party labels as Republican’s neocons & Democrat’s liberal hawks are one and the same.

#5 Comment By JLF On November 23, 2015 @ 8:47 am

Arrrrgh!! All dem A-rabs look alike.

This reminds me of nothing so much as the wisdom of the late Louisiana congressman F. Edward Hebert, who said all the troubles of the Middle East would be solved if only the Muslims and the Jews would start acting like good Christians.

#6 Comment By Scott McConnell On November 23, 2015 @ 10:03 am

@Jack Ross,
I like Sanders much more than Hillary; if he wins something, will write about him. But truth be told, I think Hillary could be bested only by someone who seemed either much younger, more dynamic, or already had an establishment in place–Biden. The complete absence of, say, a potential Gary Hart figure seems shocking to me.

#7 Comment By Chris Chuba On November 23, 2015 @ 10:10 am

She is also in the chorus of ‘Assad must go’ in Syria to go for the hat trick, Iraq, Libya, and Syria in making the same exact mistake THREE times.

This is all the more unforgivable in light of the fact that the Russians have a far more reasonable plan, elections in a post-ISIS Syria to let the people of Syria decide.
So Hillary (and most Republicans) have the same Hubris, they all are imposing what they believe is best for another country rather than letting them decide.
Oh, the enemies list is ridiculous. We should be reaching out to everyone, including Iran and only resort to sanctions and force reluctantly when needed, not as part of some fanciful chess game.

#8 Comment By Alex Caruso On November 23, 2015 @ 10:14 am

Interventionism transcends party lines. Hawks exist on the Left and Right, and the doctrine they preach is as dangerous as ever. That’s what us Americans today yearn for, an authoritarian interventionist. I contend Vladimir Putin could win this time around.

#9 Comment By Frank Blangeard On November 23, 2015 @ 10:16 am

Hillary was raised in a Republican family. In a letter to her Methodist youth minister she described herself as a ‘mind conservative and a heart liberal’. She was president of Wellesley Young Republicans in her freshman year of college. She campaigned for many Republican candidates including Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller. It was after attending the Republican National Convention in 1968 that she switched to the Democratic Party. You could say that at that time she became a ‘mind liberal and a heart conservative’.

#10 Comment By Mr. Libertarian On November 23, 2015 @ 12:46 pm

Listen I have been saying this about Hillary Clinton for years now: Her apology about her 2002 vote for the Iraq War is utterly meaningless and devoid of content. It seems to me purely situational. It’s: “I’m sorry because it became a liability for me.” Normally, an apology comes with some recognition of wrongdoing, but I think for Clinton it was purely political. She learned absolutely nothing. You can see this now with how even on the campaign trail she is mystifyingly celebrating the Libyan War she was the ringleader (along with the other Valkyries, Power and Rice). She has pandered on everything else. She sounds tone deaf. But it is illuminating. No one who learned from Iraq would advocate destabilizing another Arab country. It’s very bad harbinger. If liberal Democrats are going to vote for Clinton over Sanders in the primary because they think she’s more electable, fine. But please don’t give me this rationalization that she learned from Iraq. She clearly hasn’t.

#11 Comment By Richard Broderick On November 23, 2015 @ 2:16 pm

As someone who has only voted for a Republican once in his life — and he was a moderate, not one of today’s GOP clowns — I can testify that I will never, ever cast a ballot for this woman. Oh, she’s going to turn out the vote, all right. The vote for whoever is running against her in the general election.

#12 Comment By Essayist-Lawyer On November 23, 2015 @ 4:28 pm

Have you seen NPR’s table on how the candidates stand:


Much as I dislike Ted Cruz, he and Bernie Sanders are the only ones who have clearly ruled out sending in grounds troops. Even Rand Paul is fudging the issue.

#13 Comment By mortimer On November 23, 2015 @ 5:36 pm

So the perfumed Princess of Foggy Bottom –who supported the destruction of stable governments in Libya, Egypt (Sinai), Syria, and Iraq–is now pinning for the destruction of Iran? That certainly would be a stimulus for the arms industry.

#14 Comment By RadicalCenter2.0 On November 23, 2015 @ 6:38 pm

Jack Ross: if I had to choose between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, I suppose Sanders. But luckily this is not my choice, as I don’t vote in the dem primaries.

Anything Sander gets right(from my vantagepoint, Rand Paul also gets right, without the unaffordable, unconstitutional socialist nonsense.

Also, I don’t trust Sanders to stick to his sensible immigration comments, or to his Second Amendment support, if he becomes the Dem nominee. Republican nominees are hard enough to trust on those issues, and a Dem base will for the most part be pushing Sanders to the wrong side of those issues ….

#15 Comment By balconesfault On November 23, 2015 @ 6:56 pm

I guess the slim consolation in a Hillary Presidency on the foreign policy front would be that with a Dem in the White House – there might actually be some level of interventionism that our current Congress might actually push back against. Since as we saw when Obama asked Congress to back military action against Syria – some number of Republicans aligned with the large coterie of Dems who were unwilling to approve that authority.

With a Republican in the White House – as we saw during the 2000’s – there is pretty much no level of military adventurism that a GOP led Congress would not sign off on, even if the Dems were in the majority opposed to the action.

#16 Comment By Josh C On November 23, 2015 @ 9:01 pm

OMG, as a long-time Democratic I find it almost scary to admit this, but I completely agree with this article as well as the broader foreign policy approach of this site (which I just discovered only a couple days ago admittedly). It’s stunning how we keep going round and round with the same failed policies time and again. What we need is a foreign policy based on a hard headed appraisal of American national interests, rather than what passes for a search for imperial glory.

I actually write a great myself on Russia and Ukraine, and am frequently called “Kremlin stooge” and the like because I take a realistic view of American national interests vis-a-vis Russia. It’s really disheartening to be on the receiving end of these insults, believe me.

What’s interesting is that many liberals could theoretically find common cause with the philosophy espoused here, yet somehow our side and this side have not managed to hook up politically. It would be a tactical alliance based largely on a more rational and realistic foreign policy, but there’s truly lots of overlap. Sadly, I’ve rarely seen much sign of this occurring…