It's been an exciting year blogging about Secretary Clinton. In this busy year, she promoted Internet freedom, faced rumors that she'll replace either Joe Biden or Robert Gates, became a mother-in-law, launched Mideast peace talks, declared a new "American moment," alerted the world to the transformational power of clean cookstoves, was ranked as FP's No. 13 Global Thinker, suffered the loss of special envoy Richard Holbrooke, and ended the year with Senate approval of the New START treaty.
Nearly two years into Clinton's post as America's top diplomat, we've decided that this blog has run its course, and now I'll be concentrating my efforts on other editorial tasks here at FP, though I'll still tweet and write occasional posts for Passport. Thanks to everyone who visited this blog. To continue following the twists and turns of Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, I recommend the following sites:
Have a happy end of 2010, everyone, and let's hope for the best, diplomacy-wise for Clinton, in 2011!
If Congress doesn't pass an omnibus appropriation bill, the resulting funding cuts will "seriously impede our efforts to meet unanticipated national security needs," Secretary Clinton said yesterday in a statement.
Without an omnibus bill, the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) would be subject to a yearlong continuing resolution that "would sharply cut our funding and severely weaken the [State] Department and USAID's ability to execute our critical civilian missions, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq," Clinton stated.
She also said, "We need these resources now more than ever to support national security priorities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan where we are helping secure gains made by our military and preventing the spread of violent extremism."
Clinton and other government officials have repeatedly said that U.S. foreign policy rests on three pillars: defense, diplomacy, and development. Weaken the pillars of diplomacy and development, and the edifice of U.S. foreign policy collapses. Leaders such as Gen. David Petraeus have said that there is "no military solution" to Iraq (and the same can be said of Afghanistan). The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review -- released yesterday and titled "Leading Through Civilian Power," asks, "How can we do better?" It answers, "we will build up our civilian power: the combined force of civilians working together across the U.S. government to practice diplomacy, carry out development projects, and prevent and respond to crises."
Some lawmakers, such as Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), wish to cut the State Department and foreign-aid budgets. Guess she's not into the three-pillars thing.
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
Today Secretary Clinton released the State Department's first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which as my colleague Josh Rogin over at The Cable notes, is "meant to chart a way forward for the diplomatic corps to play a greater role in U.S. foreign policy in a world of shrinking budgets and resources."
Here are a couple of Clinton quotes from Rogin's report:
"As you dig in to this report, you'll see it's driven by two overarching factors, first is president Obama's focus on fiscal responsibility and efficiency throughout the federal government," Clinton said. "Through the QDDR, we have tried to minimize costs, maximize impacts, avoid overlap and duplication and focus on delivering results."
"Across our programs we are redefining success based on results achieved rather than dollars spent," she said. "This will help us make the case that bolstering U.S. civilian power is a wise investment for American taxpayers that will pay off by averting conflicts, opening markets, and reducing threats."
The video of Clinton's speech is below. The transcript is here.
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
FYI: Secretary Clinton will be hosting a town-hall meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 15, at 11:15 a.m. (U.S. Eastern time) on the release of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), themed "Leading Through Civilian Power." At the start of the meeting, to be held with State Department employees, the QDDR will be made available for downloading at www.state.gov.
Speaking a short time before she learned of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's death yesterday evening, Secretary Clinton recalled him as a "giant of the diplomatic corps for almost 50 years" and said he was "practically synonymous with American foreign policy of that time period." She joked, "He's a fierce negotiator. I'm sure there are some shoulders here tonight that are still a little bit sore from his arm-twisting." Clinton made the remarks (in their entirety below) while greeting a holiday reception for chiefs of diplomatic missions to the United States.
Upon learning of Holbrooke's death later in the evening, Clinton gathered at George Washington University Hospital with dozens of other State Department officials as well as current and former Holbrooke aides, according to Laura Rozen over at Politico. Rozen wrote late yesterday night:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and about forty senior State Department officials, and Holbrooke aides past and present spontaneously gathered at George Washington Hospital tonight when they heard the news that the veteran diplomat had died, and later shut down a nearby hotel reminiscing about him.
