Hillary Clinton's Disqualifying Comments on Russia

Using Aleppo to gain leverage over a geopolitical foe.


State Dept

Of all the talk about the kind of comments that might disqualify someone from the presidency (Gary Johnson's Gary Johnson moments, anything controversial Donald Trump's said), Hillary Clinton easily made some of the most disqualifying comments last night, when she framed military intervention in response to the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo as an opportunity to create leverage to force Russia "to come to the negotiating table for a diplomatic resolution."

Clinton called for the U.S. to impose no-fly and safe zones in Syria, even while insisting she did not want ground troops in Syria (but conceding the use of special forces and enablers and trainers, as is already being done). "What is at stake here," Clinton argued, "is the ambitions and the aggressiveness of Russia. Russia has decided that it's all in, in Syria. And they've also decided who they want to see become president of the United States, too, and it's not me."

Clinton's saber-rattling is irresponsible given not just the kind of U.S.-Russia cooperation she mentioned she was part of (like nuclear weapons treaties and the Iran nuke deal), but some increased cooperation over Syria itself. Last month, the U.S. and Russia came to an agreement on coordinating airstrikes in Syria, but the ceasefire largely collapsed, with Russian and Syrian forces focusing on Aleppo, a primary of strong hold of anti-government forces. In the face of the bombings, advocates of more intervention warn U.S.-backed rebels are joining Al-Qaeda, one of the primary rebel groups in Aleppo being fought by the Syrian government. The U.S., and Hillary Clinton, insist Bashar Assad must be removed from power.

Last night Clinton insisted "children were suffering" because of Russian "aggression" in Syria. Russia has its only naval base with access to the Mediterranean in Syria, while the U.S. has articulated a more general "humanitarian," anti-Assad posture. Clinton explaining that U.S. military intervention in Syria was useful for the leverage it creates may have been the most honest thing she said at the debate.

Clinton also brought up the U.S. government's formal accusation that the Russian government directed hacking of organizations like the Democratic National Committee in an effort to influence the election. Wikileaks' Julian Assange has said his organization would release more election-related documents, and within an hour of the Washington Post releasing a story on a tape of Trump having a lewd conversation with Access Hollywood's Billy Bush released a trove of e-mails to and from John Podesta as well as transcripts of some of Clinton's paid Wall Street speeches, the authenticity of which she appeared to confirm last night.

At the debate, Trump again questioned whether Russia was behind the hacks. "I notice, anytime anything wrong happens," Trump explained, "they like to say the Russians are—she doesn't know if it's the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking, but they always blame Russia."

Trump also questioned the antagonistic approach to Russia. "I don't know Putin," Trump said, dismissing Clinton's references to his previous praise of the authoritarian, "I think it would be great if we got along with Russia because we could fight ISIS together, as an example. But I don't know Putin."

During the Republican convention, the removal of language supporting arming Ukraine in its conflict with Russia over Crimea, which Russia occupied and annexed after the pro-Russian government collapsed in the wake of street protests, was brought up as possible evidence of Russian influence on the Trump campaign and by extension the Republican Party. The top Trump staffer, Paul Manafort, previously worked as a lobbyist for the pro-Russian Ukraine government, and eventually left the campaign. Yet not arming forces in Ukraine is a good idea for the U.S.—it avoids an unnecessary military commitment and opportunity for escalation. Through the controversy, the fact that the Democratic platform didn't urge lethal aid for Ukraine either was largely missed, with Democrats choosing to take a hard right turn on Russia. Crimea is the location of Russia's only naval base with access to the Black Sea. Several important gas pipelines into Europe run from Russia through Ukraine.

The partisan posturing has come a long way from 2012, when Hillary Clinton's vaunted "reset" during President Obama's first term was used to dismiss concerns by Republican nominee Mitt Romney that Russia was America's greatest geopolitical foe. As I wrote then, while Romney was half-right about Russia (it's a geopolitical force that doesn't have to be a foe), the Obama administration was wrong about ignoring the differences between Russian and U.S. interests while seeking to insert itself into situations, like in Ukraine, where it has no clear interest. Now, the 2016 Democratic nominee is making an opposite kind of mistake, magnifying the differences between Russian and U.S. interests while ignoring potential cooperation on situations, like in Syria, in favor of using those situations specifically to antagonize Russia and build "leverage."

