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Syria and Clinton’s Record of Terrible Foreign Policy Judgment

William Galston wrings his hands [1] over Obama’s recent criticism of his Syria critics:

Mr. Obama knows that proposals to further embroil the U.S. in another Middle Eastern conflict are very unpopular—especially with the base of the Democratic Party. He cannot possibly believe that Mrs. Clinton would advocate a no-fly zone to improve her chances of winning the nomination. As he understands full well, she is saying what she believes, consistent with her past (spurned) advice to him, and with the perspective and knowledge of a veteran senior government official.

It is hard to believe that Clinton would think that endorsing the insanity of a “no-fly zone” in Syria improves her chances of winning the nomination. To the extent that Democratic voters are paying attention to this, it will almost certainly make things more difficult for her during the nomination contest. Even so, Galston misses the point here. Obama obviously thinks the position Clinton has endorsed is a bad one (and it is), but because she is the front-runner for his party’s nomination he probably thinks he has to minimize her support for an irresponsible policy and dismiss it as nothing more than a maneuver. In other words, he is cutting Clinton slack because he doesn’t want to damage her political prospects, which is what he would do if he treated her as the person with the horrible foreign policy judgment that she clearly is. Clinton’s position is much worse than Obama suggests. She isn’t “playing politics” in the sense that she is pandering to her party’s voters, but rather she is instinctively backing more aggressive measures as she has always done throughout her public career. It’s part of a pattern of making terrible decisions regarding military intervention that she has exhibited for the last two decades.

Clinton’s preference for a more hawkish approach to Syria is proof that as bad as Obama’s Syria policy has been it is easy to imagine how it could be worse and more costly for the U.S.

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8 Comments To "Syria and Clinton’s Record of Terrible Foreign Policy Judgment"

#1 Comment By Double Down On October 7, 2015 @ 12:38 am

“she is saying what she believes, consistent with her past (spurned) advice to him, and with the perspective and knowledge of a veteran senior government official.”

The idea that Hillary Clinton “believes” in anything is grimly amusing. There is no more amoral politician in America. She “believes” in this no-fly zone the way she and her husband “believed” in the Defense of Marriage Act.

Anticipating that she’ll be the Dem nominee, she’s looking beyond the primary and playing to the interventionist tendency that cuts across the elites of both parties. She must have strong elite support to win, and she’s showing that she still belongs to the club and can be relied on to keep the interventions and entanglements coming.

#2 Comment By Junior On October 7, 2015 @ 1:05 am

But the thing is that she IS playing politics as they are now defined in this post-Citizens-United world. She is not pandering to the voters, she is pandering to the Donors.

As I’ve said before this election is not about Democrats vs. Republicans, it’s about Populists vs. Establishment. Clinton is trying to prove to the Donor-class that she is more Establishment than Biden and will give them the wars that will fill their pockets. She hopes that they will give her their money and backing along with the media which they own.

Our system is broken. Our politicians could care less what the people want. They only care about what the donors want. Obama knows this and that’s why he said that she’s playing politics.

#3 Comment By Sean McCormick On October 7, 2015 @ 8:56 am

While I suspect the effect will lessen once there have been a few women presidents, for the moment any female candidate is going to be highly likely to pursue overly aggressive and hawkish policies in an attempt to prove that they are tough enough for the job. That’s how you get Fiorina’s inane calls for another round of military buildups, and at this point Clinton just seems to reflexively reach for the most aggressive position she can hold without completely alienating the Democratic base. It’s an understandable thing to do, but it probably cost her the nomination in 2008, and it won’t do anything to slow down Bernie Sanders’ momentum now.

#4 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 7, 2015 @ 8:57 am

“Clinton’s preference for a more hawkish approach to Syria is proof that as bad as Obama’s Syria policy has been it is easy to imagine how it could be worse and more costly for the U.S.”

The end of the Soviet Union was never going to be the end of Russsian influence. The Russians were not going to fade gently into that good night. But the end of the Soviet System should have been an indication that war was not the only means of holding communism at bay, perhaps, history indicates, it’s the least effective.

When Sec Clinton wanted to move heavy weapons systems into the Ukraine, that sent a clear message about her ability to think creatively about a mess she encouraged to take place.

One would think her reliance on the use of force better reflects where she stands on transforing our domestic reliance on the same here in the US.

#5 Comment By Jonathan Lester On October 7, 2015 @ 3:32 pm

It must be about big donors, because there’s no other remotely sensible reason why Clinton would campaign on the same Tom Cotton-stupid idea that Marco Rubio has expressed almost verbatim.

#6 Comment By balconesfault On October 7, 2015 @ 5:43 pm

I think Doubledown, Junior/Jonathan, and Sean are all correct.

The pandering to the elites is obvious. The military industrial complex needs fed, and the backlash against any candidate it truly feared overturning the status quo dynamic would be momentous. An uber-cautious politician like Clinton has to keep the general election in mind.

And a woman can easily get framed by the media as “weak” if she doesn’t go over the top, no matter how effective and informed a politician she is. Nancy Pelosi would have no chance winning a general election – the big money would quickly have all the low-information voters in the country thinking that electing her would be akin to giving ISIS the keys to the Middle East and Al Qaeda the ability to blow up half of America.

But it is also worth considering – American voters are tremendously fickle on how they view foreign policy – but when they don’t understand a situation fully most instinctively side with the interventionist crowd.

This is a flip of 180 degrees from America of 100 years ago, when schoolchildren memorized Washington’s farewell address and internalized the idea of America prospering by staying out of foreign entanglements. This is what made getting us into WWI so difficult for Wilson.

Instead, the modern kool-aid is how America’s power as wielded by Ronald Wilson Reagan forced the “evil empire” to “tear down the wall” … or how anything short of a military response to any tin-pot mullah or dictator in the world is akin to appeasing Hitler.

Ever play a game to guess closest to a number between 1 and 100? If your opponent picks anything other than 50 … you pick the number 1 digit closer to 50 than their number.

The GOP keeps picking 90, wrt to foreign policy … so the Dems are going to keep picking 80 – a gap big enough to demonstrate a true difference between the two parties, while small enough to ensure the majority of the populace is captured.

And sadly, thanks to the WWII analogies and the Reagan mythology, American sentiment seems to range from 50-80 at any time on that scale. There’s no percentage in the general election for a Democratic candidate positioning themselves much to the left of where Hillary is sitting.

#7 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On October 7, 2015 @ 7:53 pm

The idea that putting women in high office will make things more peaceful has no empirical support. Hillary, Power, and Rice were the authors of the Libya debacle. La Albright is quoted as asking why we have all these expensive weapons if we don’t use them, and starving Iraq was worth it.

To the extent she has convictions at all, Hillary’s seem to be hawkish.

Tremble for the Republic when Trump makes more sense on war and peace than most of the rest in either party.

#8 Comment By cameyer On October 7, 2015 @ 10:14 pm

Obama’s Syria policy is bad because of Clinton. As the fight steamed ahead, here we had the Secretary of State negotiating with Russia over a UN resolution calling for political negotiations. But she formed the bulwark of the ‘Assad must go’ chorus. 2300 Syrians were dead compared to over 200,000 today. Is a resolution calling for ‘Assad to go” worth 200,000 lives? Whether Assad goes is up to the Syrian people, not the UN.