Yesterday, Hillary Clinton gave a speech on her strategy for countering ISIS yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations. If anything it exhibited anything at all it was that she was completely bereft of insight, introspection, and ideas. Broken down, here are her main themes.
Assume Away the Russians
We should also work with the coalition and the neighbors to impose no-fly zones that will stop Assad from slaughtering civilians and the opposition from the air.
Right now, I’m afraid, President Putin is actually making things somewhat worse.
Now, to be clear, though, there is an important role for Russia to help in resolving the conflict in Syria. And we have indicated a willingness to work with them toward an outcome that preserves Syria as a unitary, nonsectarian state, with protections for the rights of all Syrians and to keep key state institutions intact.
There is no alternative to a political transition that allows Syrians to end Assad’s rule.
If there is burning bush in this speech that says Clinton is clueless it is her take on Russia. She assumes, for instance, that Russia wants or needs an end to the conflict in Syria. She assumes Russia wants to work with the United States. She ignores the fact that keeping Assad, or someone very much like Assad, in power is a red line for the Russians and it is why they are in Syria in the first place. She ignores the fact that Russia is flying strikes against the “opposition” and any no-fly zone means either we are willing to shoot down Russian aircraft.
In the question and answer session, she amplifies upon her view with gibberish as a result:
I am advocating the second, a no-fly zone principally over northern Syria close to the Turkish (ph) border, cutting off the supply lines, trying to provide some safe refuges for refugees so they don’t have to leave Syria, creating a safe space away from the barrel bombs and the other bombardments by the Syrians. And I would certainly expect to and hope to work with the Russians to be able to do that.
Any aircraft in this no-fly zone would be Syrian. If the Russians wanted a safe haven, they would simply tell Assad to stop. But they haven’t. So the odds of the Russians standing idly by while we shoot down Syrian aircraft approaches zero. And if these “supply lines” are going over the border to Turkey and need to be stopped, wouldn’t the easy way be for the Turks to close their border? If they aren’t, why might that be?
Assume Away the Iranians
The United States should also work with our Arab partners to get them more invested in the fight against ISIS. At the moment, they’re focused in other areas because of their concerns in the region, especially the threat from Iran. That’s why the Saudis, for example, shifted attention from Syria to Yemen. So we have to work out a common approach.
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.
I ran down Clinton’s “comprehensive plan to counter Iranian influence”, weak sauce, to be sure. To her credit, she seems to recognize that Iran is part of the problem not part of the solution. That, alone, is a quantum shift in US policy away from the way Obama has treated Iran. But the wishful thinking that permeates this is stunning. How, in light of our record over the past seven years, of betraying out allies do we build that confidence? How do we raise costs for Iran? Is Clinton aware that we gave away sanctions with the Iran nuclear deal? Is she advocating striking at the Iranians militarily? Which of our allies will restrict the flow of Iranian men and equipment into Syria? Iraq?
When I became secretary of State, I was surprised to find that nearly a decade after 9/11, there was still no dedicated international vehicle to regularly convene key countries to deal with terrorist threats.
So, we created the Global Counterterrorism Forum, which now brings together nearly 30 countries, many from the Muslim world. It should be a clearing house for directing assistance to countries that need it, for mobilizing common action against threats.
And how did that work out for you? When you became Secretary of State there was no ISIS. Now there is . How effective has this Forum been against ISIS? This is the typical progressive dodge of mistaking meetings and process for actually accomplishing something.
After a major terrorist attack, every society faces a choice between fear and resolve. The world’s great democracies can’t sacrifice our values or turn our backs on those in need. Therefore, we must choose resolve. And we must lead the world to meet this threat.
This is one of the false choices that progressives are always presenting. I think the conservative response is that we aren’t turning out backs on those in need because terrorists really don’t need to be admitted to the United States as refugees. Following the law is one of our values and that is why there is widespread objection to bring in refugees in obvious violation of US law.
Later in the Q&A, she blames Republicans for the any bad impact of the TPP.
The other side of the coin, though, is we have been doing so little — because of Republican opposition, mostly, to better train and prepare people who have been, really, either sidelined or whacked up in — against their head by globalization.