Secretary Clinton "was incredible," the official continued. "She pulled everyone together."
Clinton's complete remarks about Holbrooke from yesterday's reception, made before learning of his death:
He is practically synonymous with American foreign policy of that time period. He's taken on the hardest assignments, from Vietnam to the Balkans to Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this week, his doctors are learning what diplomats and dictators around the world have long known: There's nobody tougher than Richard Holbrooke. He's a fierce negotiator. I'm sure there are some shoulders here tonight that are still a little bit sore from his arm-twisting.
But he is a fiercer friend and a beloved mentor and an invaluable counselor. He has been a friend of mine for many years and I am deeply grateful for his presence and support. When I came to the State Department, I was delighted to be able to bring Richard in and give him one of the most difficult challenges that any diplomat can face. And he immediately put together an absolutely world class staff. It represents what we believe should be the organizational model for the future - people not only from throughout our own government, but even representatives from other governments all working together. And we know that with Richard, loyalty runs deep and it runs both ways. So tonight, our thoughts and prayers are with Ambassador Holbrooke, his wife Kati, their family, who are here with us as well.
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Upon the passing yesterday of Richard Holbrooke -- U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Foreign Policy editor from 1972 to 1977, and chief architect of the 1995 Dayton Accords -- Secretary Clinton mourned him as one of America's "fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants." In a statement, she described him as a "consummate diplomat, able to stare down dictators and stand up for America's interests and values even under the most difficult circumstances."
It's so hard to believe he's no longer here. Just two weeks ago, on Nov. 30 at our Global Thinkers gala, FP paid a special tribute to Holbrooke for his many contributions to foreign policy -- and Foreign Policy. (The video of his remarks is below, followed by Clinton's complete statement upon his passing.)
Holbrooke's death leaves a huge hole in the United States' strategy regarding the Afghanistan war. A Washington Post article today reports:
Holbrooke's death is the latest complication in an effort plagued by unreliable partners, reluctant allies and an increasingly skeptical American public.… As the glue that held the enterprise together, his absence is likely to increase the already formidable challenge the administration faces.
Clinton's complete statement:
Tonight America has lost one of its fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants. Richard Holbrooke served the country he loved for nearly half a century, representing the United States in far-flung war-zones and high-level peace talks, always with distinctive brilliance and unmatched determination. He was one of a kind -- a true statesman -- and that makes his passing all the more painful.
From his early days in Vietnam to his historic role bringing peace to the Balkans to his last mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard helped shape our history, manage our perilous present, and secure our future. He was the consummate diplomat, able to stare down dictators and stand up for America's interests and values even under the most difficult circumstances. He served at every level of the Foreign Service and beyond, helping mentor generations of talented officers and future ambassadors. Few people have ever left a larger mark on the State Department or our country. From Southeast Asia to post-Cold War Europe and around the globe, people have a better chance of a peaceful future because of Richard's lifetime of service.
I had the privilege to know Richard for many years and to call him a friend, colleague and confidante. As Secretary of State, I have counted on his advice and relied on his leadership. This is a sad day for me, for the State Department and for the United States of America.
True to form, Richard was a fighter to the end. His doctors marveled at his strength and his willpower, but to his friends, that was just Richard being Richard. I am grateful for the tireless efforts of all the medical staff, and to everyone who sat by his side or wished him well in these final days.
Tonight my thoughts and prayers are with Richard's beloved wife Kati, his sons David and Anthony, his step-children Elizabeth and Chris Jennings, his daughter-in-law Sarah, and all of his countless friends and colleagues.
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton will be giving a speech on Middle East policy at 8 p.m. this evening at the Brookings Institution here in D.C. The speech will be part of the forum on "U.S.-Israeli Relations: Facing Hard Choices," to be put on by the think tank's Saban Center for Middle East Policy.
