Bill Clinton on the U.S.-Russia plan for Syria: "Who cares" whose idea it was?

Via Politico, between this and Hillary’s infamous line to Congress about Benghazi, they’re developing a nifty theme for the next presidential cycle. “Clinton 2016: What difference, at this point, does it make?”

Not surprisingly, BC’s memory of what John Kerry said is selective. Clinton’s version: “John Kerry got asked, ‘Well, what can we do to stop you from bombing,’ and he said, ‘Make the problem go away.’” Is that right? He said a little more than that:

[QUESTION:] is there anything at this point that [Assad’s] government could do or offer that would stop an attack?

SECRETARY KERRY: Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that. But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.

Obviously. From a logistics standpoint alone, protecting UN weapons inspectors from Syria’s combatants — the Syrian army, Iranian troops, Hezbollah, and a motley crew of rebels, jihadist and otherwise — in the middle of a war would be impossible. Morally, the idea of treating a monster like Assad as an honest broker on disarmament would be ridiculous, not least because Obama’s called repeatedly for him to go. Disarmament means keeping him in place as ruler of Syria to ensure the regime’s cooperation in the process, which could take years. We’d be moving from “regime change” to “regime recognition” overnight, which is the opposite of a “red line.” Assad would have gained, not lost, something by using poison gas. And on top of it all, we’d be elevating Russia, of all countries, to the role of major Middle Eastern player that it used to occupy by trusting them to guarantee Assad’s compliance. Obviously it can’t be done. Obviously. And yet here we are.

Honestly, I’m surprised that Clinton didn’t seize this as an opportunity to gently distance Hillary from the shambles of O’s Syria policy. Maybe he can’t tell whether the political winds are likely to be blowing hawkish or dovish in two years and figures that the safest place for the Clintons right now is hiding behind Obama and Biden and their sham Syria “deal.” If it somehow works out, at least well enough for the White House to claim publicly that Assad has significantly disarmed, then Hillary can say she was for it. If it doesn’t work out, the Clintons will focus on U.S. oversight of the disarmament process and claim that Hillary would have done a better job with it, would have made a more believable show of force against Assad to get him to cooperate, etc. Right now, I think, they’re betting that the left is likely to lurch hard towards the anti-war position in 2016 as a reaction to having looked the other way for eight years at Hopenchange hawkishness. Hillary will stay as dovish as she can for as long as she can so as not to antagonize them before shifting back towards hawkishness to reassure undecideds that, yes, a woman commander-in-chief can be as tough as a man.

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David Strom 9:21 PM on March 24, 2023