Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Scary debate takeaway

One of the many unfortunate consequences of the GOP serving up a fascist, sexist, white nationalist presidential candidate is that there's very little psychic and intellectual space left over within which to examine what the Democratic candidate is offering. At least that's how the Clinton/Trump race works for me. We have to elect Hillary -- and we almost certainly will -- but the horror of Trump almost precludes thinking about her.

So, for the record, I'm sharing Josh Marshall's take on Clinton's foreign policy pronouncements at Sunday nights' debate.

What bothered me was what Clinton said about Syria and Russia. I grant that Vladimir Putin seems to be trying to influence the election on Trump’s behalf and that he may have ambitions in Eastern Europe that could lead to serious conflict with NATO. But there’s a real danger in turning the Obama administration’s rift with Putin over the Ukraine and Syria into the grounds for a return to the Cold War. That’s what I heard Clinton doing during the debate.

The Obama administration’s primary adversary in Syria has been Bashar Assad’s regime. It [I think Marshall means Assad though some might debate this] has been responsible for transforming what was initially a civilian Arab Spring-type call for political reform into a brutal civil war that has degenerated into a contest between a dictator bent on retaining his rule even at the cost of destroying his own country and a ragged group of rebels led by Islamist terrorist organizations. Russia, which has historically backed Assad and has a naval base in Syria, has taken Assad’s side, and we have backed Assad’s opponents, while covertly cooperating with Russia and Assad’s other ally, Iran, in fighting one of these terrorist groups, ISIS. It’s a really ugly situation that defies easy answers or obvious choices for alliance.

But in characterizing the war in Syria, Clinton astonishingly blamed the war’s atrocities on “Russian aggression.” And she advocated setting up a “no-fly zone,” a proposal that if it were not seriously narrowed, could lead to an air war between the United States and Russia. The Obama administration has wisely rejected this kind of strategy. Should Clinton’s remarks be taken seriously? There is a precedent: in the 1960 presidential campaign, John Kennedy out-hawked Richard Nixon on Cuba. Kennedy’s hawkishness on Cuba led to the Bay of Pigs fiasco and to a fifty-five years of a destructive policy toward that country. Could Clinton’s posture during the campaign carry over to her presidency? That worries me. But I’ll still take my chances with her over Trump, and I suspect the country will, too, in November, regardless of who won last night’s debate.

My emphasis.

While covering Sunday's debate, Farai Chideya at 538 pointed out:

In one of the latest Clinton emails revealed by Wikileaks, she said in 2013: “To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defenses, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk — you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians.” Tonight, she reiterated her support for a no-fly zone.

Clinton seems to instinctively lean toward policies that will increase the carnage. There has to be another way.

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