I suspect a number of factors are behind Hillary Clinton’s reticence. Firstly, a US military intervention in the Syrian civil war is strongly opposed by the vast majority of the American public. A recent poll showed just nine percent of Americans backing US military involvement. She probably doesn’t see another war in the Muslim world as a vote winner in 2016. Secondly, she may well be harbouring doubts over the White House approach, which beyond the talk of airstrikes, lacks a coherent strategy, and the president hasn’t exactly made a clear-cut case that taking America to war in Syria is in the national interest. Thirdly, as “the Obama doctrine” goes down in flames in the Middle East, from Damascus to Cairo, Clinton will be nervous about being seen as part and parcel of it, which of course she is.
Fourthly, Clinton’s own track record on Syria has hardly been stellar. Before Syria descended into war, Clinton was a strong backer of engagement with Syria, greatly underestimating the nature of the Baathist regime, famously referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a “reformer” in April 2011. In addition, as Washington’s most senior foreign policy official, Clinton did little to stand up to Moscow’s aggressive support for the Syrians, eager to appease the Russians through the controversial “reset” strategy, which was her own brainchild. In addition, the Secretary of State was weak in the face of Iran, whose military and financial backing for the Assad regime has been vital to its survival.