USIP’s discussion today of “Getting Ahead of the Curve: the evolving threat of violent extremism” was a study in contrasts. The first panel, of experts who contributed to The Jihadi Threat: ISIS, Al Qaeda and Beyond was devoted to hard-nosed analysis. The second, which discussed both CSIS’ Turning Point and Communities First: A Blueprint for Organizing and Sustaining a Global Movement Against Violent Extremism, was devoted to right-minded but airier policy propositions, at least until I left about 45 minutes before it ended.
The analysis panel, ably chaired by Robin Wright of USIP and the Woodrow Wilson Center, offered a gloomy picture: each generation of jihadis is larger than the last, mobilizes faster, draws on more diversified sources of foreign fighters, gets more extreme, and spreads to more locations and causes.
That said, Brookings’ Will McCants noted that ISIS has lost perhaps half its territory as well as 50,000 killed, Raqqa and Mosul are under attack, and its finances are under pressure. It won’t disappear but will return, as it did during the near-defeat in Iraq in 2008/10, to terrorist tactics and prison breaks. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies concurred that the ISIS star has fallen, because of its brutal tactics and readiness to make enemies of too many people. But Al Qaeda is reviving and spreading, especially in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Mali and Somalia. It is even controlling territory, it financing has become more open, and it is embedding Al Qaeda Central cadres, like the Khorasan Group, with its franchisees.
The franchises are increasingly important, Carnegie Endowment’s Fred Wehrey concurred. Al Qaeda has been more successful than ISIS in establishing durable franchises, partly because it focuses on “Dawa” (proselytizing), is relatively “moderate” in behavior towards the local population, and integrates more effectively with local forces. Egypt is particularly fertile ground, as is Yemen.
Hassan Hassan of the Tahrir Institue for Middle East Policy underlined that jihadism is not going away any time soon. Its narrative and appeal are increasingly entrenched. Al Qaeda and ISIS share the objective of creating a caliphate, but Al Qaeda is the more dangerous as it often works quietly and is more successful at “marbling” (interweaving) local and global strategies.
McCants views state failure as fuel for the protean diversified jihadist resurgence we are witnessing. The diversification and rapidly shifting organizational landscape are big problems, as they make prioritization difficult. Gartenstein-Ross believes the Middle East states will continue to weaken, as they face dramatic challenges like lack of water and parlous finances. Internet penetration in the region is still low, so jihadi mobilization is likely to become more effective and quicker as it expands. Social media are particularly adapted to boost secret identities across boundary lines. Hassan concurred, noting that ISIS in defeat will retreat into the desert, as it did in Iraq in 2008, leaving sleeper cells who will kill its enemies in newly liberated areas. Sunni disenfranchisement, alienation, and lack of leadership make ISIS a viable political option.
Wehrey concluded the first panel by underlining that terrorism is a political strategy and requires in part a political response. Jihadism is not really about religion but about the need for reform. Governance issues are central, vastly compounded by population displacement and Western intervention.
The second panel chaired by USIP’s Georgia Holmer focused, far less decisively, on non-military responses to jihadism.
The National Security Council’s Amy Pope underlined that countering violent extremism (CVE) is now established as an important part of the response to terrorism focused on its root causes in particular communities. She and State Department Under Secretary Sarah Sewall were confident that this community-focused approach, based on civil society and holistic investments, is the right one. We need to be able to tell this story across the security and human rights communities.
Shannon Green of CSIS cited the “measured security response” advocated in Turning Point, noting that anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment reinforces extremism. So too have some of America’s traditional partners in the Gulf, who have financed extremists. We need to be able to levy punitive sanctions in response, undertake a global educational partnership to ensure that extremism has no place in curricula, and review assistance to oppressive governments. She also thought an assistant to the president for CVE would help the cause.
The Prevention Project’s Eric Rosand emphasized community-level engagement that recognizes communities have many problems other than violent extremism and offers them incentives to engage locally in CVE. Law enforcement should have a limited, not a dominant, role.
Asked about what they would advise the incoming Trump Administration, Sewall emphasized the need to coordinate military and intelligence counter-terrorism with civilian CVE and the relative lack of resources for the latter (amounting to no more than .1% of the total). Pope also thought the balance out of whack. CVE needs to grow much bigger. There is lots of evidence that democracy and inclusion work and that alienation and exclusion don’t.
Asked to adduce some concrete examples of CVE that has worked, Pope cited a roundtable in The Hague, Sewall an ongoing project pilot project in East Africa and an AID project in Pakistan. Rosand noted that all too often autocrats readily take up the anti-messaging banner, as it enables them to crack down on dissident voices. That, he suggested, does not work.
My bottom line: Little in this discussion gave me any reason to believe that the incoming Trump Administration will take up the cause of CVE, which would require it to drop its anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, agree to support reformist and more democratic states rather than autocratic ones, invest in aid that is difficult to distinguish from conventional development assistance, accept evidence-based indications of effectiveness, and increase funding for civilian rather than military efforts. #fatchance
Deea Ariana, who graduated with a master’s from SAIS last spring, writes:
One of the inevitable costs of conflict is the damage to critical infrastructure that provides basic services to people and stimulates economic growth. Yet infrastructure procurement in post-conflict contexts is often slow and unable to cope with rising demand. Raffi Mardirosian argued that in the aftermath of conflict, an environment fraught with financial and political risks and weak legal structures hinders the construction and operation of infrastructure projects.
Conflict-affected states lack capital, technology, and skilled management that are essential to constructing new infrastructure. Consider Syria: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) states that rebuilding damaged physical infrastructure will be a “monumental task,”with cost estimates in the range of $100-$200 billion. That is nearly three times the country’s GDP back in 2010, before the conflict erupted.
The ongoing war continues to take a heavy toll on civilians and infrastructure. As Merriam Mashatt, Daniel Long, and James Crum note:
In conflict-sensitive environments, the condition of infrastructure is often a barometer of whether a society will slip further into violence or make a peaceful transition out of the conflict cycle. The rapid restoration of essential services, such as water, sanitation, and electricity, assists in the perception of a return to normalcy and contributes to the peace process.
Increasing access to infrastructure service delivery amid fiscal and capacity constraints calls for an alternative to the traditional public provision of infrastructure.
The idea of private investment in infrastructure has gained currency in recent years, leading to creation of public-private partnerships, or PPPs. These are a way for governments to implement infrastructure and services by utilizing the expertise of the private sector. Both parties share significant risks and management responsibilities.
Gonzalo Araya and Jordan Schwartz explain that private participation in infrastructure in countries emerging from conflict typically requires six to seven years to attract significant levels of investment from the day that the conflict is officially resolved. Usually the first infrastructure investments to arrive in conflict-affected countries are in sectors where financial risk is relatively low, which is mostly in telecommunications, as in Afghanistan and Iraq. Private investments in sectors where assets are harder to secure, such as water, power, or roads, are slower to appear or simply never occur.
There are several challenges to infrastructure reconstruction in conflict-sensitive environments that need to be addressed. P. B. Anand delves into these, explaining that weak governance entails corruption and flawed regulatory oversight, insecurity, and fragmented legal systems that discourage foreign investments. The government of a conflict-affected country must mitigate these challenges to nurture a favorable investment climate and encourage private investment in PPPs.
Donor support can also go a long way. As Andre Jones writes, PPP transactions are likely to rely on donor support in the form of capital subsidies, guarantees, or other mechanisms to facilitate private investment. An often-cited example is that of the restoration of Liberia’s power sector following the civil war in 2003. With support from the Norwegian government, the Liberia Electricity Cooperation (LEC) handed over its management to a Canadian power company, which boosted results. LEC began rebuilding electrical distribution in Monrovia, which led to more people having access to electricity and a significant increase in revenue. Losses were curtailed, peak load more than doubled, and fuel efficiency improved.
While public infrastructure projects accrue a net benefit to society as a whole, they nonetheless result in winners and losers. It is necessary to ensure that services also reach those people who are otherwise socially excluded. This guarantees that the society does not risk relapsing into another fresh bout of conflict by fighting over scarce resources.
Three years ago, peacefare.net published Patricia Powers Thomson’s A call to action from South Sudan, which advocated founding of a School of Public Service in South Sudan. Despite all the difficulties since, the aspiration has been fulfilled. Here is her account of how:
Q: It has been three years since you called for a School of Public Service in South Sudan. What has been accomplished?
A: The major accomplishment is that the School has been established and is now in its second year. We recently prepared a Status Report comparing our progress to the path laid out in our Strategic Plan, and it goes into a lot more detail about our efforts.
In a nutshell, after releasing A Call to Action: Establishing the South Sudan School of Public Service in October 2013, I recruited a Board of Advisors through the good auspices of the Ebony Center and their Development Policy Forum. This Board was instrumental in establishing the School. After a competition, the Board decided to house the School at the University of Juba –the country’s flagship university. We spent about a year developing our programs and courses. By late 2014, the University’s Dean’s Board and Senate had approved the School. The University Council officially established it on June 13, 2015. So in less than 2 years we were up-and-running.
Q: What programs does the School offer?
A: Our first program is a 2-year MPA. Our pioneer class of 41 finished their first year in May. In September they were joined by a second class of about 50 students. I really believe our students represent the best of South Sudan – smart, committed public servants. They come from all its regions, and work with government, nongovernmental organizations, and international organizations.
Q: These three years have been difficult ones, marred in particular by the power struggle between South Sudan’s President and Vice President, including widespread violence. How has that affected your project?
A: The last three years have been heartbreaking. Everyone in the country has been touched by the recent conflicts. Actually, let me correct myself. The conflicts are not “recent.” They have been simmering for a very long time, but ignited into violence in December 2013. Amazingly, SPS continued to operate without disruption during and after the 2013 fighting, as well as the fighting this past July. The credit for this really belongs to my outstanding team and to the University’s leadership, particularly Dr. John Akec who has been one of our strongest advocates since the beginning.
Q: You say the conflict has been simmering for a very long time. What do you see as the drivers of this conflict?
A: I have lived in South Sudan for 5 years, and the situation here is one of the most complicated I’ve encountered. I see at least four related drivers. Many people in the international community have come to believe kleptocracy is behind much of the country’s instability. I agree. Minimizing kleptocracy is fundamental to creating a stable state, but even more fundamental is building capacity. You can’t fight kleptocracy without capacity. Quite frankly, there isn’t a critical mass of competent people working in the public sector. People with the mindsets, as well as skillsets they need to succeed, including management and leadership skills.
Let me be more specific, most of the provisions of the current peace agreement require skilled South Sudanese working within government and civil society. And when peace comes, when we succeed in making “war more costly than peace,” South Sudan will still be faced with the challenges of building effective institutions and engaging in long-term development. Again, both require a cadre of capable public servants.
So yes, greed and the quest for power are a big part of the problem, but so, too, is lack of capacity. There are many smart, motivated, and honest people in South Sudan who are unable to impact the mammoth problems their country faces because they do not have the necessary skillsets and mindsets.
Q: You mentioned four things driving the conflict, including lack of skills and kleptocracy. What are the other two?
A: There is definitely an element of tribal competition, age-old animosities between tribes. This is driven by fear, as well as pride; when people are insecure they tend to coalesce along familiar ethnic, tribal, and familial groups. And lastly, there has been a lack of consistent political will to make peace. This lack of will is fed by the first three drivers, as well as trauma and exhaustion. Read more
- US Leadership and the Challenge of State Fragility | Monday, September 12th | 9:00am – 12:00pm | US Institute of Peace | Click HERE to RSVP |
For more than two decades, addressing fragility has been an evolving bipartisan priority for U.S. policymakers. Yet growing understanding and consensus about the problem has failed to generate the strategic, unified, and long-term policies required to achieve solutions. Despite some progress, the United States and its international partners still struggle to prevent and reduce fragility.
With the next U.S. administration and Congress taking office in January, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for a New American Security, and the U.S. Institute of Peace this year formed an independent, non-partisan Fragility Study Group to improve the U.S. government’s approach to reducing global fragility. The group was advised by more than 20 former U.S. government officials, members of Congress, academics, and private sector leaders. Its report concludes that the incoming administration will have to exhibit remarkable discipline and imagination in choosing where and how to exert U.S. leadership. The study group offers recommendations for the next administration and Congress on ensuring more coherent policy responses among U.S. agencies, strengthening international partnerships, and developing the capabilities required to help fragile societies build more resilient, and thus stable, states. Following the discussion of the report by the study group’s chairs on September 12, scholars from each institution will preview several of a series of policy briefs to be released in coming months on specific portions of the new approach.
