This weekend, Hillary went on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Parry to discuss the Obama administration’s fumbling response to the Islamic State (see here and here or click on videos above) and the West’s rising tensions with Russia over Ukraine (see here or click on videos above). Regarding the calls for the Obama administration to expand the current U.S. air campaign against IS targets in northern Iraq into Syria as well, Hillary recounts
“I remember a year ago this weekend. I was on a different program [see here], and I said, ‘Wait a minute. Don’t go bomb Assad’s military in Syria, because they’re one of the only militaries that’s fighting ISIS. We’ll essentially be al-Qa’ida or ISIS’ air force if we do so.’ The president was correct, even though he took a lot of backlash, not to bomb Assad’s army last year, and he’s probably correct not to [mount a bombing campaign against ISIS] this year, because that’s exactly what ISIS wants—they want the United States back in, full throttle, to send hundreds of thousands of troops back and make this an all-out war with the United States to take over their swath of the Middle East.”
And, while Obama’s surely more-revealing-than-he-intended acknowledgment, “We don’t have a strategy,” was maladroit in the extreme, Hillary reminds,
“In the Bush administration, we forget, but it took the administration about a month to come up with plans to attack Afghanistan. They also had no strategy, even though al-Qa’ida had been attacking us for six years, from 1995 on. We knew al-Qa’ida, we knew Afghanistan, but we had no strategy.
My concern is that the president—and it isn’t just the president, but it’s the entire foreign policy elite and bureaucracy—has not learned a thing since 9/11. Here we are—we know Iraq, we had 150,000 troops there, we were there for years, we bombed that country for a long time. We know the situation, and we still don’t have a strategy…
If there were a strategy, it would actually tell the American public the hard things they need to hear, which is that you don’t partner with, align with, have coalitions just with countries that have like-minded, so-called ‘values.’ You deal with countries as they are—like Iran and Assad’s Syria, who are the only governments in the region fighting ISIS. And to have this policy that keeps them in the ground is enormously destructive to the United States.”
Hillary points out another serious defect in the U.S. policy discussion—namely, political and policy elites’ collective and willful refusal to acknowledge that the Islamic State has popular support:
“A Saudi-funded newspaper, Al Hayat, did a poll in Saudi Arabia, of Saudi public opinion. They found that 92 percent of Saudis believe that ISIS conforms to their view of Islamic values and Islamic law. So we have our head in the sand—that this makes no sense, everybody hates [ISIS], and we can recruit our Sunni autocracies as allies to fund even more Sunni militants to deal with this. That is insane…
[T]o the extent that we support governments, like the Saudi government, that Saudis themselves and ISIL have as their target—their target is to bring down the Saudi government, to bring down the other Gulf autocracies and take over the heart of the Hijaz, Mecca and Medina—to the extent we are sending $60 billion in weapons systems to Saudi Arabia, ISIS has us in their sights. Remember that the execution of [James] Foley happened not just because they were looking to kill an American, but when we started bombing them in Iraq. It’s a very deliberate, sophisticated military strategy.”
On Russia and Ukraine, Hillary offers up the critically important but almost universally avoided truth about the self-damaging quality of America’s increasingly promiscuous resort to financial sanctions as a foreign policy tool (a truth that can also be made with reference to U.S. policy toward Iran):
“Not that I would agree to use force, but President Obama preemptively, almost immediately, and repeatedly has taken force off the table, and has said that we’re essentially going to rely on sanctions—sanctions that have not affected Russian calculations, and we have no basis to believe they will affect Russian calculations. What we do know about sanctions is that it will be extremely counterproductive for us. It will accelerate the replacement of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. We’ve seen Russia and China coming closer together, the increase in the Chinese currency, the RMB, [becoming] more accepted internationally. And once foreigners stop wanting the dollar, we’re done as a superpower.”
But that’s where the flailing and failing American hegemon seems determined to go.
–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett