Saturday, December 19, 2015

Should We Focus on ISIS or Assad?

One issue that was hit against a lot is whether we should focus on stopping ISIS or getting rid of Assad. 

Bernie is trying to show 'major daylight' between him and Hillary on foreign policy. He tried to knock her for Libya like he always does dredging up her Iraq vote but she pointed out that he voted for the coalition in Libya as well. 

"Our differences are fairly deep on this issue," Sanders said. "We disagreed on the war in Iraq. ... I say this with due respect, I worry that Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences could be." After bringing up Iraq again as well as Libya, Sanders continued: "Yes, we could get rid of Assad tomorrow, but that would create another political vacuum that would benefit ISIS. ... Getting rid of dictators is easy, but you have to think of what will come after."

Clinton shot back: “With all due respect, senator, you voted for regime change in Libya. ... All of these are very difficult issues. I know that, I've been dealing with that for a very long time.”

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Bernie admitted that these are tough questions and that nobody has a magic bullet but still tries to do what he always does-try and make the choice black and white somehow. So he pivoted to the idea that we should focus on defeating ISIS and leaving Assad till after. 

Hillary Clinton said Saturday night that the United States does not have the luxury of focusing only on defeating the Islamic State but must take out Syrian leader Bashar al Assad, as well.

"The reason we are in the mess we are in ... is because of Assad," Clinton said. "I wish it could be either or."

"It was a striking contrast between the former secretary of state and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who believes the United States must focus on ISIL for now and Assad later."

"Getting rid of dictators is easy, but before you do that you have to think about what happens the day after," Sanders said.

What Bernie is doing here is again running against the Iraq war. We get it Bernie, the Iraq War was a terrible mistake and it is indeed very much responsible for ISIS today. Having said that, the calculus in Syria now is very different.

You can't really defeat ISIS without getting rid of Assad if you remember that to defeat ISIS is an ideological war first and foremost-not a military war.

ISIS is only there because of the brutal crackdown of Assad on the Sunni Muslims. This is not Iraq circa 2002.

A lot of the Muslim countries we would need for the Muslim ground forces Bernie talks about are more anti Assad than anti ISIS. To be sure, they are anti ISIS but they are first and foremost anti Assad. So getting rid of Assad is a necessary condition of defeating ISIS in Syria as it takes away the rationale for Syrians to support ISIS. '

To be sure, Secretary Kerry is working on this right now-a possible deal that will have a timetable for Assad to step down and for the US, Russia, our European allies and leading Muslim countries along with Syria to come to some such agreement.

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