On panel one, William J. Burns, President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Michèle Flournoy, CEO, Center for a New American Security, Nancy Lindborg, President, United States Institute of Peace, moderated by David Ignatius, Columnist and Author, The Washington Post. On panel two, Rachel Kleinfeld, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Loren Schulman, Deputy Director of Studies and Leon E. Panetta Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security, Maria J. Stephan, Senior Policy Fellow, United States Institute of Peace
- African Politics, African Peace | Monday, September 12th | 2:00pm – 3:30pm | US Institute of Peace | Click HERE to RSVP |
More than 100,000 peacekeepers deployed in Africa make up three-quarters of such United Nations troops worldwide, and they illustrate the frequent response of the African Union to defuse violent conflict with military forces. But the AU has another strength: political power. Join the U.S. Institute of Peace with researchers Alex de Waal and Mulugeta Gebrehiwot of the World Peace Foundation on September 12 for recommendations from their new report on how the AU can harness its unique advantage to advance peace and security. Their new report for the AU argues that the Union must move away from its reactive approach to violent conflict and draw on its inherent political strengths. Their extensive research includes case studies of the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Somalia and South Sudan. The authors, joined by AU representatives, will share major findings and offer policy recommendations for how the African Union can best harness its political expertise to reduce violent conflict on the continent and advance its mission of lasting stability. Featuring Alex de Waal, Executive Director, World Peace Foundation; Research Professor, The Fletcher School, Tufts University, Mulugeta Gebrehiwot, Program Director of the African Security Sector and Peace Operations Program, The Fletcher School, Tufts University, moderated by Princeton Lyman, Senior Advisor to the President.
- 20 Years Later: The United States and the Future of the CTBT | Tuesday, September 13th | 9:00am – 7:00pm | The Stimson Center | Click HERE to RSVP
Twenty years ago, the United States took a leading role in negotiations for a verifiable ban on the explosive testing of nuclear weapons. The result was the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which opened for signature September 24, 1996. Although the treaty has widespread domestic and global support, the CTBT has not yet entered into force because the United States and seven other key states have failed to ratify the treaty. This month, the Obama administration, along with other U.N. Security Council member states, are considering a resolution that reaffirms support for the global norm against nuclear testing and the eventual ratification of the CTBT. Please join the Stimson Center and Arms Control Association for a briefing on the security value of the treaty in the 21st Century and the purpose and status of the U.N. Security Council initiative. Featuring Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, U.S. Department of State, Ambassador Adam M. Scheinman, Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, U.S. Department of State, Ambassador Mitsuru Kitano, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Japan to the International Organizations in Vienna, Ambassador Kairat Umarov, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the United States, Michael Krepon, Co-Founder of the Stimson Center, will convene the meeting. Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, will lead the question and answer session following the presentations of our panelists.
- Mitigating Electoral Violence: Lessons from Nigeria’s 2015 Election | Tuesday, September 13th | 12:00pm -2:00pm | School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University | Email Ernest Ogbozor at email@example.com RSVPUncertainties characterized the period before Nigeria’s 2015 election, with many people predicting a possible outbreak of the worst election violence in the country. This led to different initiatives to mitigate potential violence during and after the election. This included the signing of a peace pact, referred to as the “Abuja Peace Accord” by the leaders of the two largest political parties. The 2015 election is now history, but many African countries have not learned from the Nigeria’s experience. As some African nations prepare for elections in the coming months; like Somalia, Gambia, and Ghana, the events unfolding in Gabon where a presidential candidate declared victory in an unannounced result of an election and further asked his opponent to call and congratulate him is of concern. Professor Attahiru Jega, a former Chair of the Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission during the 2011 and 2015 elections, and a current visiting scholar at the George Mason University will share his experience from the Nigerian elections and its implications for other countries. Featuring Professor Attahiru Jega, Former Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and a Visiting Scholar at the George Mason University, Professor John Paden, Clarence Robinson Professor, George Mason University, Professor Terrence Lyons, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University
- From Tribe to Nation: Iraqi Kurdistan on the Cusp of Statehood | Wednesday, September 14th | 9:30am – 11:00am | The Wilson Center | Click HERE to RSVP |
There is growing recognition that after decades of dogged, if at times unorthodox, efforts to build their own state, the Iraqi Kurds are on the cusp of formally declaring independence. It is no longer a matter of “if” but “when.” And the United States, as much as Iraq’s neighbors—Iran, Turkey, and Syria, which have restive Kurdish populations of their own—needs to be ready when Iraqi Kurdistan, the first real Kurdish state in the modern sense, is born. Most importantly, so do the Kurds. Join us for the launch of Amberin Zaman’s latest paper “From Tribe to Nation: Iraqi Kurdistan on the Cusp of Statehood.” Featuring Amberin Zaman, Public Policy Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Center; Columnist, Dikenand Al-Monitor Pulse of the Middle East, Abbas Kadhim, Senior Foreign Policy Fellow, Foreign Policy Institute, SAIS-Johns Hopkins University, and President, Institute of Shia Studies, Aliza Marcus, Author of Blood and Belief: The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence and moderated by Henri J. Barkey, Director, Middle East Program, Wilson Center
1) Zionism: The Birth and Transformation of an Ideal| Monday, July 18th | 5:30-6:30pm | The Middle East Institute | Click here to RSVP |The Middle East Institute (MEI) is pleased to host veteran journalist Milton Viorst for a discussion of his upcoming book, Zionism: The Birth and Transformation of an Ideal (Dunn, 2016). From Herzl to Netanyahu, Viorst follows the development of Zionism through the lives and ideas of its dominant leaders who all held one tenet in common: the Jewish people must determine their own destiny. He argues that while Israel has emerged as an economically prosperous and geopolitically powerful Jewish homeland, Zionism has increasingly been defined through military strength. Viorst asks how Zionism evolved from an ideal of Jewish refuge to a rationalization of occupation? Has this development altered the international community’s perception of Zionism as Israel’s founding doctrine? Matthew Duss (President, The Foundation for Middle East Peace) will moderate the event. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing. A wine and cheese reception and book-signing will follow the talk.
