What They Should Have Said… Clinton on Aleppo

Politics aside, the presidential debate on Sunday night was full of opportunities to talk about key issues facing Americans this fall. Unfortunately, the debate was also full of missed chances to communicate clearly. While some statements were downright false, others were based on good logic and sound policy—they just weren’t communicated well.

To be a truly effective communicator, we believe it’s important to use emotionally compelling storytelling to capture the heart of the listener. We also believe in taking the moral high ground, being hopeful and optimistic and putting the other side on defense.

Both sides struggled or downright failed to do this.

We decided to take some of these statements and transform them into good, compelling arguments from a liberty-minded perspective. We did our best to stay true to the candidate’s intentions. As TFM focuses on messaging and policy, we do not endorse either candidate.

Some of today’s brightest minds and best communicators gave us their thoughts on what the candidates would say if they could go back again. We enjoyed it and think you will too.

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If you were president, what would you do about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo? 

What Clinton said:

Well, the situation in Syria is catastrophic. And every day that goes by, we see the results of the regime by Assad in partnership with the Iranians on the grounds, the Russians in the air bombarding places, in particular Aleppo, where there are hundreds of thousands of people, probably about 250,000 still left. And there is a determined effort by the Russian air force to destroy Aleppo in order to eliminate the last of the Syrian rebels who are really holding out against the Assad regime. Russia hasn’t paid any attention to ISIS. They’re interested in keeping Assad in power. So I when I was secretary of state, I advocated — and I advocate today — a no-fly zone and safe zones. We need to [to apply] some leverage with the Russians because they are not going to come to the negotiating table for a diplomatic resolution unless there is some leverage over them. And we have to work more closely with our partners and allies on the ground. But I want to emphasize that what is at stake here is the ambitions and the aggressiveness of Russia. Russia has decided that it’s all in in Syria. And they’ve also decided who they want to see become president of the United States too, and it’s not me. I’ve stood up to Russia. I’ve taken on Putin and others and I would do that as president. I think wherever we can cooperate with Russia, that’s fine. And I did as secretary of state. That’s how we got a treaty reducing nuclear weapons. It’s how we got the sanctions on Iran that put a lid on the Iranian nuclear program without firing a single shot. So I would go to the negotiating table with more leverage than we have now but I do support the effort to investigate for crimes, war crimes committed by the Syrians and the Russians and try to hold them accountable.

What Clinton should have said: 

There’s no doubt the situation in Syria is downright tragic from a humanitarian perspective. The Russians and Iranians have partnered with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to slaughter the rebels for the purpose of ousting the U.S. as the primary power in the region. And although Russia has pledged it’s going to take on the Islamic State, it seems that’s just a clever excuse to encourage us to avoid pushing back. In reality, Russia’s main focus in Syria is to prop up Assad and right now, it’s aiming its sights on Aleppo, a city full of both rebels and civilians, with the rebels being situated in the east. But the fact that Aleppo is still brimming full of civilians has not stopped Russia from launching brutal airstrikes that often hit civilians, as well as rebels. Certainly, these airstrikes have got to stop.

We have got to get Russia to the negotiating table, but that is not going to happen without serious leverage. To do so, we need to increase our support for moderate forces on the ground in opposition to Assad’s crimes, rather than sending in U.S. boots on the ground, which would be a mistake. We shouldn’t be holding any territory or occupying Syria in any way, shape, or form. However, we can and should use special forces to train and equip local forces and should consider working with the Kurds in Syria to take down ISIS, as the Kurds have proved to be valuable and dependable allies in both Syria and Iraq. Intervention is necessary, but we should not overdo it, especially since there are other alternatives to explore as well, such as opening an investigation into war crimes committed by the Syrians and Russians and taking this to the international arena.

Those who have perpetrated atrocities against civilians need to be held accountable. I have a history of standing up to Russia, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to work with them where I see a benefit for America, which is why I pioneered a treaty with Russia to reduce nuclear weapons as secretary of state. America sets the standard internationally, and that’s why some amount of intervention is morally justified in Syria: to let the world know that there are some things a government cannot do to its citizens without consequence. That’s how we let the world know we take the ideals of liberty and democracy seriously.

— Jonah Bennett, Senior Reporter, The Daily Caller 

Jonah is a senior national security reporter at The Daily Caller News Foundation. His work focuses on veterans’ affairs investigations, the military, immigration, and cybersecurity, and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Fox Nation, RealClearDefense, American Spectator and Watchdog.org. Bennett holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Simon Fraser University.

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