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 Earlier this week Hillary Clinton firmly pointed the finger of blame at President Obama for the ongoing disaster in Syria.

 “The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said.
 Since then a lot of people have talked about the political implications of her effort to distance herself from Obama.
  However, few have bothered to actually question the accuracy of the statement - that we could have saved the moderate rebels while overthrowing the Assad dictatorship.
FILE - This July 23, 2014, file photo shows former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she speaks at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) in Oakland, Calif. The Associated Press has tracked the movements and machinations of more than a dozen prospective presidential candidates including Clinton. (AP Photo)

 Hillary didn't always feel this way about Syria.

 In February 2012, she told CBS News that the U.S. doesn’t really know who it would be arming if it went down that road in Syria.
   “What are we going to arm them with and against what? … Are we supporting Al Qaeda in Syria? Hamas is now supporting the opposition. Are we supporting Hamas in Syria?” she said, echoing the apparent concerns of the administration.
    Downplaying the uprisings at the time in Syria, she said: “So if you're a military planner or if you're a secretary of State and you're trying to figure out do you have the elements of an opposition that is actually viable, that we don't see.”
 Secretary Hillary of early 2012 had very good questions that required good answers, answers that Presidential candidate Hillary of 2014 hasn't bothered to offer.

  So who is right? SoS Hillary Clinton circa 2012, or presidential candidate Hillary Clinton circa 2014?
  According to an essay by George Washington University's Marc Lynch, SoS Hillary Clinton, and President Obama, was closer to being correct.

   The academic literature is not encouraging. In general, external support for rebels almost always make wars longer, bloodier and harder to resolve. Worse, as the University of Maryland's David Cunningham has shown, Syria had most of the characteristics of the type of civil war in which external support for rebels is least effective. The University of Colorado's Aysegul Aydin and Binghamton University's Patrick Regan have suggested that external support for a rebel group could help when all the external powers backing a rebel group are on the same page and effectively cooperate in directing resources to a common end. Unfortunately, Syria was never that type of civil war. Going claim by claim, it gets even more impressive...
   Could the US have made the rebels strong enough to beat the Syrian government or ISIS? No again. Lynch cites research by the University of Chicago's Paul Staniland finding that giving "material support" to rebels is "unlikely to trigger deep organizational change. This means that foreign backing for undisciplined groups will not do much."
   And no, the US probably couldn't have even found "the good rebels" anyway. Research from MIT Professor Fotini Christia, according to Lynch, finds that loose networks of rebel groups almost always collapse into each other. It's impossible to keep track of who's on whose side absent clear organizational structure. Indeed, Lynch points out, even America's current, very limited "support the rebels" policy has backed groups that have aligned with ISIS.
 The proof of the last claim, that we couldn't have even found "the good rebels" anyway is proven by Senator McCain's little trip to Syria. The guy standing behind him is a kidnapper.
 Another flaw in Hillary's NeoCon fantasy is the idea that sending weapons to Syrian rebels would have changed everything. In fact, there has been enormous quantities of weapons going to Syrian rebels.
 Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats.
   “The opposition groups that are receiving the most of the lethal aid are exactly the ones we don’t want to have it,” said one American official familiar with the outlines of those findings, commenting on an operation that in American eyes has increasingly gone awry.
So ISIS and other jihadists were going to be getting lots of weapons anyway.
   What needs to be done is for people to call out presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on this claim and say that they don't believe her. They should demand that she explain what she did with Secretary Hillary Clinton, that seemed to have a better grasp on the situation.

"the idea that more U.S. support for the FSA [Free Syrian Army] would have prevented the emergence of the Islamic State isn’t even remotely plausible."
 - Marc Lynch

  Meanwhile in Syria, the situation of the non-ISIS rebels appears dire.

 The fate of Syria's Western-backed opposition hangs on a knife edge in the northern part of the war-torn country -- and with radical Sunni militants and regime forces closing in on them from all sides, time may be running out.
 Given the situation, it appears more constructive to offer ideas of what to do going forward than to pointing fingers behind.
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Comment Preferences

  •  It's the same thinking around the Iraq war, imo (8+ / 0-)

    In 2003, I think even a lot of Democrats felt the war would go easily. Get rid of Saddam, we are greeted as liberators, the fighting is over in six months, they'll form a government quickly, and the oil revenue will pay for the reconstruction.