The idea that the U.S. has a significant role in places like Syria and Ukraine, and that it should project military force specifically to gain diplomatic advantage vis a vis other global powers in such crises is a dangerous evolution of an already aimless and destructive 21st century U.S. foreign policy.

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  1. The fly knows the corruption that is Hillary.

    1. +1 hand clapping

      1. That’s the kinda comment Tulpa would type.

        1. We’re all Tulpa down here.

            1. YOU fuck off, Tulpa!

  2. Not saying that we SHOULD get involved at all. But, we could have used this as an opportunity to work WITH Russia, and leverage some concessions from the Assad govt.

    There are no good guys fighting in Syria. There are Assad’s butchers and there are Islamist butchers. (And of course, many civilians stuck in the middle). The difference is, that Assad isn’t actively working at killing Americans (or Westerners in general). We could have backed up Russia in exchange for 3 things from Assad:
    1) Give up the ridiculous claim on the Golan Heights. (And stabilize relations between Syria and Israel)
    2) Allow unlimited US inspections of any suspected chemical weapons sites.
    3) Stop funneling money from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. (Harder to track, but even if just an agreement made in principle would be a big PR win).

    The LAST fucking thing we should be doing is helping the fucking Islamists there. We assist here, then hold the line on Eastern Europe. That way we are negotiating from a position of strength.

    1. I don’t know. That all sounds pretty boring.

    2. I don’t think that’d be a good idea either. Even from a purely pragmatic POV, supporting Assad is bad optics that would enrage Sunnis worldwide. I don’t think those concessions are worth it. Staying out of it was the best option by far.

      1. The collapse of the Assad regime will be bad for Sunnis long term, and the Gulf States can go to hell if they don’t realize it.

        1. I would tend to agree.

        2. Probably, but that doesn’t change how people currently feel.

          Also, I wasn’t just talking about the governments of Sunni countries. Your comment still stands probably, but not in terms of how people feel. Assad is absolutely hated by Sunnis worldwide (and for good reason – but the alternatives are questionable at best to say the least, or downright horrifying on an even greater scale than Assad).

      2. The Us doesn’t need to support Assad; just stop supporting the rebels and strongly suggest the Gulf states do the same, or lose US aid. The whole thing could be negotiated with Russia, no one needs to even shake Assad’s hand.

    3. But we’re only helping the ‘moderate’ Islamists. We have to, because otherwise the ‘bad’ Islamists will win.

      1. Hillary seems to think they’ll be grateful or something.

    4. That would require a political establishment invested in a long term pragmatic foreign policy, not one based on the emotional response of whatever administration is in power every four to eight years.

    5. re: your #1 option

      Where do you get the impression that the US has more leverage w/ Israel now than when Bill Clinton tried helping them negotiate the same?

      1. Actually, I wasn’t implying having any leverage over ISRAEL. I was implying levering support for Assad (and Russia) into softening their position on Israel. But then again, I am wholeheartedly on Israel’s side.

        1. oh, you meant have Syria give up the golan heights, not the other way around?

          Which is funny, because the typical demand is for the opposite. Its legally syrian territory, and its never been recognized as legitimately part of israel.

          As long as the UN exists you’d never get Syria to relinquish territory to Israel as part of their own Civil War. Hell, even the rebels would object to that. Do you think they’re fighting so ISRAEL can win territory?

          It would be injecting Israel into a conflict that they’ve mostly (aside from the occasional airstrike) stayed officially neutral on.

          It would also involve the US basically saying, “We’re attacking Syria on behalf of Israel”… which, as i’m sure you might imagine, wouldn’t go over very big with many of our ostensible allies.

