Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

10 Questions for Clinton After the Paris Massacre

Eli Lake is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the senior national security correspondent for the Daily Beast and covered national security and intelligence for the Washington Times, the New York Sun and UPI.
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In the wake of the jihadist attacks in Paris, CBS News said it will alter the questions in Saturday's democratic debate to focus on terrorism and foreign affairs. For Hillary Clinton, who has long been a leader on the hawkish side of the party, this is an opportunity to re-center the Democrats on national security. 

But to do so, she will have to do much more than express sincere condolences to the victims and mouth truisms about how the civilized world is at war with savages. That is the easy part.

The hard part will be making the progressive case, to progressives, for a sustained and aggressive role for America in that global war. In light of that, here are some questions Clinton should answer tonight.  

1) You have promised to defeat the Islamic State without "miring our troops in another misguided ground war." And yet the U.S. and its allies have failed to win significant territory in Iraq or Syria with this approach since the summer of 2014. There are now 3,500 U.S. special operations forces in Iraq. Is that number too large or too small? Would you send more?

2) Early reports say that at least one of the attackers Friday was a recent migrant from Syria. President Barack Obama has proposed increasing the numbers of Syrian refugees the U.S. will admit in the coming years, up by perhaps 10,000 by 2017. Would you be comfortable as president with allowing this many Syrians into the country, and how do you propose screening these migrants to prevent terrorists from coming into the U.S. as well?

3) You have said that you urged Obama in 2012 to more actively work with moderate rebels in Syria, and that the failure to do so led to the rise of the Islamic State. Obama has said that these forces never had much of a chance to stop the civil war in that country. Do you agree with him in retrospect? Or do you think an earlier intervention would have made more of a difference?

4) You were secretary of state in an administration that kept insisting in 2011 and 2012, following the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, that the threat to America from al-Qaeda was diminishing. Was this a mistake? Why did your administration miss the signs that so many jihadist groups were gaining strength in the aftermath of the Arab spring?

5) The FBI says it has investigations into suspected Islamic State operatives open in all 50 states. The bureau also says that it worries when these suspected operatives engage in encrypted communications online that can't be monitored by the U.S. intelligence community. As secretary of state, you supported policies to encourage such encrypted chat programs to help non-violent dissidents in countries like Iran. Do you still support this policy today?

6) Do you think the 2001 congressional authorization for the use of military force in Afghanistan provides the president with enough legal authority to wage this war? Do you think Congress should draft a new measure that acknowledges the war against the Islamic State and other groups that are no longer associated with al-Qaeda?

7) The Islamic State has expanded to Libya. You were a main proponent of the NATO intervention there in 2011. How is it that Libya has become a safe haven for terrorists? What went wrong? Do you take any responsibility for the aftermath of that intervention?

8) Obama told ABC this week that the Islamic State was contained in Syria and Iraq, meaning they weren't making significant territorial advances in those countries. Do you agree they are contained? Is that enough?

9) Can the U.S. align with Russia and Iran to defeat the Islamic State? Would you seek such an alliance as president?

10) In a 2014 interview with the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, you hinted that the U.S. needed to approach the long war against Islamic terrorism in the same way the U.S. fought the Cold War. Could you further explain what this would entail and how the U.S. can wage a lengthy ideological war against Islamic extremism without alienating the majority the world's Muslims?

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the authors of this story:
Eli Lake at elake1@bloomberg.net
Josh Rogin at joshrogin@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.net