After yet another meeting of diplomats failed to resolve the war in Syria, our ever-clueless secretary of state, John Kerry, said on October 15 that diplomacy would continue because of “the urgency of trying to find something that works other than military action.”
As if it were intended to illustrate Kerry’s foolishness, a Russian navy battle group led by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov sailed for Syria less than a week later to engage its combat aircraft against the U.S.-backed forces trying to topple Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
Sending the Kuznetsov wasn’t a militarily necessity. Other Russian aircraft could have easily been deployed to Syria. But sending the aircraft carrier is a demonstration of Russia’s ability to project power and a reminder to America and its allies that diplomacy cannot succeed unless it is backed by the threat of military force.
Though he may do more harm before he leaves office, President Obama will soon be irrelevant. It’s time to look to the future. As ghastly as that prospect is, unless the most reliable pollsters are badly wrong, that president will be Hillary Clinton.
Her record provides all the evidence we need to derive the bases on which she would decide matters of defense and foreign policy as well as the most likely result. Those factors compel the conclusion that the events of the next four years will prove far worse than we expect.
The relentless ineptitude of the Obama-Clinton-Kerry team did not proceed from the same foundation as Mrs. Clinton would on her own. She is campaigning on her claims of experience in making the hardest decisions a president has to make.
There are four key proofs that enable us to determine the manner and means by which Mrs. Clinton will decide foreign policy and defense matters.
The first is in Mr. Obama’s 2011 intervention in Libya. As his memoir recounts, Defense Secretary Bob Gates argued to the president we shouldn’t use American military force in Libya because we didn’t have a national security interest in Libya sufficient to justify doing so. Mrs. Clinton argued for intervention on what she and Mr. Obama agreed were the “humanitarian” ground that Gadhafi might massacre his citizens if we didn’t intervene.
Mr. Gates was right. We had no national security interest in toppling Gadhafi sufficient to justify military action. The Obama-Clinton “violent humanitarianism” was substituted in its place.
From the Libya intervention we must conclude that Mrs. Clinton, like Mr. Obama, is willing to use American military force in order to look tough without having to take any substantial risk. They knew that the Libya airstrikes would be made in relative safety, given the fact that Libyan air defenses were, at best, rudimentary. It gave them both the opportunity to brag that they had organized and led a successful military coalition, though the facts are to the contrary. Mr. Obama joined the coalition only after the French pled for us to do so because their air forces weren’t able to do the job.
The second proof begins with Mrs. Clinton’s disregard for intelligence. Mrs. Clinton knew or should have known that, as an unclassified report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said, about 10 terrorist groups were operating within the Benghazi city limits for weeks or months before the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on our diplomatic and CIA compounds there. But she did nothing to bolster security for the diplomatic post and four Americans died there.
The third proof is in Mrs. Clinton’s contempt for military advice. In the last presidential debate, Mrs. Clinton said we should establish a no-fly zone and other safe areas in Syria to protect the refugees. What Mr. Trump should have said in response was stated by moderator Chris Wallace who pointed out that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joe Dunford, told a senate committee last month that, “Right now for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia.”
What Gen. Dunford should have but didn’t say is that we could have intervened in the Syrian war years ago to topple Mr. Assad and that we had a sufficient national security interest in Syria to do so. The Assads — father and son — have led a regime labeled a state sponsor of terrorism since 1979. Instead, we sat back for years providing the Russians and Iranians time to dominate the conflict losing our chance to replace a terrorist regime. Now it’s no longer a civil war but an international war that can’t be resolved by diplomacy or low-risk military intervention.
The fourth proof of Mrs. Clinton’s thinking process is her blanket endorsement of Mr. Obama’s strategic arms treaty with Russia and his nuclear weapons deal with Iran. Both are inimical to U.S. interests. The Russians are building new weapons and we are not. Our ballistic missile defenses are counted among offensive weapons, a concession the Russians have sought for decades and that only Mr. Obama was willing to make. The Iranian deal, which guarantees Iran nuclear weapons in 15 years or less, is extremely dangerous.
Thus four elements — engaging in low-risk military action unjustified by national security interests, willful ignorance of intelligence, ill-considered proposals that could lead to wars with major powers, and the desire for major arms agreements that are directly against our national security interests — will comprise Hillary Clinton’s decisions on national security and foreign policy.
Her presidency, if there is one, will be a very dark and dangerous era in America’s history.
• Jed Babbin served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration. He is a senior fellow of the London Center for Policy Research and the author of five books including “In the Words of Our Enemies.”