Tag Archives: foreign policy

First Steps

Originally published on November 21, 2008, at politicsunlocked.com

 

creative commons

creative commons

 

 

The nomination of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the nation’s next Secretary of State says a lot about President-elect Barack Obama.  

The nomination shows Obama’s confidence to bring a former rival into his inner circle. Throughout her presidential nomination campaign, Senator Clinton demonstrated intelligence and charisma, not to mention the popularity and good will she earned as New York’s U.S. Senator and as First Lady from 1992 to 2000.

That said, Hillary Clinton does not have universal appeal.  

According to an August 2008 Gallup survey, 72% of Republicans viewed Hillary Clinton negatively, although she was viewed favorably by 80% of Democrats and by 54% of all respondents, including independents.  Her vocal role in the health care reform campaign in 1992 was derided as arrogant or, at least, beyond the responsibility of the First Lady.  Her very presence, imbued with contemporary feminism, has always rubbed some conservatives the wrong way.  

Despite polar reactions to her in the United States, Clinton should be well received by the international community.  More than any other figure in today’s American political landscape, she symbolizes theBill Clinton presidency’s international popularity.  He was admired for his eloquence and prized for his effort to bring about negotiated solutions to international conflicts. It is not that Senator Clinton can share responsibility for her husband’s accomplishments, but that through her appointment, Obama undoubtedly sends a clear signal of the kind of international relations he seeks.

After eight difficult years of U.S. foreign policy marked by faulty intelligence and planning, abrogation of international rules, and unilateral action, many in the international community are eager for change. Obama campaigned for a return to respect for conventions and negotiation in international leadership. His campaign was followed widely with great enthusiasm throughout the world. 

 

With the nomination of Hillary Clinton, Obama has smartly linked with the success of the prior Democratic administration and has immediately created some international foundation.  Hillary Clinton not only brings the goodwill engendered from the Clinton Presidency, but is also failry well-known politically.  

While she was criticized by her party for her initial vote authorizing war in Iraq, in her role as Secretary of State, a voting record demonstrating the willingness to use force if diplomacy fails, is a mark of strength.  Her personal familiarity with world leaders, through extensive official travel as First Lady and Senator, should not be discounted either. Obama has chosen both an able politician and a person symbolizing engagement in multilateralism from a position of power.  He has made the most of this high level appointment.

Upon leaving the Senate, Hillary Clinton must forgo the opportunity to shepherd health care legislation through Congress.  However, Senators Baucus and Kennedy, among others, are stepping ino the lead.  

As for Republicans harboring disapproval of Hillary Clinton, she may yet win them over in the role of Secretary of State, where strength and assertiveness are viewed as assets.  

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Changing Global Priorities

Our new foreign policy must prize cooperation over competition.

Barack Obama took office fifty-one days ago, assuming the presidency during a crucial time for American foreign policy. Instability in key areas is on the rise, and the economic contractions around the world are likely to bring unrest, violence, and change to a degree previously thought impossible.

The United States may be tempted to face the nations of the world with the same preferences and policies as before. A different party is in power now, but aside from his position on the war in Iraq, President Obama has not yet voiced foreign-policy positions that differ substantially from those of the preceding administration.

He should.

George W. Bush singled out North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as evildoers early in his presidency. He approached each nation differently, taking regime change to Iraq, sanctions to Iran, and bilateral negotiations to North Korea. Each of these nations had taken positions troubling to American interests. The Bush administration’s actions, most dramatically in Iraq, can be debated and the results evaluated for their long-term effectiveness. But in recent years, the geopolitical landscape in which those three nations stood out as dangers is all but gone.

Today Pakistan looks more precarious than Iran, Iraq, or North Korea ever could have. As Pakistan transitioned toward more democracy in October 2008, it also became less stable. It has always tolerated militants operating within its borders. Recently, a large area in the country’s northern region, known as the Swat Valley, has become a haven for Taliban, giving them opportunities to fundraise, organize, and plan operations in Afghanistan and beyond. The Pakistani government has agreed to bring the entire region under Sharia, the Islamic system of religious law, in a concession to local leaders, and officials have claimed to be negotiating with moderate elements of the populace in order to undermine radical groups.

For now, the United States must decide how to handle events in Pakistan as they affect our goals in Afghanistan. But in the long run, the United States will have to face the fact that Pakistan itself could descend into civil war, state-sanctioned radicalism, or general and indefinite instability. Pakistan is a substantial nuclear power; fringe elements of its population have already, on numerous occasions, exported terrible violence to neighboring India and Afghanistan. The danger of militant possession of nuclear weapons must be mitigated and planned for.