          1. e.g.

            it was reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked US President Barack Obama to recognize Israeli claims to the territory because of these recent ISIS actions and the fact that modern Syria has likely “disintegrated” beyond the point of reunification.[20][21] The White House dismissed Netenyahu’s suggestion, stating that the president continues to support UN resolutions 242 and 497, and any alterations of this policy could strain American alliances with western-backed Syrian rebel groups.[22]

          2. Which is funny, because the typical demand is for the opposite. Its legally syrian territory,

            True, but its worth noting that according to the traditional law of nations, Israel had strong claims to both it and the Sinai following the war in which Syria and Egypt were (a) aggressors who (b) lost.

            1. the traditional law of nations

              I wish you the best of luck explaining how that works to the UN. they’re not real big on ‘one set of rules for everyone’.

              international law is whatever the consensus says it is. Hence the term “recognize”. Nobody since 1967 has ever recognized Israel’s claim to Golan. And the people who matter the most (eg. US, UK, etc) have specifically said they reject the Israeli de-facto annexation

            2. Bismarck had the same right to claim the whole of Alsace-Lorraine after the Franco-Prussian War. In the end that was probably the worst decision he ever maid. It made the French bitter revanchists and set some of the groundwork for WW1 and the Treaty of Versailles, which the French saw as revenge for the Franco-Prussian war.

              If Bismarck had let go of some land and made an amicable peace like the one he would later make with Austria, it just might have prevented some of the horrible things that happened over the next 140 years.

              Bottom line, unless you intend to eradicate your enemy off the face of the earth, its often best not to grab everything you think you have a right to, even in victory.

              1. Bottom line, unless you intend to eradicate your enemy off the face of the earth, its often best not to grab everything you think you have a right to, even in victory

                I think Clausewitz might have said something similar. Victory isn’t technical; its political, and a military victory without a political conclusion is simply a “cessation of fighting”. you don’t rule a territory unless everyone else acknowledges you rule it.

  3. *We* should set up a no-fly zone? Just one problem with that

      1. You do know those systems would be some of the first things to get hit? If they were really serious about this, anyway. Because an actual shooting war with Russia is such a great idea.


        2. Yes, 22 yr and counting USAF guy here; I kinda get the whole air warfare thing. Was not suggesting we couldn’t take them out, just pointing out that we’d have to in order to establish ‘our’ no-fly zone.

    1. My money is on the USAF, personally. Iraq supposedly had sophisticated SAM system in place, as well, which Russian and Chinese advisors helped establish. The real question is whether we are willing to take the risk at all.

      1. I am certain the USAF and Navy can take out those batteries and any other threats, but is it really a good idea to start destroying Russian emplacements? Probably not.

        1. No, it obviously isn’t. The potential risks involved in Syria are massive. The rewards minuscule if not non-existent. It’s madness.

          1. It really is batshit crazy. It’s like Hillary feels compelled to engage in a dick-swinging competition with Putin.

      2. Without a doubt, but the issue is to declare a no-fly zone, we’d have to do just that. Was no suggesting we couldn’t take them out, just that they have in a way already claimed the airspace.

  4. I guess this means that Reason wants Trumphitler to win.

  5. Oh, come on, Miss Prissypants. Killing a couple of your spare hostages is a time-honored negotiating tactic.

  6. Hillary is a disgusting pig, a golem but those comments are…meh.

  7. “Just in case you don’t think we’re serious. Now go get the money.”

  8. You know who else wanted to gain an advantage over Russia?

    1. Kramer?

      1. The Ukraine is weak!

    2. Any number of vodka distillers?

    3. Tre Kronor, every other year?

    4. A small foreign faction?

  9. she framed military intervention in response to the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo as an opportunity to create leverage to force Russia “to come to the negotiating table for a diplomatic resolution.”

    I find it remarkable that everyone seems willing to maintain this charade that somehow the US and Russia can themselves agree on the outcome of the *Syrian* civil war.

