Sunday, March 1, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

David Brooks: Clinton, Obama and Iraq

DavidBrooksW

By
From page B4 | August 17, 2014 |

Last week, Hillary Clinton had a fascinating interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic. The interview got immediate attention because of the way she discussed her differences with President Barack Obama.

While admitting that no one will ever know who was right, Clinton argues that Obama might have done more to help the moderate opposition in Syria fight the regime of President Bashar Assad.

“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad … left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” she told Goldberg.

While showing lavish respect for the president’s intelligence and judgment, Clinton also made it clear that she’d be a more aggressive foreign policy leader.

“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” she said, citing Obama’s famous phrase.

But the interview also illuminates the different flavors of Democratic thinking on foreign policy. We are now living in what we might as well admit is the Age of Iraq. The past four presidents have found themselves drawn into that nation because it epitomizes the core problem at the center of so many crises: the interaction between failing secular governance and radical Islam.

In her interview with Goldberg, Clinton likens the current moment to the Cold War. The United States confronts a diverse global movement, motivated by a hostile ideology: jihadism.

“Jihadist groups are governing territory,” she said. “They will never stay there, though. They are driven to expand.”

This jihadism shows up in many contexts, but whether in Gaza or Syria or Iraq, she says, “it is all one big threat.”

Clinton speaks as a Truman-Kennedy Democrat. She’s obviously much, much more multilateral than Republicans, but there’s a certain muscular tone, a certain assumption that there will be hostile ideologies that threaten America. There is also a grand strategic cast to her mind. The U.S. has to come up with an “overarching” strategy, she told Goldberg, to contain, deter and defeat anti-democratic foes.

She argues that harsh action is sometimes necessary.

“I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets,” she declared, embracing recent Israeli policy. “There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict. … So the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas.”

This tone sometimes stands in tension with the approach that Obama articulated in his West Point speech in the spring or in his interview with my colleague Thomas Friedman last week.

Obama has carefully not organized a large part of his foreign policy around a war against jihadism. The foreign policy vision he describes is, as you’d expect from a former law professor, built around reverence for certain procedures: compromise, inclusiveness, rules and norms. The threat he described in his West Point speech was a tactic, terrorism, not an ideology, jihadism. His main argument was against a means not an end: the efficacy of military action.

Obama is notably cautious, arguing that the U.S. errs when it tries to do too much. The cast of his mind is against intervention. Sometimes, when the situation demands it, he goes against his natural temperament (he told Friedman that he regrets not getting more involved in Libya), but it takes a mighty shove, and he is resistant all the way. In his West Point speech, he erected barriers to action. He argued, for example, that the U.S. could take direct action only when “there is near certainty of no civilian casualties.” (This is not a standard that Franklin Roosevelt would have applied.)

Obama and Clinton represent different Democratic tendencies. In their descriptions of the current situation in Iraq, Clinton emphasizes that there cannot be inclusive politics unless the caliphate is seriously pushed back, while Obama argues that we will be unable to push back the caliphate unless the Iraqis themselves create inclusive politics. The Clinton language points toward some sort of intervention. Obama’s points away from it, although he may be forced by events into being more involved.

It will be fascinating to see how Clinton’s approach plays in Democratic primaries. (I’d bet she is going to get a more serious challenge than people now expect.) In practice, the Clinton approach strikes me as more sound, for the same reason that early intervention against cancer is safer than late-term surgery. In the Middle East, malevolent groups like the Islamic State grow unless checked. Even in situations where our “friends” are dysfunctional, the world has to somehow check them, using a multitude of levers. Having done so little in Syria and Iraq for the past year, we can end the caliphate or we can stay out of Iraq, but we can’t do both.

If you don’t take steady, aggressive preventive action, of the sort that Clinton leans toward, then you end up compelled to take the sort of large risky action that Obama abhors.

Comments

comments

.

News

Sheriff: Mother ‘sole person responsible’ for infant’s death

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Rifle Team has a blast with competitive shooting

By Savannah Holmes | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Child abduction case in jury’s hands

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

 
Pipeline project will soften water in 2016

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

Pig out at Farmers Market’s Pig Day

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1

 
Christie to Republicans: No rush to pick 2016 nominee

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Bob Dunning: Colon prep can be hard to swallow

By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

 
Scouts help fill STEAC’s pantry

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

Weekend storm drops snow, rain, hail in California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
City offers wetlands tour

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Parole denied in 1987 killing spree

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Explore Asia at Arboretum storytime

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

MU Games closing in late March

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
Still no parole in toddler case

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

UCD student with meningococcal disease is recovering

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Young patients bond with special stuffies

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Diversity theater group continues creativity workshops

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Radio talk show moves to Mondays

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Assault awareness campaign kicks off

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

 
UCD student panel to cover anti-Semitism, Islamophobia

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

Yolo Food Bank hosts thank-you breakfast on Pig Day

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
.

Forum

Milt Priggee cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: B4

 
Rowing: PE as well as life skills

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

Police complaint procedures drafted

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

 
Clarifying energy update letter

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

Weekly claw pickup necessary

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

 
Mars or ISIS? Similar outcome

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

City may get charged up over energy choices

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

 
Speak out

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B5

 
Design innovation centers for the 21st century

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

A new perspective on life

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A7

 
Distant water crisis has lessons for Davis

By Marion Franck | From Page: A7

Call for study to settle if anesthesia poses risk to babies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

 
Aggie men get a bounce-back win at Cal Poly

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

The mystery continues: lowly Gauchos upset UCD women

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Devils get a soccer win despite finishing woes

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Winning close games is the key for DHS softballers

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Razo throws well as Aggies get a baseball win

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Defending champion Blue Devils have diamond holes to fill

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Republic FC falls to storied New York Cosmos

By Evan Ream | From Page: B10

.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

Yolo Federal Credit Union honored for supporting business education

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

 
Online store will celebrate, mock People’s Republic of Davis

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A10 | Gallery

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, March 1, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B8