Hillary Clinton and Syria: Stupidity or Something Worse?

In
any critical study of US foreign policy, one question is bound to arise: Are
they really this stupid?

By
“they” I am of course referring to the politicians and advisers that have set
and implemented the disastrous course of foreign intervention. The question
is aimed at trying to explain these repetitive failures.

Depending
on the politician at hand, stupidity can offer a reasonably persuasive explanation
for foreign policy decisions (ahem, George W. Bush and Iraq comes to mind).
But for many others, it doesn’t seem to apply. For example, I do not think President
Obama or Secretary Hillary Clinton are stupid or ignorant on matters of foreign
policy. In spite of this, they have still committed many of the same mistakes
as their predecessors – overthrowing sovereign governments, backing dubious radical
groups, etc.

I raise this point because we now have new evidence which confirms that, in
fact, Clinton is quite knowledgeable about one of today’s most prominent foreign
policy issues, Syria. The evidence comes from a transcript of Clinton’s notorious
Goldman Sachs speeches, which were recently leaked by WikiLeaks This particular
speech occurred in June 2013, before President Obama’s more public push for
strikes directly against the Syrian government.

In
the speech, Clinton displays a remarkably accurate grasp of the players and
forces at work in the Syrian conflict. Indeed, her characterization is not altogether
different from one you might read from me or other commentators that support
nonintervention. The problem is that, in spite of her understanding of the situation
and the risks involved, she supports a dangerous strategy of intervention anyway.
Here are some relevant excerpts from a talk she
gave in June 2013 (emphasis mine):

So
let’s just take a step back and look at the situation that we currently have
in Syria. When – before the uprising started in Syria it was clear that you
had a minority government running with the Alawites in lead with mostly the
other minority groups – Christians, the Druze, some significant Sunni business
leaders. But it was clearly a minority that sat on top of a majority. And the
uprisings when they began were fairly mild in terms of what they were asking
for, and Assad very well could have in my view bought them off with some cosmetic
changes that would not have resulted in what we have seen over the now two years
and the hundred thousand deaths and the destabilization that is going on in
Lebanon, in Jordan, even in Turkey, and the threat throwing to Israel and the
kind of pitched battle in Iran well supported by Russia, Saudi, Jordanians and
others trying to equip the majority Sunni fighters.

Here,
Clinton is acknowledging that, at least by 2013, the conflict had devolved into
a complicated proxy war….

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