    Republicans said all those things, but I think the Dems who supported the war bought into that. That's why they voted for the war.

    It's the exact same thing here. Just arm the moderate rebels, and everything will perfectly fall into place. But it's just as wrong now as the Iraq thinking was, as you note in the diary.

    And I think you are also right, that many pundits havent looked at the substance(not surprisingly) of what Clinton has said. I think most Dems disagree on the substance, and that's why these comments got a lot of attention.

    •  i don't so much mind her distancing, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gjohnsit, jj32

      she wants to win, but I want smart distancing, saying now that health care is a done deal, she'll be pushing harder for universal  pre-school and trades training/tech training in high school.  

      I am relieved that she knows this, and just worried that she isn't campaigning very smartly. Thanks for this. I thank gjohnsit for this find.  

      plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

      by anna shane on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 01:19:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  In comparing 2012 and 2014,.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lying eyes

    ...you've skipped 2013 which was the decision point in question.  At that point, at least according to some, the government was at its weakest (compared to before or since), and the non-Islamist armed opposition was at its strongest.  Clinton in 2014 is questioning the decision made in 2013 not to support those rebels--she isn't calling into question the decision not to so in early 2012.  I think all of this is more than legitimate debate fodder, but it would be helpful to depict things accurately.  And that next-to-last block quote arguably makes Clinton's point, not yours: if Saudi Arabia and Qatar were preferentially supplying Islamist fighters, one solution would have been for the US to supply the non-Islamist ones.  

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 12:55:09 PM PDT

    •  To put things accurately (6+ / 0-)

      It was all over by 2013. According to IHS Jane's:

       Two factions linked to al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) - also know as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) - have come to dominate among the more extremist fighters, Mr Lister said.
       Out of the estimated 100,000 rebels, 10,000 were jihadists and another 35,000 were directly aligned with jihadists.
        Only around 10,000 rebels could have been considered "moderates" by western definitions.

        As for your point of "one solution would have been for the US to supply the non-Islamist ones". If that was so easy then why did President Obama do this in the summer of 2013:

       President Obama waived a provision of federal law designed to prevent the supply of arms to terrorist groups to clear the way for the U.S. to provide military assistance to “vetted” opposition groups fighting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
      It looks like proof that Obama had no confidence in the vetting process.

      "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

      by gjohnsit on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 01:02:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The link says "nearly half are jihadists" (0+ / 0-)

        That leaves more than half who weren't.  So much for your first point.  As for the second, I don't even understand what your point it.  

        It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

        by Rich in PA on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 01:39:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Let me help you understand (7+ / 0-)

          The whole article quote goes like this:

           The new study by IHS Jane's, a defence consultancy, estimates there are around 10,000 jihadists - who would include foreign fighters - fighting for powerful factions linked to al-Qaeda..
            Another 30,000 to 35,000 are hardline Islamists who share much of the outlook of the jihadists, but are focused purely on the Syrian war rather than a wider international struggle.
            There are also at least a further 30,000 moderates belonging to groups that have an Islamic character, meaning only a small minority of the rebels are linked to secular or purely nationalist groups
          To sum up this point:
          1) nearly half were jihadists
          2) most of the rest were more moderate, but still islamic
          3) that leave about a quarter of them were actual moderates that Washington would consider "vetted".
            So 3/4 of the rebels were either jihadists or islamic-based by the summer of 2013.
           I hope that clears things up.

           As for my second point, it's pretty clear. Obama waived a provision against arming terrorists so that weapons going to Syrian rebels wouldn't be against the laws of the United States.
             There is only one possible reason for that: he expected those weapons to go to terrorists, despite the so-called "vetting process".
            Now why would he expect weapons to go to jihadists if they were being vetted? Ask yourself why McCain is standing in front of a terrorist in that picture if he was trying to convince us that we should support the Syrian rebels.
            Then look at the quote by Marc Lynch that says our support has gone to groups aligned with ISIS.
            Do you see a pattern here?

