Syria will define the future of Hillary Clinton’s uneasy presidency

Syria will define the future of Hillary Clinton’s uneasy presidency

In this debate series, GRI asked what will mostly affect election day and the upcoming presidency. Chris Solomon presents why Syria will be the key issue of a Clinton presidency.

Despite tightening polling, Democrat Hillary Clinton is still favored to win the U.S. presidency—an already uneasy presidency that is likely to be defined by an even more unstable Syria.

Not since President Roosevelt has the Democratic Party managed to win a third consecutive term in the White House. After the failed campaign of Vice President Al Gore, the Clintons’ hold on Washington, DC appeared to have been broken. Following Hillary’s bitter primary defeat to President Obama in 2008, the Clintons had to continue waiting another long eight years since leaving the White House almost twenty years ago. Now they return to a very different world they left in 2000.

The Clinton presidency outlook

Time does not generally favor incumbent parties who have been in power for extended periods. Mismanagement, corruption, and scandals are commonplace with continuous rule, for example South Africa’s leftist African National Congress party or the center-right Liberal Democratic Party of Japan. The Clinton Administration’s tenure will struggle with this amid an intense bipartisan divide and an electorate exhausted with Washington politics. Indeed, day one of her reelection bid will begin in January 2017.

On the other hand, President Clinton could provide a chance for bipartisanship. A decisive victory of Hillary over Trump’s brand right-wing populism may likely enable the GOP mainstream to rebrand their party in time for 2020. This could provide President Clinton with the right grounds for bipartisan cooperation on domestic and social initiatives. Expect to see some strides made on marijuana legalization, criminal justice reform, LGBT issues, education, and immigration. On the economy, there will be a continued push for tech innovation and development in small towns across the U.S. Her deep connections in Washington and friendships with lawmakers on the other side of the aisle will see a few major policy victories for the Democrats. But this will last for a short period of time.

There is a high likelihood that President Clinton could be a one term president. The 2020 election will be the first time that every millennial would be able to participate. Demographics and politically active youth energized through social media won’t be President Clinton’s only problem. The GOP, re-energized and rebuilt, will find a young and powerful challenger following three years of political attacks. The left of the Democratic Party will also be looking for new blood as well.

A future presidency defined by Syria

Perhaps President Clinton’s biggest hurdles and successes may be on the global stage. Russia, echoing Mitt Romney’s fears, is likely to continue to be a thorn in the side of the European Union, NATO, and the United States. The Putin regime, under extreme domestic and economic pressure, will lash out. Expect multiple rounds of cyber-attacks and Western retaliations. There could also be renewed diplomatic and military initiatives in Ukraine. However, this may all be shy in comparison to Syria.

Over the next three years, the crisis in Syria will seemingly both increase and deescalate all at once. The fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) could see competing factions eventually surrounding and besieging Raqqa and Deir el Zor. Assad regime forces might begin meeting up with the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on multiple fronts. IS, largely going underground, is likely to launch sporadic and vicious terrorist attacks against its regional and Western opponents alike.

President Clinton, shoring up NATO and regional alliances, will begin to focus more diplomatic pressure on Assad. While still dragging its feet at peace talks in Geneva, the Assad regime could be forced by President Clinton to halt the civilian bombing. The war will settle into a shaky stalemate through localized ceasefires. The hitch will be Turkey’s aggression toward the rise of a Kurdish power and a new phase of the conflict in Syria’s northeast. As Turkey finds a reconciliation with the Assad regime and growing partnership with Russia and Iran, President Clinton’s foreign policy fiasco could be the loss of a major NATO ally in the Middle East. The troubled region, like for so many other American presidents will be pivotal towards the outcome of Mrs. Clinton’s reelection bid in 2020.

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About Author

Chris Solomon

Chris Solomon is the GRI Guest Post Editor and a Senior Analyst. He has supported several US government-funded international development programs in the Middle East and Africa throughout his professional career. He has also been a guest lecturer at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy on the U.S. strategy to combat ISIS. Christopher holds a master’s degree in Public and International Affairs from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) at the University of Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter @Solomon_Chris.