DEFEATING ISIS: Hillary Has the Strength to Face the Enemy and the Wisdom to Know the Enemy (Hint: It's Not Refugees)

By Peter Daou and Tom Watson

"We are not at war with Islam or Muslims. We are at war with violent extremism. We are at war with people who use their religion for purposes of power and oppression." Hillary Clinton

"Humanity always wins." Parisian student

During times of crisis, an effective leader maintains a calm demeanor, a clear view and a steady hand. The capacity to lead under extreme pressure is the hallmark of a true leader. The capacity to endure extreme stress and remain focused is an essential quality for someone seeking the U.S. presidency. In George Patton’s words: “Pressure makes diamonds.” 

Even Hillary Clinton’s most vocal detractors will grudgingly concede that she possess inordinate discipline, intelligence and strength. Her epic showing at the Benghazi hearings, where she spent 11 hours easily swatting down GOP attacks and smears, showcased those characteristics.

When it comes to the threat of violent extremism, the contrast between Hillary’s command of issues and the cowboy posturing of her GOP rivals is stark. As we argued recently, the leading Republican candidates barely have a grasp of basic foreign policy:

On Hardball, Chris Matthews recapped the latest GOP debate, airing a series of wild comments from Republican candidates that betray a dangerous combination of ignorance and arrogance. From Trump insisting he’ll “humanely” deport 11 million men, women and children at gunpoint, to Ben Carson claiming he’ll “easily” take Iraq’s oil fields, the world must be laughing at the uninformed bluster of the Republican field.

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, the Republican impulse to shun – and thus victimize – Syrian refugees is deplorable. President Obama doesn't mince words:

When candidates say we should not admit 3-year-old orphans, that’s political posturing. When individuals say we should have religious tests, and only Christians, proven Christians, should be allowed, that’s offensive and contrary to American values.

I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric coming out of here in the course of this debate. ISIL seeks to exploit the idea that there's war between Islam and the West, and when you start seeing individuals in position of responsibility suggesting Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims are in a war-torn land that feeds the ISIL narrative. It’s counter productive. And it needs to stop. And I would add these are the same folks who suggested they’re so tough that just talk to Putin or staring down ISIL (will work) ... but they're scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion. First they were worried the press was too tough on them in the debates, now they're worried about 3-year old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren puts it in blunt terms: “We won't deliver children back to ISIS.”

We couldn’t agree more. Refugees are victims who deserve compassion, not suspicion. Peter recently shared his experiences as a child of war in the Middle East displaced from his home by war:

I was a child when war broke loose and the world around me crumbled. Looking back now, I can still see the fear and anguish in my parents’ faces as they tried to protect their children from missiles and bullets and bombs, from kidnappers and snipers. I remember nights in dark, dank bomb shelters with no heat and no electricity, huddled against my siblings. I remember the whistling sound of incoming rocket fire and that deathly moment of anticipation – hearing the explosion meant you were still alive. It also meant someone else, perhaps your friend or neighbor, wasn’t as fortunate. 

As an American, I had somewhere to escape from the war, somewhere to build a better life. That’s not the case for most refugees, who rely on the compassion of strangers to escape the living hell that is war. As America debates the plight of Syrian refugees in the aftermath of a spate of violence from Beirut to Paris, voices of intolerance get louder. We must counter those voices by speaking the truth.

Today, Hillary spoke the truth about who we are fighting and how we can win. In an address to the Council on Foreign Relations, Hillary introduced her plan to defeat ISIS, leaving no doubt that she is the candidate to tackle the global threat of violent extremism. View the full speech here.

And we'll conclude with heart-wrenching perspective on the cowardice of Republicans like Trump who are calling for bigotry against an entire religion. Read this letter from Antoine Leiris, who lost his wife in the Paris attacks (and be ready for the tears):

Friday night, you took an exceptional life -- the love of my life, the mother of my son -- but you will not have my hatred I don't know who you are and I don't want to know, you are dead souls. If this God, for whom you kill blindly, made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife would have been one more wound in His heart.

So, no, I will not grant you the gift of my hatred. You're asking for it, but responding to hatred with anger is falling victim to the same ignorance that has made you what you are. You want me to be scared, to view my countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You lost.

I saw her this morning. Finally, after nights and days of waiting. She was just as beautiful as when she left on Friday night, just as beautiful as when I fell hopelessly in love over 12 years ago. Of course I am devastated by this pain, I give you this little victory, but the pain will be short-lived. I know that she will be with us every day and that we will find ourselves again in this paradise of free love to which you have no access.

We are just two, my son and me, but we are stronger than all the armies in the world. I don't have any more time to devote to you, I have to join Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17-months-old. He will eat his meals as usual, and then we are going to play as usual, and for his whole life this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either. 


Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.