The State Department's news release states that the fourm "will focus on the critical decisions that American and Israeli leaders will confront in the coming year to move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward, as well as deal with Iran's nuclear challenge."
Sadly, the Middle East peace process is deadlocked, though Clinton met with chief Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho yesterday to get "a perspective on the Israeli side of how to move forward," according to State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.
It'll be interesting to see what she says after this rough week for the peace process.
Update, Dec. 14, 2010, 4:40 p.m.: The video of Clinton's speech is below. Overall, it was a lot of the bland same-old, same-old. Clinton used the word "unwavering" twice to describe the United States' commitment to Israel. She reiterated that the United States "[does] not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity." Nothing new.
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton is meeting both individually and jointly with the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers today to devise a strategy to deal with increasingly hostile North Korea, which late last month killed two South Korean soldiers and two South Korean civilians in the first attack on a civilian area of South Korea since the end of the Korean War.
At the beginning of the trilateral meeting, Clinton said:
This is a landmark trilateral meeting between three strong partners. This meeting takes place at a time of grave concern in Northeast Asia amid the provocative attacks from North Korea.
She also requested a moment of silence for the victims of the shelling (see the video below starting at 1:11.)
(It remains to be seen whether a cable about the bilateral and trilateral meetings will be WikiLeaked.)
Update, 5:28 p.m., Dec. 6, 2010: The original photo was updated to a similar one, but of higher resolution.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton is in Astana, Kazakhstan, today, attending the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, where she has been doing a "reassurance tour" (read: awkward conversations!) after WikiLeaks' recent disclosure of candid State Department cables. In a news conference today with Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev, she said that no country has decided not to work with the United States any longer or have discussions with it. Implying that her damage-control work is going well, Clinton said in her remarks:
I have had the opportunity to meet with many leaders here at the summit in Astana.… I have certainly raised the issue of the leaks in order to assure our colleagues that it will not in any way interfere with American diplomacy or our commitment to continuing important work that is ongoing. I have not had any concerns expressed about whether any nation will not continue to work with and discuss matters of importance to us both, going forward.…
And I anticipate that there will be a lot of questions that people have every right and reason to ask, and we stand ready to discuss them at any time with our counterparts around the world.
Of course, there's a big difference between not continuing to work with the United States at all and simply being more restrained and less forthcoming.
Meanwhile, Saudabayev seemed cool as a cucumber in his remarks and displayed an "it's no big deal" attitude toward the WikiLeaks revelations, even though some cables were not so flattering about Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (seen at left greeting Clinton). Saudabayev said:
I believe that what has happened is part of a normal cost, or a normal price, that one has occasionally to pay while we lead our work. That is why we will be able to live through this incident, as we have through others. And, as head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in my country, now declare that this will have no effect for our strategic partnership between the United States and Kazakhstan.
Something tells me this nonchalant tone is all a facade. Everybody now has documentation of how diplomats really speak.
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton forcefully condemned the "illegal disclosure of classified information" by WikiLeaks and declared, "This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community -- the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations, that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity."
Clinton made the remarks today at a news conference in which she also said the disclosure "puts people's lives in danger, threatens our national security, and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems." As examples of jeopardizing individuals' safety, she mentioned anti-corruption activists who provide details about official misconduct and social workers who share documentation about sexual crimes. In those cases, revealing people's identities could result in their imprisonment, torture, or even death.
For those cheering on the people who disclosed the classified documents, Clinton said she wanted to "set the record straight":
There have been examples in history in which official conduct has been made public in the name of exposing wrongdoings or misdeeds. This is not one of those cases. In contrast, what is being put on display in this cache of documents is the fact that American diplomats are doing the work we expect them to do. They are helping identify and prevent conflicts before they start. They are working hard every day to solve serious practical problems.