          "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

          by gjohnsit on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 01:50:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Ah...so Mrs Clinton is saying... (9+ / 0-)

    that she wishes she would have armed Al Qaeda in Syria or Hamas in Syria so as to not leave a void.  I see.

    He who denies it is a tyrant; he who does not demand it is a coward; he who is indifferent to it is a slave; he who does not desire it is dead. -- Eugene Debs

    by kharma on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 12:56:07 PM PDT

  •  the "moderate opposition" was always (10+ / 0-)

    a phantom of our foreign policy experts' fevered imaginations.

    What began as a localized, limited protest in Syria was escalated into a full-blown civil war by foreign jihadists imported from the Gulf state monarchies, in an effort to effect regime change and topple a Shia leader allied with Iran. An effort that was fully backed by the US, at first tacitly, then more overtly.

    It's very doubtful there would have been a civil war otherwise. Without the jihadist fighters, there would have been very little opposition and the whole disturbance would have died down a year ago or more.

    Right now, the "moderate opposition" serves as a pretext to keep funneling weapons to ISIS in the hopes that they'll help cause regime change in Iraq. And it's worked: Maliki has been forced to step down.

    Problem is, it won't stop there. It's going to be very hard to pull the plug on these whackjobs.

    "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

    by limpidglass on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 12:57:04 PM PDT

  •  Hillary will be a disastrous candidate (9+ / 0-)

    The triangulation will be deafening. A Hillary nomination is an invitation to 1600 Pennsylvania for the thugs.

  •  The last line of the diary is very (9+ / 0-)

    important too.

    In 2008, Obama criticized Bush's foreign policy, but he also said what he would do differently. Withdraw from Iraq while refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan because that's where Bin laden probably was. Conservatives didnt like the Iraq withdrawal and liberals didnt like the Afghanistan troops surge, but it was at least a specific plan of what he do differently.

    Clinton criticizes "dont do stupid stuff" as a political message, not an organizing principle. Ok. So what's her organizing principle? Peace, prosperity, and tell America's story better. Because that's not a political message at all.

    It will be interesting to see if the media pressures Clinton(or a GOP nominee) to lay out specifically what they would do differently. Try again on rearming Syrian moderates? Send troops back to Iraq and Afghanistan? Or will they get away with nice, tough but vague sounding rhetoric?

  •  Did we get in the middle of the French, Russian (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gjohnsit, native, gulfgal98

    or Chinese revolutions?  Oh, yeah, we nibbled around the edges but we were not so blitheringly stupid as to believe we were indispensable to sorting the whole thing out.

    We have to stop confusing the United States with God.   Just because something is awful doesn't mean we can stop it.  Heck, even God doesn't do that.

    We don't have the resources and much more important, we do not have the wisdom.

  •  Hilary's joined the Legion of Nitwits. (5+ / 0-)

    M9ight as well look for unicorns in Syria as moderate rebels. There were a lot of scammers there though.

  •  MOAR weapons! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gjohnsit, Azazello, Portlaw
  •  When Chelsea joins the NG I'll know it's time to (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gjohnsit, schumann, Azazello, Portlaw

    be doing some sacrificing dontcha know.  And don't tell me she's a mom, because I know a mother of 3 who got deployed to one of Bill's little humanitarian efforts in Europe where the Europeans could well afford to do the humanitarianism and not depend on moms from Minnesota.

  •  Israel want Assad to stay (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gjohnsit, schumann

    Because he is weak and  constitute no threat to Israel ,ISIS  in control of Syria ,is Israel worse nightmare  

  •  She's completely full of shit; will say anything (7+ / 0-)

    that some poll advisor tells her to say, and has no core principle other than the greater good of Hillary Clinton, as far as I can tell.

    She's just creepy.


    A government is a body of people usually notably ungoverned. -- Firefly

    by Jim P on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 02:32:13 PM PDT

    •  Hillary still waiting on polling data on Ferguson (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gjohnsit

      before weighing in.   She's so predictable.   I especially liked how she became critical of Israel's handling of Gaza immediately after a poll came out showing a plurality of Independent voters thought Israel had gone too far.   She will say anything to please those swing voters.

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