The U.S. has also regarded China and Russia with too much distrust. The corruption and authoritarianism of these nations runs against the fundamental principles of open, democratic society; individual liberties are compromised in both countries, and there is nothing that we would recognize as a free press. Like the United States, these nations have issues of security, but theirs are more dire and occur closer to home — China has North Korea on its border; Russia faces insurgent activity in Chechnya and Dagestan.

Now is the time for mutual cooperation and assistance. The recent skirmish between Chinese and American vessels would not have happened between friendly nations. More can be done diplomatically to find points of agreement, so that these three great powers can be allowed to focus their collective resources on international problem-solving, not rivalry.

Both China and Russia have loosely followed our free-market model, although their economies are informed by far too much authoritarian power from the state. Neither country is a threat to our national security or that of our allies, in the long run. Indeed, it seems reasonable to expect that coöperation between China, Russia, and the West will continue to bring gradual reform to those nations, as it has in the past. China’s government is far more open and its leadership far more accountable today than it was twenty years ago. The forthcoming diplomatic era must be one of accord and common ground, not withdrawal and alienation.

New Foreign Policy Emerging

Originally published at politicsunlocked.com

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

(Photo credit:  Marc Nozell; license — creative commons)

Hillary Clinton’s confirmation hearing reveals Obama’s new approach to the world.

The Senate confirmation hearing of Hillary Rodham Clinton provided the first insights into Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

The nominee for Secretary of State sought to make clear the principles that would guide the administration in its approach to international problems from terrorism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea.  

The most clear break with the Bush administration came in the insistence on a multilateral approach, recognizing the “overwhelming fact of our interdependence.”

“For me, consultation is not a catch-word.  It is a commitment,” Ms. Clinton stated.

Clinton also spoke for a greater emphasis on diplomacy and the use of what she labeled smart power, citing negotiation, development aid and cultural support to supplement the traditional use of military and economic power.  She cited Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who will retain his position in the new administration, for the belief that “our civilian institutions of diplomacy and development have been chronically undermanned and under-funded for far too long.”

Ms. Clinton took a hard line however, with Hamas, currently facing a costly war in Gaza, and Iran, whose nuclear ambitions will be a high priority in the next administration. 

Clinton stated that the administration would not negotiate with Hamas until it renounces violence and acceptsIsrael’s right to exist, and told Senators that Iran would not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.  When asked by Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committeehow far the administration was prepared to go in standing up to Iran, she replied, “nothing is off the table.” 

This aggressive tone may upset some Obama supporters, depending on their isolationist or less confrontational views.  There has been a nearly universal hope that after the Bush Administration’s tough talk (axis of evil) and willingness to use military force, the incoming administration would tone down the rhetoric.  

Clinton appears to be trying to signal both an increased effort at diplomacy and a willingness to consider force when necessary.

“We will lead with diplomacy because it’s the smart approach.  But we also know that military force will sometimes be necessary, and we will rely on it to protect our people and our interests when and where needed, as a last resort.”

Presidential campaigns contain many general statements of philosophy, but not until the incoming administration finds itself face to face with the facts on the ground can a specific program be developed. Israel’s recent invasion of the Gaza strip is just the type of unanticipated event administrations are forced to deal with at their peril.  The risk for the Obama administration is that efforts at solving the Palestinian dilemma will take attention away from Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Russia’s resurgent power in Europe and effective action to manage the current world economic crisis as well.

Richard Holbrooke Named Diplomatic Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan

 

 

holbrook-1000-in-small

Photo of Holbrooke and Russian General by Estonian Foreign Ministry, licensed by creative commons

President Barack Obama has named senior statesman Richard Holbrooke to be the diplomatic shepherd of American foreign policy interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Ambassador Holbrooke has a wealth of experience and international stature, which will serve the administration well in its effort to achieve maximum impact through renewed diplomacy.

The conflict in Afghanistan, now in its eighth year, is likely to rise in priority as the United States draws down the number of troops needed in Iraq and redeploys some of those forces to Afghanistan. The last two years have also seen a resurgence of Taliban and anti-government forces, threatening to undermine the coalition efforts to support national government authority and regional stability.  

President Obama has already begun planning for troop and supply increases to aid the coalition in Afghanistan.  Holbrooke will be deeply involved in supporting and assessing the “smart power” marriage of development, governance and cultural progress with security and offensive war-fighting operations.  