Clinton has a strong point. It's one thing to disclose specific documents that reveal genuine misconduct; it's quite another to unleash thousands of files that disclose confidential communications that are part of the day-to-day reality of doing diplomacy.
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Amid all the WikiLeaks uproar is the news that a July 2009 directive under Secretary Clinton's name ordered U.S. diplomats to spy on officials at the United Nations and gather information such as credit card numbers, frequent flier numbers, and "biometric information on U.N. Security Council permanent representatives." Biometric information would include fingerprints and iris recognition. Also on the list of whom to gather biometric information from include, "key UN officials, to include undersecretaries, heads of specialised agencies and their chief advisers, top SYG [secretary general] aides, heads of peace operations and political field missions, including force commanders," reports the Daily Telegraph.
The directive also requested passwords and encryption keys for communications systems used by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other high-level U.N. officials.
The Daily Telegraph reports, "The directive appears to push the boundary between diplomacy and espionage and could breach the 1946 UN convention on privileges and immunities which states that the 'premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable'."
The Daily Mail even states that the request for such information "is set to lead to international calls for Mrs Clinton to resign."
Clinton heads to Central Asia later today, where she might be in the hot seat, having to answer some tough questions about the directive. U.S. diplomats are frequently accused of secretly being spies, and the WikiLeaks news will likely only fuel those fears and possibly make it more difficult for U.S. diplomats to build trust. It'll be interesting to what Clinton has to say during this trip.
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Over the weekend, the prime minister of Barbados, David Thompson, passed away at age 48 after suffering from pancreatic cancer. He leaves behind a wife and three daughters. Secretary Clinton offered condolences on behalf of the people of the United States in the following statement on Saturday, Oct. 23:
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I offer my deepest condolences to the people of Barbados on the passing of Prime Minister David Thompson. Barbados has lost a leader and the nations of the Americas have lost a friend and valued partner. Prime Minister Thompson was a champion for democracy and justice in the Caribbean and an advocate for wider prosperity and opportunity throughout the region. Today my thoughts and prayers are with his wife Mara and their daughters.
Barbados is blessed with strong democratic institutions that will ensure a smooth transition of power, and I am confident that under its new leadership, Barbados' strong friendship with the United States will continue.
YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Ever wonder about the complex logistics involved in coordinating an overseas trip by the U.S. secretary of state? If so, check out the National Geographic special, Inside the State Department, to air on Monday, Nov. 8, at 9 p.m. U.S. Eastern and Pacific times. The National Geographic Channel followed Secretary Clinton for 20,000 miles as she traveled around the world, from New York to Pakistan, and places in between such as Morocco and Jerusalem. You'll see all sorts of behind-the-scenes stuff, such as bomb-sniffing dogs hard at work and the State Department's "gift vault."
A news release states, "The State Department's role on the world stage has never been more important and the stakes have never been higher. Its leader is arguably the most famous woman in the world, with a traveling staff providing 24/7 support. Now, the National Geographic Channel goes Inside the State Department to open a window into the efforts of the men and women representing critical U.S. interests abroad."
Clinton tells National Geographic, "This job is both a great privilege and an extraordinary challenge. We live on the balance beam of war and peace, of terrorism and stability, of poverty and prosperity."
Steve Hoggard, who filmed Clinton during her travels overseas, states in the news release, "It is astounding to witness the brutal 16- to 20-hour days worked by Secretary Clinton and her team.… They only get a few hours of sleep and are constantly working at a rapid pace traveling from one destination to the next. I have truly been in awe of what they do to represent our county across the globe."
Clinton will be delivering remarks at 7:30 p.m. today at the film's world premier at National Geographic's headquarters. Below are a couple of clips from the special:
Screen shot from National Geographic Channel, "Inside the State Department"
Pakistani civilian and military leaders are arriving in Washington this week for a U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue, and Secretary Clinton will be formally introducing them to the new U.S. ambassador to their country, Cameron Munter, seen above in Brussels last week, whom she swore in on Oct. 6.
