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Hillary is Vulnerable on Iraq

Posted on May 18, 2015
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(This originally appeared in The Hill)

Iraq will play a central role in the 2016 election.

President Obama had hoped that, by pulling out our troops just in time for his reelection, he could put the conflict in the rearview mirror.

With the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on its way to conquering Anbar, that’s not going to happen.

Some Republican candidates for the presidency have struggled to answer the simple question about whether they would have done the same thing as George W. Bush in 2003, knowing what we know now.

The easy answer is no.

But it’s easy to look back in history, knowing what we know now.

It is far more difficult to peer into the future and convince voters that you have a plan to deal with an increasingly unstable and unpredictable world.

Only one current candidate got it wrong when it came to getting into Iraq and then getting out of Iraq.

Hillary Clinton voted for the war, which proved to be a difficult obstacle for her to overcome in the 2008 election. And then she supported Obama when he precipitously pulled out of Iraq before the 2012 election.

If there is any one person who has the most to explain when it comes to the rise of ISIS, it’s Clinton.

Maybe that’s why she isn’t taking any questions.

For the Republican candidates, they have to prove that they have the foreign policy chops and the judgment to make the right calls when it comes to national security, especially in the context of Iraq, ISIS and the rise of militant Islamic fundamentalism.

The last five successful Republican nominees won because they provided voters with a coherent strategy to either keep us out of war or get us out of war.

Dwight Eisenhower exuded military competence in the turbulent years following World War II. Richard Nixon had a secret plan to get us out of Vietnam. Ronald Reagan promised peace through strength. George H.W. Bush campaigned as a foreign policy expert with a long resume. His son’s vision (before 9/11) was foreign policy humility, which played well after Bill Clinton activism, and he hired Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, two old Washington veterans, to give voters confidence that his foreign policy was in capable hands.

Today, the Republican nominee has to similarly pair the twin objectives of keeping us out of war while exerting American power in a very dangerous world to make our nation more secure.

He (or she) must also have enough character, enough competence and enough experience to be able to carefully weigh the strategic options, to think through the ramifications of every decision, to assemble a team of advisers whose agenda focuses solely on the long-term interests of the American people.

If we can come up with such a candidate, we can beat Hillary Clinton.

The case for Clinton is actually pretty weak.

She was for the Iraq War before she was against it.

She pushed the reset button with Russia, and now Vladimir Putin is rubbing our collective faces in the sand.

She failed to achieve an agreement with the Iraqi leadership when it came to the status of our forces in that country. When our troops left Iraq as a result, all hell broke loose. That happened on Hillary’s watch. So did Benghazi.

And the complicated relationship between the Clinton Foundation and her State Department is so embarrassing, so fraught with potential corruption and so inappropriate, it eliminates whatever advantage her tenure as secretary might have provided.

But to beat Clinton, Republicans have to nominate somebody who not only has the credibility to lay out the right vision to make America more secure but also has the right experience to achieve that vision.