Hillary Clinton: A quiet brand of statecraft
Hillary Clinton has been loyal to President Obama, her one-time rival. Now she's seeking to redefine U.S. foreign policy for a new century, even as the latest mideast peace talks test her skills as a negotiator.
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Seventeen months into a job she resisted accepting, Hillary Rodham Clinton is seen by many longtime analysts as making a quiet mark on US statecraft through hard work and by reaching down into the well of personal experience.Skip to next paragraph
They see her patiently rebuilding America's image in the world and expanding US diplomatic reach by securing more resources for the State Department from former colleagues in the US Congress. While some still question her creative vision and negotiating skills – a hallmark of successful secretaries of State – others laud her for embarking on a redefinition of American foreign policy that gives new weight to diplomacy and development alongside defense.
"Where she could leave her mark is in putting into practice this idea of smart power," says former secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a longtime friend and close associate of Clinton's who describes the "plethora of issues" facing the secretary of State today as "more complex than anything I've ever seen." To respond to that, she adds, Clinton "sees the potential of using a variety of tools in the diplomatic tool box."
But others who have no less admiration for Clinton's accomplishments in her short time see this moment as a threshold for her – and not only because of the Israeli-Palestinian talks and the test those talks will pose to her skills and propensity for problem solving. They also point to the major foreign-policy review – the so-called "QDDR" or Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review she initiated by adapting a Pentagon policy evaluation process – that she is set to unveil next month.
Both the Middle East negotiations and the policy review will provide a measure, these critics say, of Clinton's ability to think in new ways and to fashion a foreign policy for 21st-century America.
"I admire and appreciate the way she has really drilled down on some of these crises that have come up, from the Pakistan floods to the earthquake in Haiti, even her handling of the Kyrgyzstan turmoil – she's working herself ragged on these things and you can see it in her face," says Steven Clemons, publisher of the widely read Washington Note blog and a foreign-policy specialist. "But what we need is an innovator – not an incrementalist, but someone who envisions the strategic leaps that can get us out of these holes we're in, and I just haven't seen it in Hillary Clinton."
What Mr. Obama got when he insisted his former rival for the Democratic presidential nomination take on the job of applying his foreign policy and running US diplomacy was an indefatigable advocate for America with a work ethic that astounds admirers and critics alike. She has proved her loyalty to Obama, some say to a fault, matching her pragmatic vision of 21st-century American leadership to his. She has put her unmatched star power to good use, commanding the stage whether with a room of colleagues, with young leaders like those Africans assembled in Washington, or with the many television audiences she has engaged with, Oprah-style, while abroad.