    Russia seems to have no qualms admitting they are there on the side of the Syrians, defending an allied government. But the US seems to want to pretend that they’re NOT actually waging a war (via proxy) to overthrow that Government.

    The idea that any agreement between the US & Russia would have some effect compelling the people on the ground to honor that agreement is also bizarre =

    – even if the US decides it no longer wants to overthrow Assad, will the people who’ve spent 4 years dying in that attempt simply do what the US says?

    – And if Russia agrees that the Rebels should be granted some leniency or political concessions… why would Assad be obligated to honor that either?

    We’re basically insisting that the US is itself not at war…. while doing everything that people at war actually do.

    And everyone plays along because no one wants to acknowledge realities that force them to ask other questions, like “why are we there?”, and “isn’t this sort of… like, not why we elected Barack Obama?”

  10. The neocons need a powerful politician in their pocket and Hillary is it.

    You’ve also noticed how the military brass and the Bush clan have endorsed Clinton.

    1. I’m sure they only endorsed her because Trump said something about grabbing pussy.

      1. Yeah, it certainly couldn’t be global hegemony. That would be silly.

  11. “What is at stake here,” Clinton argued, “is the ambitions and the aggressiveness of Russia. Russia has decided that it’s all in, in Syria.”

    An honest appraisal would have mentioned Iran. Iranian_involvement_in_the_Syrian_Civil_War

    The ground forces in Syria’s civil war have been augmented by Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah, both of which are under the control and authority of Iran–regardless of whether the Russians support Assad.

    If Russian support for Assad dried up tomorrow, the war would still rage on with Iran’s support for Assad. Iran considers Assad’s triumph to be essential to its own survival. Iran was terrified that the Arab Spring would spread to Iran, and now they’re afraid of anything that would take Syria out of their orbit and make that truly enemy territory.

    But Hillary doesn’t want to talk about Iran, not after her support for Obama’s disgracefully stupid Iran deal. The only thing Hillary would rather talk about less than Iran is how much money she and her family have made by way selling influence through the Clinton Foundation.

    1. What’s really fucking comical is that money we paid the Iranians is almost certainly being funneled to support Assad.

      1. You mean those pallets of untraceable cash? The hell you say!

      2. oh, that’s like a drop in the bucket compared to Afghanistan. We were giving billions to the Afghan govt every year, as well as piles of arms, and massive chunks of both were basically being given to the Taliban

        that we’re our own worst enemy has become something of a running joke

        1. Jokes on Afghanis, Taliban and terrorists. Our money is soon to be worthless.

  12. Am I the only one who finds it odd that American forces were involved in Syria first, yet Hillary tried to blame the entire “humanitarian crisis” on Russian aggression? And has anyone actually bothered to explain why this humanitarian crisis is so different than all the ones we ignore everywhere else?

  13. I would like to hear someone ask Hillary the follow-up question that seems pretty fucking obvious to me: what if the Russians openly violate your “no-fly” and “safe” zones? Those zones are not self-enforcing.

    1. I think the crazy bitch is actually okay with shooting down Russian planes over Syria.

    2. America is either humiliated once again, or we bungle ourselves into a larger war with Russia. And given Hillary’s history and belief that doing something is always better than doing nothing in foreign policy because it helps her look tough domestically (in her warped view), what course do people think is really more likely?

      For all the talk about Trump’s instability, Obama has set the table for his self-picked successor to screw the pooch.

      1. I definitely think that there is a serious risk of war simply so that Clinton can “prove” that she’s “as tough a commander-in-chief as a man”.

        1. Her supporters, I assume, would argue, much like with her socialist pivot to win over the Bernie Bros, that she is just saying this stuff to win the election, or in this case the counter Trump’s sort of pro-Russia an position, but once elected, they will assure us, she will be a moderate.

          Let us hope.

  14. Conventional war with Russia could quickly get out of hand and go nuclear. Anyone advocating any policy with that being a remote possibility should be put in a straight jacket and tossed in a nuthouse. She’s actually crazier than Trump who’s fucking nuts.

