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Hillary Clinton, ISIL, and the Interventionist Bias

August 22, 2014 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

As Americans see images of New Hampshire-born journalist James Foley beheaded by members of the extremist militant group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), some commentators insist that the current chaos is a direct result of President Obama’s reluctance to intervene decisively in the multi-year conflicts in Iraq and Syria. Most notably, Obama’s own former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, suggested that Obama’s failure to aid the Syrian rebels led to the rise of ISIL.

Clinton claims “that the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad … left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.” Inherent in that statement is the belief that there was a cadre of relatively liberal-minded opponents of Bashar al-Assad’s regime inside of Syria, and that American support would have been the decisive factor in ensuring that they would triumph over both Assad and the ISIL extremists. By this logic, if the United States had chosen to arm the “correct” anti-Assad rebels in Syria, we would not now be bombing ISIL in Iraq.

Beltway insiders continue to call for more intervention, dismiss evidence that might undermine their case, and condemn those who advocate prudence and restraint.”

Experts aren’t so sure. George Washington University Professor Marc Lynch concludes, ”Had the plan to arm Syria’s rebels been adopted back in 2012, the most likely scenario is that the war would still be raging and look much as it does today, except that the United States would be far more intimately and deeply involved.”

And who, exactly, we were supposed to arm was never clear. When former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford praised recent gains by Syrian moderates, he mentioned only one group by name: “the Army of Islam, led by an ambitious Islamist commander named Zahran Alloush.” But the University of Oklahoma’s Joshua Landis has shown that Alloush might not be so moderate after all.

The debate over what we should have done with the Syrian rebels back in 2012 also largely ignores the fact that the United States and its allies apparently did offer a good bit of training, resources, and weapons to purportedly moderate Syrian fighters who were vetted for their supposed democratic leanings.

But, somewhere along the line, the screening process …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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