"No country has gotten more attention from Secretary Clinton than Pakistan," Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told the New York Times recently. Indeed, when Clinton visited Pakistan in July, she announced a giant slew of development projects for the country -- hydroelectric dams, refurbishment of municipal water-supply systems, hospital renovations, agricultural projects, etc. -- that are being funded through the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation passed in the United States last year that provides $7.5 billion over five years to fix Pakistan's infrastructure and promote its economic develpment. And, she appealed to Americans to text help to Pakistanis during this year's historic floods and last year's refugee crisis in the Swat Valley.
The new ambassador has a huge job ahead of him. Winning hearts and minds isn't easy, as research by an FP contributor recently concluded: "it's easiest for Westerners to win hearts and minds only when that's not what they're explicitly setting out to do."
GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images
I only have a quick few minutes to blog today -- I'm up to my neck working on the next print edition of Foreign Policy -- so I just thought I'd point out that all members of the Clinton family are in New York this week. Saving the world is a family affair! Secretary Clinton has been there since the weekend, and yesterday, as seen in the photo above with Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, made remarks at the signing of two memoranda of understanding on recovery efforts in Haiti.
Husband Bill Clinton and newlywed daughter Chelsea Clinton are also in New York for the Clinton Global Initiative. See photos below.*
*Earlier I hadn't been able to upload the Bill and Chelsea photos, but now the uploader is working!
Photos, top to bottom: Mario Tama/Getty Images, Ariel Hermoni/ Israeli Defense Ministry via Getty Images, Mario Tama/Getty Images
Want a breakthrough in Mideast peace negotiations? Open the talks to women -- that's the nontraditional approach that two women from the Institute for Inclusive Security advise in a recent opinion piece.
Of course Secretary Clinton, a woman, is already facilitator in chief for the peace talks, taking place today in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. But the opinion piece, by Carla Koppell and Rebecca Miller, argues for the direct and indirect inclusion of women, women's groups, and other civil-society organizations. When such groups are included, the peace process becomes more transparent and the "fog of pessimism" brought on by secrecy lifts. The authors write:
Research shows that when women are included in negotiations, they regularly raise key issues otherwise ignored by male negotiators. Women often facilitate cross-conflict talks on the margins of formal negotiations that cultivate public investment in negotiations. When formally involved, women often help talks gain traction.
Importantly, the authors argue that transparency, not secrecy, drives peaceful resolution, and they point to research by Darren Kew and Anthony Wanis-St. John that demonstrates a correlation between the degree of involvement of civil-society groups during peace negotiations and the likelihood that a peace agreement will hold. (I think it's this study.)
Koppell and Miller advise Clinton that she can be more inclusive of women and civil-society groups by doing the following:
•Soliciting topics for the negotiating agenda from civil society and women;
•Organising public consultations with women and civil society organisations to hear their perspectives on the core issues;
•Creating a formal consultative mechanism for civil society groups to feed input indirectly into negotiations;
•Appointing gender advisers or civil society liaisons to assist official delegations; and
•Offering negotiating teams additional seats at talks if women are added.
You never know. This outside-the-box approach just might work. At the very least, it can't make things worse.
Thaer Ganaim /PPO via Getty Images
This weekend, Elliott Abrams, a deputy national security advisor to U.S. President George W. Bush, offered three pieces of advice to Secretary Clinton -- OK, actually the U.S. government, but Clinton is the one facilitating the project -- on Middle East peace negotiations. The three pieces of advice, published in the Washington Post, are:
1. Stand back. Don't intrude excessively into what should be a two-party negotiation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
2. Care about the West Bank. If conditions deteriorate there, then Palestinians aren't going to be supportive of the talks and the Palestinian Authority will have difficulty enforcing any agreement.
3. Don't pursue a "framework agreement." Getting the two sides to declare their "fundamental compromises" -- as U.S. Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell phrased it -- amounts to revealing their bottom lines prematurely and committing "political suicide."