2) President Obama’s Role In African Security And Development| Tuesday, July 19th | 10:00-11:30am | Brookings | Click here to RSVP | Barack Obama’s presidency has witnessed widespread change throughout Africa. His four trips there, spanning seven countries, reflect his belief in the continent’s potential and importance. African countries face many challenges that span issues of trade, investment, and development, as well as security and stability. With President Obama’s second term coming to an end, it is important to begin to reflect on his legacy and how his administration has helped frame the future of Africa. Matthew Carotenuto, professor at St. Lawrence University and author of “Obama and Kenya: Contested Histories and the Politics of Belonging” will discuss his research in the region. He will be joined by Sarah Margon, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch. Brookings Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon will partake in and moderate the discussion.
3) Iraqi Foreign Minister On Aid, ISIS And Reconciliation| Tuesday, July 19th | 1:30-2:30pm | United States Institute of Peace | Click here to RSVP | Iraq’s Foreign Minister Dr. Ibrahim al-Jaafari will address his country’s role in the Middle East, its battle against ISIS/ISIL, relations with the U.S., and the need for international assistance, in an event at the U.S. Institute of Peace on July 19. It will be his only public appearance during a trip to Washington for meetings with the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and an international pledging conference to raise funds for relief and reconstruction, as the Iraqi government works with allies to prepare for the massive undertaking of recapturing the country’s second-largest city, Mosul, from ISIS control.
4) Russia And Europe – Dangerous Times, Dangerous Continent?| Tuesday, July 19th | 3:00-4:30pm | Project for the Study of the 21st Century | Click here to RSVP | PS21 global fellow Ali Wyne talks to Fiona Hill, former US National Intelligence Officer for Russia and now head of the Europe program at the Brookings Institution. Where will Europe go in the aftermath of the UK referendum, what is motivating Vladimir Putin and how can the US influence events in a continent that has previously given the world some of the worst conflicts in human history
5) How to Defeat Terrorism in Iraq | Wednesday, July 20th | 10:30-12:00| The Institute for World Politics | Click here to RSVP | Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari will share his vision for his country: a political re-crafting of the existing government structure away from sectarianism and towards a new constitution based on Iraqi national citizenship and inclusive of participation from all sectarian communities.HE Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari is the Chairman of the Iraq National Project and President of Peace Ambassadors for Iraq (PAFI). One of the leaders of the al-Zoba tribe in Iraq, he is the nephew of the late Islamic scholar and religious leader.Sheikh Harith al-Dhari Jamal was born in the Abu Ghraib district of Iraq on July 16, 1965. He grew up within the al-Zoba tribe and in the 1970s he attended the Hafsa School. In the 1980s, Jamal was conscripted into the Iraqi Army to fight in the Iran- Iraq War. During his time on the frontline, he fought alongside both Sunni and Shia officers and friends, in the Iraqi Republican Guard. Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by coalition forces, Jamal was a strong proponent of Iraqi nationalism and self-rule. In 2005, he and his family fought against al-Qaeda’s occupation of Iraqi territory and, as a consequence, Jamal lost 70 members of his family in the struggle. In 2014, Jamal helped to establish the nonprofit think tank Peace Ambassadors for Iraq, whose purpose is to advocate for a renewed system of government in Iraq, to determine the best policies to fully eliminate ISIS/Daesh and other terrorist forces from Iraq, and to build international support for an all-inclusive Iraq. Presently, Jamal is working for a renewal in Iraq by forging a non-sectarian and inclusive settlement for all Iraqis.
