One voice in Washington that has been remarkably absent from this week’s Syria debate has been that of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Mrs. Clinton hasn’t said anything at all about President Obama’s plans for military strikes against the dictatorship in Damascus. As someone who dominated the US foreign policy landscape over the past four years, Clinton’s silence on Syria is striking. What explains this?
I suspect a number of factors are behind Hillary Clinton’s reticence. Firstly, a US military intervention in the Syrian civil war is strongly opposed by the vast majority of the American public. A recent poll showed just nine percent of Americans backing US military involvement. She probably doesn’t see another war in the Muslim world as a vote winner in 2016. Secondly, she may well be harbouring doubts over the White House approach, which beyond the talk of airstrikes, lacks a coherent strategy, and the president hasn’t exactly made a clear-cut case that taking America to war in Syria is in the national interest. Thirdly, as “the Obama doctrine” goes down in flames in the Middle East, from Damascus to Cairo, Clinton will be nervous about being seen as part and parcel of it, which of course she is.