Well, on the first piece of advice, Clinton has no intention of being intrusive. She's just going to be facilitator in chief. As she said to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in her opening remarks on Sept. 2 (with my emphasis in italics):
For our part, the United States has pledged its full support for these talks, and we will be an active and sustained partner.… But we cannot and we will not impose a solution. Only you can make the decisions necessary to reach an agreement and secure a peaceful future for the Israeli and Palestinian people.
And though there will be some trilateral meetings with the Israeli, Palestinian, and U.S. sides all present, there will be plenty of direct talks between the Israeli and Palestinians with the United States out of the room and not breathing down their necks. Already on Sept. 2, Netanyahu and Abbas had a private meeting, and more will take place, about every two weeks.
On the second piece of advice, Clinton is definitely concerned about the financial crisis with the Palestinian Authority. In a Sept. 3 interview with Palestine TV and Israel's Channel 2, she said:
And the United States, as you, I'm sure, know, has increased dramatically our direct support for the Palestinian Authority. And I have encouraged and urged all the donors to do that and more. Last year was a good year. We got a very robust amount of contributions. This year, we are upping our request to all of the donors to support the peace process by supporting the Palestinian Authority.
Abrams makes a good point that oil-rich Arab countries could be contributing much more, and it appears that Clinton will be ceaseless with her phone calls to get them to pony up. A Sept. 5 New York Times article reports that she made "relentless phone calls" to get Arab support for the talks and that two-thirds of her phone calls to foreign officials since March have been about the Middle East. Clinton will surely be working the phones (3 a.m. and otherwise), cajoling and browbeating Arab countries to step up aid so the Palestinian Authority doesn't have a meltdown.
As for not having a "framework agreement" -- which Mitchell said during Sept. 2's briefing is intended to "establish the fundamental compromises necessary to enable the parties to then flesh out and complete a comprehensive agreement that will end the conflict and establish a lasting peace" -- the Israeli and Palestinian sides both say they want one. And if that's what they both want, then Clinton should not be intrusive (see Advice No. 1) and not discourage it. Mitchell said during the briefing, "And the parties themselves have suggested and agreed that the logical way to proceed, to tackle them [the core issues] is to try to reach a framework agreement first."
So, it appears Clinton is following Abrams's first two pieces of advice and intelligently disregarding the third. As pessimistic as most people seem to be, these talks could be a success. Stephen J. Hadley, who was national security advisor to Bush, told the New York Times, "One of the best indications that this could succeed is that Hillary Clinton is willing to get involved.… Because that makes me think two things: She thinks it's possible and, because she is as skilled as she is, it increases the likelihood of success."
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton's political experience could be a plus for her as America's diplomat-in-chief during Middle East peace negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not only have to agree on smart policies, but they have to go with policies that are palatable to their people. These leaders aren't tackling negotiations purely from the perspective of what is good policy in itself, but what will be politically acceptable with their people.
As a former senator and presidential candidate, Clinton has plenty of experience with having to come up with good policy that's also good politics and approaching policy debates with an eye for what's politically sellable. In that sense, she has an asset that many of her predecessors -- Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Madeleine Albright -- don't. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now a representative of the Middle East "Quartet," told ABC News, as seen in the video below, that Clinton has the "best type of political mind" because it "knows where you meet the point of principle and knows where you need the subtlety and the compromise."
Of course, this is the first time Clinton has been a mediator in such a formidable challenge, so you never know how it'll go. "I think she has credibility. Now whether that translates into diplomatic skills, I don't know. Frankly, she's untested as a mediator," Shibley Telhami, a University of Maryland professor who recently wrote a piece for FP, told ABC News, as seen in the video below.
Still, Clinton's political experience counts for something. Plus, she has this relationship with this fellow who has engaged in Mideast peace talks -- maybe she has learned some lessons from his experience.
