Throughout her pursuit of the Democratic nomination for president, Hillary Rodham Clinton has aligned herself closely to President Obama. She has regularly recounted the story of how he persuaded her to serve as his secretary of state. She maintains that he deserves more credit than he has received. Among Democratic primary voters, with whom Obama is hugely popular and whose votes Mrs. Clinton needs to move on to the general election, she has stated that she aims to build on the progressive achievements of President Obama, especially his success in combating the financial crisis of 2008.
The attacks in Paris on Friday, however, seem to have changed the political scenario of the US presidential elections, which seems to have suddenly become focused on America’s foreign policy. Mrs. Clinton’s close alignment with Mr. Obama has now become much more complex.
In the second Democratic debate, which took place on Saturday, Mrs. Clinton did not directly respond when was asked to give her opinion on whether Mr. Obama has underestimated the threat of the ISIL or ISIS, the militant group said to be responsible for the Paris attacks. She did; however, indirectly seem to contradict Mr. Obama’s assurances given a day prior to the attacks that the Islamic State has been “contained” in Iraq and Syria. She stated, unequivocally, that the threat posed by the Islamic State is the leading international terror threat today and, as such, must be defeated, not merely contained.
According to recent survey results, a major portion of Democrats have stated their satisfaction with Obama’s presidency and wish to see a continuation of his policies by the next president, but the recent terror attacks have brought into glaring light the differing stances between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama on foreign policy.
While President Obama has shied away from further American involvement in Syria and Iraq, Mrs. Clinton has gone so far as to propose that a coalition no-fly zone be put in place to provide safe areas for Syrians. This approach has been embraced by many Republican presidential candidates as well. She even frequently comments that she has pushed President Obama to arm some moderate Syrian rebels to combat the threat of radicals.
The current attacks in France have not changed President Obama’s reluctance to send American troops to Syria and Iraq. His advisors have maintained that sending American ground forces will not solve the crisis and that the geographic advancement of ISIS has been, in fact, contained. However, the attacks have succeeded in reminding foreign policy experts of the gap that exists between Mr. Obama’s and Mrs. Clinton’s approach.
Aware of her hawkish reputation, Mrs. Clinton has attempted to tone down her aggressive stance by claiming that America should not bear the brunt of responsibility for an approach to combat the situation. However, instead of providing reassurance, her stance has left many, especially Republicans, feeling that her stance is ineffective in combating the Islamic State. Even when she tried to clarify her earlier statements by stating that the United States should play a leadership role to try to rally its allies to deal with the situation, the comments appeared incongruous.
It seems to be precarious situation. If Mrs. Clinton delivers a concrete strategy to combat ISIS too early, she stands to lose the support of American anti-war proponents. On the other hand, a reluctance to directly address the situation shows the potential of an ineffectual administration.