"Smart Power" And The End of American Exceptionalism

There were two very telling quotes by Secretary of State designate Hillary Clinton during today's Senate confirmation hearings as to the nature of foreign policy under an Obama Administration.  

``We must also actively pursue a strategy of smart power in the Middle East that addresses the security needs of Israel and the legitimate political and economic aspirations of the Palestinians.''

By  "smart power" Senator Clinton means that the United States should be using all the tools of foreign policy that are at our disposal.  In this regard the Obama Administration will pursue engaged, cooperative American global leadership consistent with the nation's democratic values and not rely on military might alone. This will mean reaching out to create stronger more broad-based partnerships with our allies as well as working to forge new bonds with foes such as Iran and Syria. An Obama foreign policy will seek to invest in "our common humanity as a way to achieve greater security." It is a marriage of principle and pragmatism and yet it is not overtly ideological. This is also a recognition that the neo-liberal "Washington Consensus" has failed. Instead of pushing market-based solutions to every problem, it seems that American foreign policy will take a wider approach to dealing with global problems.

The second quote is also rather telling. It is an implicit recognition of the limits of American power and that the neo-conservative approach of American exceptionalism has been a dismal failure. It is a return to a more realist approach to foreign policy. It is also a recognition that we live in a multi-polar world.

``America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America. The best way to advance America's interest in reducing global threats and seizing global opportunities is to design and implement global solutions. This isn't a philosophical point. This is our reality.''

What also seem evident today, apart from David Vitter's pettiness, is a more bipartisan approach to foreign policy. Thus it is no wonder that Senator Lugar would call Clinton "the epitome of a big leaguer.''

Tags: Obama Foreign Policy, senator hillary clinton (all tags)



pettiness, substance

The substantive tone of the hearings must have come as a shock to those in the media and the blogs who were salivating over an anticipated witch trial. Even Vitter seemed a little ashamed to be attacking the work of CGI and the Clinton Foundation.

And thanks for highlighting the departure from American Exceptionalism. Clinton's practical understanding of the limits of power internationally was my initial reason for supporting her in the primaries. I was pleased when Obama nominated her for Secretary of State because it put to rest one of my major reservations about him: I had feared that he would pursue an exceptionalist foreign policy, a liberal version of Bush policies.

Another important theme from the hearings was Clinton's plan to re-fund the State Department and to reclaim non-military functions from the Department of Defense and the intelligence agencies. She and Robert Gates have collaborated to constrain Bush throughout Gate's tenure, and they have a very good relationship. Her plans are very much in sync with Gate's understanding of the role and limits of the military, and appear to have top level support throughout Obama's new administration. If she can convince Congress to go along then we may be able to recover the democratic reputation that we lost over the course of the Cold War.

by souvarine 2009-01-14 03:46AM | 0 recs
Re: pettiness, substance

I too was glad to hear some of the Senators (R) talk about the positive things of the CGI. Some of my friends have been under the wrong impression about the CGI thinking that Bill receives $$$ from it and that is why the media has made such a big deal.

I have told them to go to the Clinton foundation website and READ about it


It outlines all the good programs that they have been involved in for years. Why should Clinton give this up when it benefits the poorest in the world?

Hillary did an exceptional job (as usual) and the world will be a better place with her as SoS...

by nikkid 2009-01-14 05:06AM | 0 recs
The End of American Exceptionalism

True to form, Maureen Dowd projects her own venality onto Barack Obama, Hillary and Bill Clinton:

The new president is confident enough to think he can do what has never been done. He thinks he can pull out -- like a diamond from carbon -- the sparkling side of the Clintons that can make them exceptional public servants, extracting it from the gray side of the Clintons that can make them tacky, greedy, opportunistic and ethically shady.

Cleaning out the Augean stables was nothing compared to this task, with Obama trying to bend Hillary and Bill to his will, while they try to bend him to theirs.

This in a column ostensibly about Geithner getting tripped up on tax issues. Like Dana Milbank in his column today Dowd compliments Hillary Clinton's encyclopedic grasp of the issues without once revealing a single policy position. Policy does not matter to them, everything is a question of who is bending to whom.

by souvarine 2009-01-14 08:49AM | 0 recs
American Exceptionalism?

In 1958 the Ugly American was first published.

In he 50's and since the US has invaded countries, and or "forcibly changed governments" and or "assassinated leaders" in the America's and abroad with disregard for American Law or International Law.

The US got into Vietnam when it put in a government in the South that RENEGED on the DEAL to hold "national" elections in that country. The US KNEW Ho Chi Minh would win - the Vietnamese saw him as American's saw George Washington. The Gulf of Tonkin "incident" was a set up...the list is endless.

NOW, America is broke and Obama wants to restore its "dignity." Good move - that may be all it has left worth saving.  

by 1Mylegacy 2009-01-14 10:21AM | 0 recs


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