In the wake of the Brussels attacks, Clinton dismisses the Republicans' tough talk as bluster that makes America less safe.
- By Molly O’TooleMolly O’Toole is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, covering immigration, refugees, and national security. She was FP’s sole 2016 presidential campaign reporter, on the trail from New Hampshire to Nevada. Previously, she covered the politics of national security for Atlantic Media’s Defense One, where she reported from Congress, the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department. Before that, she was a news editor at the Huffington Post. Molly has also reported on national and international politics for Reuters, the Nation, The Associated Press, and Newsweek International, among others, from Washington, New York, Mexico City, and London. She received her dual master’s degree in journalism and international relations from New York University and her bachelor’s from Cornell University and in 2016 was a grant recipient of the International Women’s Media Foundation. She will always be a Californian.
After last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris, Hillary Clinton outlined what she described as a detailed strategy to defeat the Islamic State. After the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., in December, the Democratic frontrunner gave a high-profile speech about countering homegrown extremism. In the wake of the deadly strikes in Brussels, Clinton took a different tack: directly going after her Republican rivals for their harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric.
In her remarks Wednesday at Stanford University, Clinton sought to walk a narrow line between sounding tough on terrorism — a large and growing concern for many voters — while asserting that Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are advocating policies that would threaten American national security and alienate vital allies.
“It’s understandable that Americans here at home are worried,” she said. But, she added in one of several swipes at Trump, “walls will not protects us from this threat.”
“We need to rely on what actually works, not bluster that alienates our partners and doesn’t make us any safer,” Clinton said.
Clinton’s remarks came after Trump reacted to the Brussels attacks by reiterating his calls for banning Muslims from the U.S. and torturing terror suspects. In a series of interviews on Tuesday, Trump accused Muslims of often sheltering terrorists and called Brussels an “armed camp” and a “disaster city.”
“They want to go by sharia law,” Trump said on the “Today” show on Tuesday. They don’t want laws that we have … And you know you say to yourself, at what point how much of this do you take?”
Cruz, for his part, had said Tuesday U.S. law enforcement should begin policing Muslim neighborhoods and argued that the Obama administration was putting Americans at risk by denying the severity of the threat posed by radicalized Muslims.
“For years, the West has tried to deny this enemy exists out of a combination of political correctness and fear,” he said, continuing, “The days of the United States voluntarily surrendering to the enemy to show how progressive and enlightened we are at an end.”
In her remarks Wednesday, Clinton noted that Cruz’s comments had drawn a swift rebuke from the New York police department NYPD and said his earlier calls for carpeting bombing ISIS would amount to war crimes.
Such talk “makes it sound like you’re in over your head,” she said, adding that “slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire.”
Clinton didn’t roll out a new strategy during her remarks. Instead, she largely called for more of what the Obama administration and others are currently doing: improved intelligence sharing between U.S. allies; taking a “hard look” at how to better protect soft targets such as airports; and encouraging Europe to make greater investments in its own security.
Most of her sharpest barbs were directed at Trump. She said his talk of building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and vague generalities on “bombing the hell out of ISIS” would do little to combat ISIS’s use of social media and new technologies to recruit new fighters and communicate and coordinate attacks. “How high does the wall have to be to keep the Internet out?” she asked.
She rejected his calls for the U.S. to draw back from NATO, pointing out that the United States’ alliances give it a strategic advantage over rivals such as Beijing and Moscow. She noted Trump’s cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who she said wants to divide Europe.
“If Mr. Trump gets his way,” she quipped, “it’ll be like Christmas in the Kremlin.”
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