Hillary’s Decent But Imperfect Plan For ISIS

Politics is tough; leadership is tough. Sometimes it’s hard to represent people, especially in their less rational emotions like fears and hopes, without stirring the pot. So, the day after a murderous terrorist attack in Belgium, many Americans are wondering if we will ever be done with attacks like this.

And make no mistake, despite lower body counts than many other events, these attacks truly are terrorism in that they scare us apart from each other, out of our public spaces, and into different ways of life. They are intentional; they are meant to hurt us—this is different than an accidental plane crash, or even a school shooting. Both of these can be reduced in certain ways. But can we ever stop a suicide bomber without losing too much? It’s a tough question.

With those feelings so raw it can be tough to swallow Hillary’s language that we need to not alienate Muslims at home and abroad that might help us. Why should we trust them? Well, in the case of Belgium, it appears that the Batacalan attacker was caught through just such efforts.

We have also had some success at rolling back ISIS with only a handful of advisers on the ground, using mostly local troops.

Leaving to one side Donald Trump’s insane suggestion that we damage our NATO alliance, which Hillary dismissed outright, her plans for ISIS are very conventional. They will not bring about a catharsis and we will only ever watch the problem slowly decrease instead of disappear in shock and awe.

Many people are so frustrated with the crimes of the Bush years that they reflexively want to end or drastically cutback all American intervention abroad both in security and economic matters. If only it were so simple. If only spastic radical changes would reset everything into a brave new world. But such changes would create more losers, more upheval, and more friction.

For one, Obama is showing that we have a lot of work to do in our own hemisphere. As the Castro/Chavez/Morales axis wanes in the region, an America not obsessed with fighting the Cold War needs to responsibly fill the vacuum.

It’s worth preserving the international status quo of the Clinton-Obama years and Hillary is the only candidate standing likely to do that, unless you consider John Kasich to be “standing.”

But it’s obvious that her technocratic approach, while certain to be effective, may not be forceful enough to contain the volcano of discontent spewing from the Middle East. Right now, we have had a better year than last. We have a nuclear deal with Iran and tentative cease fires in Syria and Yemen. But pause too long to exhale and these will only result in more conflict if the underlying dynamics aren’t radically altered.

So, for now, Clinton’s involuntarily trademarked cautious incrementalism is indicated. But if the paradigm shifts due to some external factor, we need to be ready for more dramatic action.