On Thursday, Hillary Clinton went to the Council on Foreign Relations to lay out how she'd deal with ISIS in the wake of the group's attacks in Paris. After the speech, one of her key advisers, John Podesta, summed up her policy prescriptions this way:
Podesta appeared to overlook the fact that checkmarks usually signal that something has been accomplished, but no matter. How will Hillary Clinton defeat ISIS? She'll just defeat ISIS, apparently, and then maybe get lunch.
Clinton was considerably more detailed in her actual speech, but the air of unreality that infused Podesta's buzzy abridgement hung over the talk. As Time summarized, she called "for sending more U.S. special forces to Syria, imposing a no-fly zone in northern Syria and possibly arming Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq." She also said that airstrikes that a number of countries are conducting in Syria should be intensified.
It is no surprise that so many of Clinton's solutions involve an increased military presence in the Middle East. There are few problems in the Middle East that she has not sought to solve with bombs and bullets, and in the feverish, demagogic aftermath of the Paris atrocities, the calls to "do something" would have forced her to outline some overarching anti-ISIS plan even if she hadn't wanted to. (For evidence of that, just look to Bernie Sanders, a man who also outlined an anti-ISIS plan on Tuesday, when he really, really didn't want to.)
Clinton did say that she didn't want 100,000 ground troops in the region, but that is hardly a real concession. Iraq has made it virtually impossible for any president to commit to that sort of thing. She did emphasize that a political solution is needed to end the civil war in Syria, though that is also a well-worn line at this point.
Overall, the speech was as fluid and comprehensive as any Clinton speech usually is. She's no amateur. But, as is all too typical for her, she failed to break out of the conventional thinking that has sucked the U.S. into the quagmire it's currently dealing with in the world. Our warfare—both on the major and minor scale—has been an utter disaster... so let's have more of it!
We have been here time and again. War leads to terrorism which leads to more war which leads to more terrorism which leads to political disintegration which leads to calls to back "moderates," which leads to those moderates either being defeated or not being moderates or getting into a civil war of their own, which leads to more calls to "do something," which leads to the U.S. having been parked in multiple countries for decades.
Of course, it's not like there was some pre-9/11 heyday when America was a benign, distant presence in the Middle East. It has been fertile territory for U.S. meddling for generations. But wouldn't it be nice if that cycle could stop at some point? Nothing up till now has prevented the bloodshed and misery from relentlessly churning forward. Instead, we are trapped in a never-ending loop of permanent war. There's no evidence that the kind of strategy Hillary Clinton laid out on Tuesday would change that fact.