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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Hillary Clinton's Geopolitical Mulligan

If you want a sneak peak at the concerns with having Hillary Clinton as President, read this two part article from The New York Times on the decisions she influenced regarding our involvement in Libya -- and if you think the death of four Americans in the Benghazi consulate is the gotcha, you really aren't seeing the entire chessboard.

Part 1: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/us/politics/hillary-clinton-libya.html
Part 2: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/us/politics/libya-isis-hillary-clinton.html

The nutshell summary of the two articles boils down to this pair of dueling philosophies:

Obama -- Don't do stupid things.
Clinton -- I'd rather be caught trying...

In Obama's view, doing stupid things amounts to acting in ways which ADD uncertainty to situations you already don't fully understand and can influence and control unless there is a DIRECT, quantified threat to American security. In Clinton's view, based in part upon watching WJC do nothing to prevent genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia, if something has a high likelihood of going bad, she would rather be "caught" trying to do something to improve the situation rather than doing nothing.

If you think HRC learned something from the mistake she made in voting for the Iraq war as one of one hundred Senators, the Times piece outlines her thought process for analyzing a nearly identical set of inputs nine years later in March 2011 from arguably a position of greater access to whatever information should have been available and a position of far greater influence. After all, rather than being one of one hundred Senators voting for a resolution, she was one of four leads -- Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, National Security Adviser and Vice President -- providing input directly to the President of the United States.

All the pieces were visible on the board:

  • a predominately Islamic country with tribal and sectarian divisions
  • a dictator who didn't operate a traditional government to perform basic public functions with any sense of continuity
  • a dictator who didn't operate a traditional military capable of securing the borders to keep external terrorist forces already loose in the region from entering
  • a dictator who didn't operate a traditional police force capable of maintaining order and security within the country
  • a complete lack of on-the-ground, third-party-verified intelligence about the political, social and economic picture within the country
Now think, Hillary. THINK. Where have we seen this mix of decision inputs before? Oh, was it October 11, 2002. Iraq, was it? Saddam, was it? How'd that turn out? How QUICKLY did that devolve from "Mission Accomplished" to daily summaries of American forces killed on the evening news and external terrorist forces over-running Iraqi borders?

So how did Hillary do with this geopolitical "mulligan?" With her credo of preferring to be "caught trying" and with the possibility of chaos anyway, she pushed for intervention that enabled the exact same chaos and INSECURITY as Iraq. The dictator was toppled, citizens had a brief period of euphoria followed by an attempt at elections only to see civilian control of the country collapse and allow extremists to use the country as additional bases to support attacks on populations in Iraq and Syria as well as Libya.

As a backward looking exercise, ultimately Barack Obama is responsible for the policies pursued in Libya and their ripple effects on the prior meltdown in Iraq and the contemporaneous meltdown in Syria. However, as a forward looking exercise, American voters now have their own mulligan or electoral do-over to ponder. How did we wind up with a set of presidential candidates who are either hell-bent on intervention and US military involvement or, in the case of Bernie Sanders, have little foreign policy experience or ties to known foreign policy / military experts to understand their decision making process?

If eight years of experience watching a spouse as President, eight years as Senator and six years as Secretary of State don't provide enough judgement and temperament to avoid these "unforced error" foreign policy and military mistakes, how well are ANY of the remaining candidates going to do in this area?