Radicalization and recruitment also is happening online. There’s no doubt we have to do a better job contesting online space, including websites and chat rooms where jihadists communicate with followers. We must deny them virtual territory just as we deny them actual territory.
At the State Department, I built up a unit of communication specialists fluent in Urdu, Arabic, Somali and other languages to battle with extremists online.
We need more of that, including from the private sector. Social media companies can also do their part by swiftly shutting down terrorist accounts, so they’re not used to plan, provoke or celebrate violence.
The mind freakin boggles. Because, you know, the potential jihadi is going to see a flame war going on between a ISIS person and a State Department employee and totally change their mind about becoming a terrorist. And tactically, shutting down terrorist accounts doesn’t make much sense. If they are operating with your knowledge they are providing what, in the trade, is called “intelligence.”
Secret Ingredient: the Magic Wand
This is the one thing that Hillary needs to make her ideas work: a magic wand.
Ultimately, however, a ground campaign in Iraq will only succeed if more Iraqi Sunnis join the fight
But nonetheless, we need to lay the foundation for a second Sunni awakening. We need to put sustained pressure on the government in Baghdad to get its political house in order, move forward with national reconciliation, and finally stand up a national guard. Baghdad needs to accept, even embrace, arming Sunni and Kurdish forces in the war against ISIS. But if Baghdad won’t do that, the coalition should do so directly.
And we should retool and ramp up our efforts to support and equip viable Syrian opposition units.
As difficult as it may be, we need to get Turkey to stop bombing Kurdish fighters in Syria who are battling ISIS, and become a full partner in our coalition efforts against ISIS.
The intellectual bankruptcy here is apparent to even the most casual observer. What is stunning in this is the way she describes a world in which things just happen. For instance, she says this on the subject of getting Iraqi Sunnis into the fight:
Now, we’ve been in a similar place before in Iraq. In the first Sunni awakening in 2007, we were able to provide sufficient support and assurances to the Sunni tribes to persuade them to join us in rooting out Al Qaida. Unfortunately, under Prime Minister Maliki’s rule, those tribes were betrayed and forgotten.
So the task of bringing Sunnis off the sidelines into this new fight will be considerably more difficult. But nonetheless, we need to lay the foundation for a second Sunni awakening. We need to put sustained pressure on the government in Baghdad to get its political house in order, move forward with national reconciliation, and finally stand up a national guard. Baghdad needs to accept, even embrace, arming Sunni and Kurdish forces in the war against ISIS. But if Baghdad won’t do that, the coalition should do so directly.
There are two issues here which tell you that placing Iraqi Sunni cooperation in a critical role is profoundly stupid. First, why were the Sunni tribes “betrayed and forgotten,” and more importantly, who did the betraying and forgetting? Well, that would be Barack Hussein Obama and his Secretary of State, a doddering old hag named Hillary Clinton. The Sunni tribes never trusted the Baghdad government but they did make the mistake of trusting the United States. With no diplomatic presence in Iraq worth mentioning and no on-the-ground representation to the Sunni tribes, how does she propose to bring this off? Presumably by magic.
The second part of the equation is that the government in Baghdad… and its master in Tehran… are perfectly content with the situation in western Iraq. They have no incentive to put fighting ISIS, in Sunni areas, high on their priority list. Likewise, they are very unlikely to go along with arming Sunnis and Kurds who are looking at this as a way of establishing autonomy from Baghdad.
In short, if her strategy could work, it would have worked by now because this is exactly what the Obama administration has tried to do.
There You Have It
Hillary’s foreign policy speech, to anyone who has been following American foreign policy over the past seven years, was a mishmash of warmed over failed ideas and wishful thinking that got us into this mess to begin with. But according to Clinton, Obama’s strategy is working well. We just need it to be longer, bigger, and harder. All we have to do is get the Turks to stop bombing the Kurds, the Russians to cut Assad free, the Iraqis to step up, the Iranians to behave themselves, and give the jihadis a beatdown on Twitter and we will have won. So long as we don’t sink into fear… and we have the batteries in that magic wand.