6) After ISIS: Politics, Deal-Making, and the Struggle for Iraq’s Future | Thursday, July 21st | 9:30-11:00 am | The Wilson Center | Click here to RSVP | As the Islamic State (ISIS) is rolled back and defeated in Iraq and Syria, the fight for Iraq’s political future will begin. On both a local and national level, a new political deal between the country’s parties and communities will be necessary to keep the country together. Liberated territories will need to be secured by forces acceptable to locals, populations will need to return, and towns must be rebuilt. In addition, intra-Kurdish politics and Baghdad-Erbil relations will need a new framework—whether the Kurds decide to stay or go. Underlying these dynamics is the poor state of the post-oil price decline economy of the Kurdish region. Akeel Abbas, Professor, American University of Iraq, Sulaimani; Mina al Oraibi, Senior Fellow, Institute of State Effectiveness; Christine van den Toorn, Director, Institute of Regional and International Studies, American University of Iraq, Sulaimani; and Bilal Wahab: Professor, International Studies, and Director, Center for Development and Natural Resources, American University of Iraq, Sulaimani will speak. Discussion will be moderated by Henri J. Barkey, the director of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center.
With Hillary Clinton clinching the Democratic nomination, it is time to consider the far more likely scenario: that she will win the November election, become the first Madame President, and return to the White House in January. What are the implications for America and its foreign policy?
Trump’s defeat, the third in a row for Republicans, will leave the party weakened and possibly divided. It could well lose control of the Senate if not the House. Blame for this will be heaped on those who backed Trump, a blatant racist, misogynist and xenophobe. Balancing acts like this one will look ridiculous in the aftermath of an electoral defeat:
Those who did not support Trump will try to resurrect the direction the party thought it had chosen after the 2012 election: towards becoming more inclusive rather than less. That will be a hard sell once more than 70% of Hispanics (and 90% of African Americans), similar percentages of gas and lesbians, and a majority of women have chosen Clinton. Some of the defeated will try to launch a new party or join the Libertarians. Diehard Trumpies will head off into the white supremacist/neo-Nazi corner of American politics.
The Democrats will seek to exploit their moment of triumph. I imagine top of their priorities will be “comprehensive” immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people. This would solidify their Hispanic support. I doubt Clinton will reverse her position on the Transpacific Trade Partnership (TTP), but she might well quietly encourage Barack Obama to get it done in the lame duck Congress, before she is sworn in, with some improvements. I hope she will back the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which raises fewer hackles that TTP.
Clinton will want to reassure America’s allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. She will look for ways to sound and act tougher on the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Russia, Iran and China, which have each taken advantage of Obama’s retrenchment from the over-extension of the Bush 43 presidency to press the envelope on what Washington will tolerate. She will maintain the nuclear deal with Iran and likely try to follow a similar model with North Korea. She opt for a no-fly zone in northern or southern Syria, hoping to stop at that.
Clinton will try to sustain Washington’s tightened relationship with India, Vietnam and other Asian powers as well as ongoing moves towards democracy and free market economies in Africa and Latin America. She’ll try to avoid sinking more men and money into Afghanistan and will try to get (and keep) Pakistan turned around in a more helpful direction. Israel/Palestine will be low on her priorities–why tred on turf where others have repeatedly failed?–unless something breaks in the positive or negative direction.
Domestic issues will take priority, including fixes for Obamacare, increased infrastructure and education funding, reductions in student loan debt, criminal justice reform, corporate tax reform and appointment of at least one Supreme Court justice (unless Merrick Garland is confirmed in the lame duck session) and many other Federal judges at lower levels. She will support modestly increased defense funding and tax cuts for the middle class, funded by increases on higher incomes. She will tack slightly to the left to accommodate Bernie Sanders’ supporters, but not so far as to lose independents.
In other words, Hillary Clinton is likely to serve Barack Obama’s third term, correcting the relatively few mistakes she thinks he has made, slowing retrenchment and adapting his pragmatic non-doctrine foreign policy to the particular circumstances and events as they occur. It will take some time for the Republicans, or whatever succeeds them as the second major party, to figure out whether they are protectionist or free traders, anti-immigrant or not, interventionist or not.
Trump’s defeat will be momentous for the Republican party, but it will leave the country on more or less the same trajectory it has followed for the past 7.5 years. If she can keep it pointed in that direction for four more, we should be thankful.