    1. Especially when you consider that Putin would likely not want to be seen backing down to Hillary. A stupid reason in some ways, yes. But wars–especially the big ones–are generally started for the stupidest of reasons.

      1. When the Europeans were going off to WWI they thought they’d be home by Christmas. Wars tend to take unexpected turns. When the nations fighting one another are the two biggest nuclear powers the results have the potential to be beyond catastrophic and Syria is not worth it.

        1. Hillary will always bring up the four year old kid with the bloody face and claim it’s for HIM and all children so it’s worth it.

        2. What’s more, Russia is going down the toilet economically and demographically, and the ensuing national self esteem issues are a big factor in their aggression.

          Now is not the time rattle sabres with them. Geopolitically, Russia is going to lose in the long run. A shrinking country with a shrinking economy. They’re not a resurgent threat; they’re a desperate nation trying to recapture old glory. We should just let them dig themselves deeper and deeper.

          1. I would pick you as US Ambassador to Russia because you have more of a grasp on Russian politics than most people, especially Hillary. When I talk about Russia, I also include that Russia has an element of their Motherland that includes bringing all former parts of greater Russia back together like Finland, the Baltics, Ukraine, etc. This element is part of their foreign policy, if they can get away with it.

  15. She said she wants to arm the Kurds as well. Seriously.

    Apparently the only people she doesn’t want to be armed are Americans.

  16. Russia lover back again! I know you missed me. I want to congratulate Ed Krayewski for the rare Reason article that does not call Putin an autocrat, dictator, pedophile or accuse him of wearing women’s underwear while basting Ukrainian babies! One small step for mankind!
    Ed actually acknowledged that Russia might have vital national interests in the region, like all year warm weather ports. Americans have numerous warm weather ports on the Atlantic,Pacific and the Caribbean. We have no idea how vital Crimea and Syria are to Russia.
    When Martha Rattsus compared the fall of #whatisAllepo to allowing the Holocaust, and thereby calling Assad and Putin Hitler, she was mouthing Neo-liberal Responsibility to protect (R2P) excuse for intervention. Where have we seen this before? Balkans, Libya, for example.
    But I quibble. Thank you, Ed. Fair and balanced!

  17. Apparently the only people she doesn’t want to be armed are Americans.


  18. Russia will continue to be a foe for us because we will continue to be a foe for Russia. Putin *needs* an external threat–or at least the perception of one–and we are it.

    1. And the US military-industrial-congressional complex is more than happy to be that enemy…

  19. Yeah, the chattering class thinks Trump is the dangerous one who is likely to start a war. Hillary will start at least 3 minor wars, and looks like she wants to start a war with Russia!
    Also, you know who else invaded the Ukraine?

  20. Uh, Russia interfered in Ukraine not after “street protests” toppled the government, but after a US supported coup toppled the democratically elected pro-Russia government…

    1. Coup of Ukrainians against a pro-Russian leader who fled to Russia. ex-President Viktor Yanukovych sided with Russia against Ukrainian interests is accusation.

      Don’t forget to give more of the story next time. You are trying to make it seem like Russia is acting in Ukrainians best interests or something. There are many reason for Ukrainians to not like Russians including but not limited to: forced famine, suppressing Ukrainian, armed insurgencies, forced into communism, etc.

  21. ‘”What is at stake here,” Clinton argued, “is the ambitions and the aggressiveness of Russia. Russia has decided that it’s all in, in Syria. And they’ve also decided who they want to see become president of the United States, too, and it’s not me.”

    Oh I’m sorry, I was under the distinct impression that Russia was showing an inordinant amount of restraint considering that the US is busy trying to topple on of its allies – perhaps because they don’t want to be the party responsible for starting mother-fucking WWIII! Can you image for a second what the U.S. reaction might be to Russia proactively and militarily trying to topple Turkey or some other similar regional member of NATO?! Bitch, step the fuck off!, would be the most appropriate diplomatic reaction to her comment.

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