The war that arguably cost Hillary Clinton the presidency the first time around is back as a prescient issue more than a decade later.
Just as the former secretary of state finally and unequivocally admitted in her new book her 2002 Iraq War vote was a mistake, the nation faces a fresh set of hard choices about how to handle the increasingly volatile and deteriorating situation in the country.
Given the timing of her publicity tour, so does she.
It shouldn’t be surprising she is taking a cautious approach to the fast-moving developments surrounding the march to Baghdad by Sunni extremists.
During a CNN town hall Tuesday evening, Clinton stopped short of supporting a U.S. partnership with Iran in the fight against the Islamic insurgents.
She said she is “not prepared” to cooperate with Iran “until we have a better idea what we’re getting ourselves into.” Any alliances with third parties need to be “carefully thought through,” she added.
Asked if the U.S. has lost its gains in Iraq, Clinton also punted.
“Too soon to tell,” she told Fox’s Greta Van Susteren in a live interview following the CNN town hall..
In yet another interview Tuesday with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Clinton said she would “absolutely not” send U.S. ground troops into the country and added she wouldn’t even necessarily back airstrikes, an option President Barack Obama had been considering but has since ruled out.
“I would not support any action unless there was a very clear understanding of what [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki would or wouldn’t do, who was running the army, and what third parties were going to be involved,” she said.
Taken together, this series of answers demonstrates a less hawkish approach to a conflict that has entangled America for a dozen years and dogged two presidencies. In fact, of all the simmering hot spots around the world, Iraq may be the place where Clinton is most trigger shy – given the thin public support for intervention there and her own searing experience around her support for the initial invasion.
It’s difficult to imagine Clinton’s 2002 Iraq vote will be a defining issue for her likely 2016 presidential campaign, but her antagonists on the left certainly aren’t about to let it go.
Over the weekend, the liberal magazine, The Nation lamented that Clinton “still doesn’t get it.”
Speaking about her adamant defense of her Iraq vote during the 2008 campaign, Clinton explained that it would’ve been easier politically to recant her support for the war, but “couldn’t break faith with service members.”
“That statement echoes some of the worst impulses of the Bush administration, which were to frame supporting the war publicly as a matter of ‘supporting the troops,’” asserted The Nation.
Listening to her most recent responses on how to deal with the bloodshed and upheaval in Iraq, it seems clear Clinton has gotten the message.
While she still may harbor hawkish instincts in most areas of the globe, she’s become notably more dovish and circumspect on Iraq.