Hillary Clinton distances herself from Obama's foreign policy
Decision not to intervene early in Syrian conflict was a ‘failure’
Potential presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says: “Great nations need organising principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organising principle.” Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Distancing herself from President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, potential 2016 US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said in an interview published yesterday that the US decision not to intervene early in the Syrian civil war was a “failure.”
Republican critics and others have faulted Obama for doing too little to support Syrians who rose up against President Bashar al-Assad. Syria has been torn apart by a civil war for three years, with Assad staying in power and Islamic militants gaining strength.
“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 in an interview with The Atlantic.
Clinton was Obama’s secretary of state during his first term as president, stepping down in 2013, so she was part of the administration during the start of the Syria uprising. Seen as a possible contender for the 2016 US Democratic presidential nomination, she ran unsuccessfully against Obama for the party’s nomination in 2008.
Asked about Obama’s slogan of “Don’t do stupid stuff” to describe his foreign policy thinking, Clinton said, “Great nations need organising principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organising principle.”
In the interview, she also offered strong support for Israel and for prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has a tense relationship with Obama.
Israel has drawn international condemnation for the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the destruction of thousands of homes during its month of war with the Islamist movement Hamas.
The Obama administration, while supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, has rebuked it at least once during the conflict over the deaths of civilians.
“I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the (Hamas) rockets. Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command and control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult,” Clinton said.
Questioned about whether Israel has taken enough steps to prevent the deaths of civilians including children, Clinton said that sometimes mistakes were made.