Clinton's Quiet Diplomacy Envisions An "Architecture of Global Cooperation"
by Charles Lemos, Wed Jul 15, 2009 at 11:01:15 PM EDT
Secretary of State Clinton delivered what had been billed as a major foreign policy address (transcript) on Wednesday at the DC offices of the Council of Foreign Relations. I'm not sure if the speech has a title but if not it will likely go down in the annals of US diplomatic history as the "architecture of global cooperation" speech. The whole speech is worth a read for it lays out quite succinctly the new approach representing a clean break with the unilateralism of the Bush Administration.
The main thesis is:
Our approach to foreign policy must reflect the world as it is, not as it used to be. It does not make sense to adapt a 19th century concert of powers, or a 20th century balance of power strategy. We cannot go back to Cold War containment or to unilateralism.
Today, we must acknowledge two inescapable facts that define our world: First, no nation can meet the world's challenges alone. The issues are too complex. Too many players are competing for influence, from rising powers to corporations to criminal cartels; from NGOs to al-Qaida; from state-controlled media to individuals using Twitter.
Second, most nations worry about the same global threats, from non-proliferation to fighting disease to counter-terrorism, but also face very real obstacles - for reasons of history, geography, ideology, and inertia. They face these obstacles and they stand in the way of turning commonality of interest into common action.
So these two facts demand a different global architecture - one in which states have clear incentives to cooperate and live up to their responsibilities, as well as strong disincentives to sit on the sidelines or sow discord and division.
So we will exercise American leadership to overcome what foreign policy experts at places like the Council call "collective action problems" and what I call obstacles to cooperation. For just as no nation can meet these challenges alone, no challenge can be met without America.
And here's how we'll do it: We'll work through existing institutions and reform them. But we'll go further. We'll use our power to convene, our ability to connect countries around the world, and sound foreign policy strategies to create partnerships aimed at solving problems. We'll go beyond states to create opportunities for non-state actors and individuals to contribute to solutions.
In short, the goal is build working coalitions to address regional and global problems by engaging states, non-state actors and even individuals in certain cases to focus on cooperation rather than confrontation. The aim is to advance US interests by uniting diverse partners around common concerns and to move the world from a multi-polar orientation to a multi-partner one.
There are those who believe that Hillary Rodham Clinton has been sidelined as Secretary of State. Tina Brown wrote recently in the Daily Beast, "It's time for Barack Obama to let Hillary Clinton take off her burqa." And today Reginald Dale, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, remarked that "Clinton had been parked" out of the way at the State Department. Over at the Huffington Post, William Bradley finds that "Clinton has been neatly mouse-trapped by Obama . . . moved off the political gameboard by Team Obama." Such thinking fails to appreciate the President's vision and the role that Secretary Clinton is playing in the Obama Administration though I'll note that Spencer Ackerman over at the Washington Independent also sees the transformation that's taking place in Foggy Bottom.
It is certainly true that Mrs. Clinton has lost a number of policy debates, most acutely on Iran where she argued for a stiffer tone in the wake of the repression after the disputed elections, but Secretary Clinton prevailed in the Afghan debate. The other point is that the days of Kissinger-esque Secretary of States is likely over. There are too many global firespots that required on-going special envoys engaged day-in and day-out. Secretary Clinton's job at State has shifted. She is now responsible for building the foundation for the new global architecture of cooperation. Her job is build new alliances and to provide the White House with blueprints for action that others will execute upon. It's a quiet diplomacy but it is not going unnoticed.
From the New York Times:
"Secretary Clinton is a key member of a very strong team," said Denis R. McDonough, a spokesman for the National Security Council. "The president values her inputs, her team's inputs."
Mrs. Clinton is said by her aides to brush off the scuttlebutt about her low profile. They note that she kept her head down early in her Senate career, too.
She professes to be amused, if baffled, by a recent column on the blog Daily Beast in which Tina Brown wrote, "It's time for Barack Obama to let Hillary Clinton take off her burqa."
Other foreign affairs experts say the doubts about Mrs. Clinton's role reflect an unrealistic view of the job of secretary of state, particularly in an era when the White House usually drives foreign policy.
"There's a reflex assumption on the part of a lot of people that the secretary of state is going to be out there, on every conceivable issue," said Strobe Talbott, a deputy secretary of state under President Clinton.
"But to do that on every conceivable issue is way too much, particularly when we have so many issues," said Mr. Talbott, who is now president of the Brookings Institution and once wrote about sidelined secretaries of state, in the Nixon and Carter administrations, for Time magazine.
Mrs. Clinton has told colleagues about a recent phone conversation with Henry A. Kissinger, a secretary of state who was not sidelined, in which he told her he could not recall a time when there appeared to be less friction between the State Department and the White House. Mr. Kissinger confirmed the account.
The differences between the Obama Administration and the Bush Administration are stark not just in policy but also in style, tone and operationally. It is a team-based approach where roles have been carefully assigned and the aim internally as much as externally is to foster co-operation. There are no prima donnas or rogue actors with independent agendas in the Obama Administration.
As the Secretary noted "building the architecture of global cooperation requires" the United States to devise the right policies and use the right tools." Smart power is central to this thinking and to the Administration's decision-making. It means the intelligent use of all means at the disposal of the United States - it includes both economic and military strength - and the effective use of the President and his team to enhance American credibility not just to state actors but directly to the citizens of the globe. That's why the President is giving the headlining speeches in Istanbul, Cairo, Moscow and Accra but behind that is a team, not of rivals, but of partners.