WASHINGTON — In a wide-ranging speech at the Council on Foreign Relations today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined how the Obama adminstration’s foreign policy aims to reshape the U.S. role in the world.

Drawing an obvious contrast with the Bush era, she emphasized that the heart of the new administration’s policy lies in exercising “American leadership to solve problems in concert with others.” It requires, she said, a “new mindset of how America will use its power,” involving “engagement based on common interests, shared values and mutual respect.”

She listed as priorities stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and achieving a nuclear-free world; countering violent extremism; strengthening the global economy; combating climate change and achieving energy security; promoting democratic governments and advancing human rights.

Clinton said the administration was intent on restoring the negative image of the U.S. around the world fueled especially by torture at Guanatanamo and other Bush administration actions. “Yes, we have lost ground in recent years, but the damage is temporary,” she said.

U.S. foreign policy “must reflect the world as it is, not as it used to be,” she said. “We cannot go back to Cold War containment nor to unilateralism.”

The times demand a “different global architecture” — an “architecture of global cooperation,” she said. It must produce tangible results for people, she emphasized, results that can be seen by laid off autoworkers in our country and impoverished farmers abroad.

The new policy will aim at using U.S. influence to “overcome obstacles to cooperation” through what she called “smart power”: direct diplomacy, our “ability to connect” various sides and viewpoints, outreach to public opinion — she cited Obama’s recent speeches in Cairo, Accra and elsewhere as examples — and “the credibility of our new president and his team.”

This aim will be pursued in several ways, she said:

* reinvigorate “bedrock alliances” like NATO, update its strategic concepts to reflect the post-Cold War era;

* encourage the major emerging powers, such as China, India, Brazil, Turkey and others, to be “full partners” in tackling the global challenges;

* transform global and regional institutions like the World Bank to make them more inclusive;

* reach beyond governments to communicate directly with people, through educational exchanges, entrepreneurial initiatives, engagement with civil society (Clinton said she has named the first U.S. ambassador for global women’s issues, and is launching an initiative to engage diaspora communities in the U.S. to aid development in their countries of origin.);

* cultivate more flexible relationships with partners who may not agree with us on everything. “We will not tell our partners: ‘take it or leave it’,” Clinton said. The Bush approach of “you’re with us or you’re against us,” was “global malpractice,” she said.

The idea is to “tilt away from a ‘multi-polar’ world toward a ‘multi-partner’ world,” Clinton said.

She spoke at some length about two major flashpoints, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran.

Underscoring President Obama’s commitment to achieving a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Clinton indicated the administration’s hope that the surrounding Arab countries would “step up” with new initiatives to advance the peace process. The 2002 Saudi peace initiative was a “positive step,” she said, but “we believe more is needed.” For all sides, she said, “sending messages of peace is not enough. Action is needed.”

Clinton reaffirmed the administration’s intention to pursue direct diplomacy with Iran. Noting that the Bush administration’s refusal to talk with Iran was a harmful policy, she said caustically, “We know very well what we inherited.” Direct talks, she said, are the “best vehicle” to provide Iran’s leaders with concrete options.

Pressed by a questioner on whether the U.S. would be prepared to “live with a nuclear Iran,” she refused to take the bait. “I’m not going to negotiate with Iran sitting right here,” she responded. Through the negotiating process, she said, we will get a better picture of what is or isn’t possible.

“The last eight years were a mistake,” she declared.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, Clinton’s director of policy planning, told reporters earlier that the secretary of state was “not trying to announce a grand doctrine.’

‘That is not the point,” Slaughter said. “The point is to provide a coherent strategic framework’ that explains the administration’s foreign policy approach thus far and sets the stage for future policy decisions.

suewebb @ pww.org


Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more. Previously she taught English as a second language and did a variety of other jobs to pay the bills. She has lived in six states, and is all about motherhood, art, nature and apple pie.