Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Has Hillary Learned Nothing From Iraq?

Clinton's response to ISIS is to double down on neoconservative talking points.
Hillary Clinton strong defense

Oddsmakers consider Hillary as the most likely next president, 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 than what Republicans typically give, and clearly is knowledgeable. But some of those listening closely were troubled, 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” 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 Haim Saban—the biggest contributor 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.



Become a Member today for a growing stake in the conservative movement.
Join here!
Join here