by Brent Budowsky
As world leaders gather in New York for the annual meeting of the United Nations, and as President Obama issues a call to arms to the nations of the world to wage a war against the most genocidal terrorists of our times, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and as Russian dictator Vladimir Putin continues his illegal invasion of sovereign Ukraine, let’s take stock of national politics and global security.
This column reconsiders the potential presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton and offers a warning about the sad state of American politics and of political mediocrity throughout the democratic world.
The tentative Western response to the aggression of Putin and the ability of the mass-murdering terrorist group ISIS to seize control of one-third to one-half of Iraq and Syria are the latest consequences of the weakest generation of politicians since the 1920s and early 1930s, which infects the United Nations, NATO, the European Union and the Arab League.
From 2012 until recent days, Obama rejected the unanimous advice of his secretary of State, his secretary of Defense, his CIA director and his chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to provide strong support to the Free Syrian Army, which he recently derided as former pharmacists while suggesting that giving it strong support was a fantasy.
Wisely, the president has reversed course, though many commanders have grave private misgivings about a major bombing campaign conducted without support from reliable ground forces. When military leaders ask for ground-based reinforcements if needed, no president should preemptively say no. But Obama did. NATO leaders do.
The president was not alone. As ISIS advanced, NATO, a divided and discordant European Union, and the Arab League were asleep at the wheel. Last week, a dysfunctional and unpopular Congress granted short-term approval to a partial policy during its few working hours between its months of recess.
Various presidential aspirants did not distinguish themselves with depth or resolve. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) vow to destroy ISIS. Yet they oppose arming the Free Syrian Army. They oppose using ground forces. How would they destroy ISIS? They cannot say.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), when asked about national security, says bad guys will not mess with him because he is a tough guy, a strategy more worthy of a tavern than the White House Situation Room. Christie’s lightweight security views and Paul’s eccentric flip-flops should disqualify them from becoming commander in chief.
Given the weak state of political leadership at a time of national security danger, two potential presidents rise above the crowd. The first is Mitt Romney, whose foreign policy views in the 2012 race were credible. The second is Clinton.
I strongly opposed the Iraq War in 2003 and have been supportive — and at times constructively critical — of Clinton. Observing various potential presidents react in real time to global crises, however, one point becomes paramount: unlike most leading politicians of democratic nations, Clinton possesses an intelligent and coherent world view, grounded in experience and rooted in history. Her views are not calculated to be the most popular. They are not always the most popular.
When Clinton said years ago we should have supported Syrian rebels, she was right. America would be safer today if her advice had been heeded then.
When Clinton described Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as reminiscent of Hitler’s attack on European nations prior to World War II, she was right. Europe would be safer today if NATO’s response to Putin had been stronger then.
Hillary Clinton understands that the best way to avoid war is to be strong enough to deter war, while the only way to destroy ISIS is to win a war that must be fought and won. Her ad about who should answer the red phone in the middle of the night was more true than we realized, and could be the decisive factor in 2016.