In Atlantic Interview, Hillary Clinton Calls Decision to Not Intervene in Early Days of Syrian Civil War a “Failure”

August 10, 2014; Washington, D.C. – Hillary Rodham Clinton, in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, criticized the Obama administration’s decision to not intervene in the early days of the Syrian conflict as a “failure” that has empowered jihadists—in sharp contrast to President Obama’s stance on the matter. Clinton told The Atlantic: “The failure to help build-up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.”

In the interview, which focused primarily on the President’s foreign policy, Clinton expressed deep support for Israel and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling the focus on Israel “uncalled for and unfair.” She also warned of the threat the rise of jihadist groups pose to Europe and the United States.

The interview is available now at TheAtlantic.com. Excerpts are also included below. All quotes must be credited to “The Atlantic.” For media requests and questions, please contact: abross@theatlantic.com.

Offering a vociferous defense of Israel, Clinton told Goldberg: “I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets. Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command and control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.”

Asked if Israel had done enough to prevent the deaths of children and innocent people, Clinton responded: “(J)ust as we try to do in the United States and be as careful as possible in going after targets to avoid civilians,” mistakes are made. “We’ve made them. I don’t know a nation, no matter what its values are—and I think that democratic nations have demonstrably better values in a conflict position—that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas.”

Clinton raised anti-Semitism when asked about the international focus on Israel, to the exclusion of other conflicts: “This reaction is uncalled for and unfair.” She went on, “You can’t ever discount anti-Semitism, especially with what’s going on in Europe today. There are more demonstrations against Israel by an exponential amount than there are against Russia seizing part of Ukraine and shooting down a civilian airliner. So there’s something else at work here than what you see on TV.”

On the resilience of Islamist terrorism, Clinton equated the struggle to the one the U.S. waged against Soviet-led communism, saying: “One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States. Jihadist groups are governing territory. They will never stay there, though. They are driven to expand. Their raison d’etre is to be against the West, against the Crusaders, against the fill-in-the-blank – and we all fit into one of these categories. How do we try to contain that? I’m thinking a lot about containment, deterrence, and defeat.”

Reacting to President Obama’s slogan to describe his foreign policy doctrine—“Don’t do stupid stuff”—Clinton said: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

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For media inquiries, please contact:

Anna C. Bross
Senior Director, Communications, The Atlantic
202-266-7714
abross@theatlantic.com
@AnnaCBross

Sydney Simon
The Atlantic
ssimon@theatlantic.com
202-266-7338

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