Holbrooke has extensive State Department experience in Asia and Europe, culminating in positions as Ambassador to Germany and subsequently to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton.  He promoted the expansion of NATO and its participation in the 1990s’ conflict in Bosnia. 

Recognizing, the symbolic power of American leadership was at stake in the intervention, Holbrooke stated“[this] will be the key test of American policy in Europe.  We must therefore succeed in whatever we attempt.”  He brokered the lasting peace deal in the Bosnian conflict which resulted in the Dayton accords.

In 2001, as Holbrooke left the post of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, he said, “Iraq will be one of the major issues facing the incoming Bush administration at the United Nations.” 

Further, “Saddam Husseins activities continue to be unacceptable and, in my view, dangerous to the region and, indeed, to the world, not only because he possesses the potential for weapons of mass destruction but because of the very nature of his regime. His willingness to be cruel internally is not unique in the world, but the combination of that and his willingness to export his problems makes him a clear and present danger at all times.”  

More recently, in the face of ongoing violence in Iraq, Holbrooke called for a “new diplomatic offensive in the Gulf region to help stabilize Iraq.”

Holbrooke’s negotiating experience with parties in armed conflict may help navigate the complex issues Pakistan adds to Afghan regional security.  In the last two years, Taliban insurgents have relied on supply and manpower from neighboring Pakistan to renew and sustain offensive operations.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has had growing political instability and violence as a result of its own extremist factions. Recent terrorism in Mumbai, India, further illustrates that Pakistan is exporting terrorism beyond its borders and that the government has been unwilling or unable to effectively police insurgents.  

Holbrooke will begin intensive discussions with the recently elected leadership in Pakistan on a wide range of security issues.

Also regarded as forward-thinking, Holbrooke was among the first to focus official U.N. consideration on AIDS/HIV in African programs in 2001.  Subsequently, the Bush administration embraced a major commitment to AIDS/HIV treatment, widely regarded as one of the administration’s most successful humanitarian achievements.

Obama Nominates Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State.

By Marc Seltzer; originally published on November 21, 2009, at politicsunlocked.com

. .

The nomination of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the nation’s next Secretary of State says a lot about President-elect Barack Obama.

The nomination shows Obama’s confidence to bring a former rival into his inner circle. Throughout her presidential nomination campaign, Senator Clinton demonstrated intelligence and charisma, not to mention the popularity and good will she earned as New York’s U.S. Senator and as First Lady from 1992 to 2000.

That said, Hillary Clinton does not have universal appeal.

According to an August 2008 Gallup survey, 72% of Republicans viewed Hillary Clinton negatively, although she was viewed favorably by 80% of Democrats and by 54% of all respondents, including independents.  Her vocal role in the health care reform campaign in 1992 was derided as arrogant or, at least, beyond the responsibility of the First Lady.  Her very presence, imbued with contemporary feminism, has always rubbed some conservatives the wrong way.

Despite polar reactions to her in the United States, Clinton should be well received by the international community.  More than any other figure in today’s American political landscape, she symbolizes theBill Clinton presidency’s international popularity.  He was admired for his eloquence and prized for his effort to bring about negotiated solutions to international conflicts. It is not that Senator Clinton can share responsibility for her husband’s accomplishments, but that through her appointment, Obama undoubtedly sends a clear signal of the kind of international relations he seeks.

After eight difficult years of U.S. foreign policy marked by faulty intelligence and planning, abrogation of international rules, and unilateral action, many in the international community are eager for change. Obama campaigned for a return to respect for conventions and negotiation in international leadership. His campaign was followed widely with great enthusiasm throughout the world.

With the nomination of Hillary Clinton, Obama has smartly linked with the success of the prior Democratic administration and has immediately created some international foundation.  Hillary Clinton not only brings the goodwill engendered from the Clinton Presidency, but is also failry well-known politically.

While she was criticized by her party for her initial vote authorizing war in Iraq, in her role as Secretary of State, a voting record demonstrating the willingness to use force if diplomacy fails, is a mark of strength.  Her personal familiarity with world leaders, through extensive official travel as First Lady and Senator, should not be discounted either. Obama has chosen both an able politician and a person symbolizing engagement in multilateralism from a position of power.  He has made the most of this high level appointment.

Upon leaving the Senate, Hillary Clinton must forgo the opportunity to shepherd health care legislation through Congress.  However, Senators Baucus and Kennedy, among others, are stepping ino the lead.

As for Republicans harboring disapproval of Hillary Clinton, she may yet win them over in the role of Secretary of State, where strength and assertiveness are viewed as assets.