Guest Opinion: Clinton strong on foreign policy

Philadelphia Inquirer
July 26
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Hillary Clinton will have two huge tasks when she addresses the Democratic National Convention as its nominee for president: first, loosen up a controlled demeanor that can come across as phony, and second, counter accusations that her presidency would extend the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

Foreign policy is a strong suit for Clinton in a race against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who appeared to acknowledge that deficiency in choosing as his running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a former ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East who has been to Iraq and Afghanistan. A born-again Christian, Pence also boosts Trump’s appeal among evangelical voters.

Trump has glossed over his lack of experience in international affairs beyond running the Miss Universe pageant. He blames Clinton, who was secretary of state during the first term of the Obama administration, for current policy on the Islamic State. Clinton needs to be more vocal in pointing out where she disagrees with her former boss. For example, she supported a no-fly zone over Syria to protect civilians; Obama did not.

Clinton says she wants to intensify a coalition air campaign against the Islamic State, boost support for local Arab and Kurdish ground forces, and continue to pursue a diplomatic solution to the sectarian violence and civil war in Iraq and Syria. She also vows to improve efforts to find and arrest enablers who forge documents for Islamic State operatives and thwart the extremists’ use of the internet to inspire terrorist acts by related groups and lone wolves.

Clinton’s acceptance speech should clearly delineate what she would do differently from Obama to beat the Islamic State. Trump’s saber-rattling on the campaign trail indicates that he and many Americans think Obama has been too timid. Trump mocks Obama’s reluctance to use the term “radical Islam” so as not to conflate the Muslim religion with terrorism. But Clinton says she doesn’t think using that term or “radical jihadists” would necessarily have that effect.

Republicans have been trying to alter the narrative of the Islamic State’s creation by suggesting that after President George W. Bush won the Iraq war, Obama lost the peace by prematurely leaving Iraq and making it easier for insurgents to form terrorist organizations. They ignore the question of whether Bush should have started a war based on a hunch that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. They also ignore the chaos in Iraq during Bush’s last months as president, which had most Americans clamoring for U.S. troops to withdraw more quickly. Obama was elected to make that happen.

Obama, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has been loath to return to a larger military presence. And the American public, after seeing 4,400 U.S. soldiers die in the Iraq war, isn’t ready for another effort on that scale. But the success of the Islamic State in inspiring terror across the globe requires a more effective plan to dislodge it from its perch. Clinton should ask voters to compare the specifics of her antiterrorism plan to Trump’s and decide which one they want for America.