Jason Reed-Pool/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton relaunched direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians this morning with opening remarks in which she said to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, "I fervently believe that the two men sitting on either side of me, that you are the leaders who can make this long-cherished dream a reality, and we will do everything possible to help you."*
After Clinton spoke, Netanyahu and Abbas also made opening remarks. Presently, they should be in a trilateral meeting in Clinton's outer office.
As seen above, Netanyahu and Abbas shook hands during the relaunch. So, Clinton has something started. It would be especially great if after a year of negotiations, we see a handshake that's September 1993-esque.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
To watch a live broadcast of Secretary Clinton's relaunch of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, visit the U.S. State Department's website at 10 a.m. (U.S. Eastern time) this Thursday, Sept. 2. Clinton will make opening remarks, along with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Afterward, the three will proceed to Clinton's outer office for a private trilateral meeting.
During the negotiations, Clinton might be channeling some of the experience of her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton. When asked by a journalist today whether the secretary has been reaching out to her predecessors who've worked on bringing the Israeli and Palestinian sides together, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley replied:
Well, she's had the opportunity to interact directly with a number of veterans. Some of them are still on the team or -- and some of them are on the other teams. So for example, she has this relationship with this fellow who has spent some time talking to leaders, President Clinton, and she has benefited from his direct experience.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
The Mideast peace talks this week in Washington are a high-risk, high-reward endeavor for Secretary Clinton. Should the direct negotiations eventually culminate in a historic agreement, it would be a defining moment for Clinton, especially if topped with a public signing ceremony such as the Sept. 13, 1993, one for the Oslo Accords that husband/President Bill Clinton presided over with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat.
On the other hand, if the negotiations fail -- and most people seem pessimistic -- it could be disastrous. It might even dog her the way her failed 1990s attempt at health-care reform does. The Pittsburg Post-Gazette's Dan Simpson, a former U.S. ambassador, writes that if the talks don't work out, Clinton could "suffer the diplomatic equivalent of her disastrous 1990s venture into health care reform." (And even if a historic agreement were hammered out, implementation -- which could take as many as 10 years -- could be derailed, as FP's Stephen Walt points out.)
I think it's doubtful, though, that if the negotiations fall through, it would be as bad as Clinton's fiasco with health-care reform. Most people are expecting the talks to fail because of the intransigence of the Mideast parties involved, and critics are more likely to pin a fiasco on President Obama, not Clinton, because, well, he's the president.
Clinton has a lot of pushing, prodding, cajoling, and strong-arming to do this week. For the sake of world peace, let's have the audacity to hope that progress, even a little bit, will be made.
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
America's top diplomat, Secretary Clinton, made sure Tuesday that everyone's clear on what the expectations are for Mideast peace negotiations later this week. She held preparatory meetings with several parties that'll be involved in the direct negotiations, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (as seen above), the Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers, "Quartet" representative Tony Blair, and finally at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley put it at Tuesday's press briefing, it was a way of helping to "tee up" meetings with the presidents and prime ministers. He said:
It is not unusual when you have a meeting of presidents and prime ministers that the secretary of state will help to tee up those meetings and make sure that we have the same expectations about -- on both sides -- about what will constitute a successful meeting. So the secretary is following up on the work that George Mitchell, Dennis Ross, Dan Shapiro, David Hale, and others have had in recent days and weeks, all to make sure that the relaunch of negotiations get off on the right foot.
If I have time Wednesday, I'll post photos from the other preparatory meetings Clinton held, including those with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Quartet representative Tony Blair, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (I can't post them now due to technical difficulties.)
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton returned to Washington yesterday evening after six weekdays with no public appointments on her schedule. Back from her work-from-home vacation, she has a big day today, meeting with some high-profile people from the Middle East:
12:30 p.m.: Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
2 p.m.: Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
3 p.m.: Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
4 p.m.: Clinton meets with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and John Hardman, CEO of the Carter Center.
6:15 p.m.: Clinton meets with Quartet representative Tony Blair.
7:45 p.m.: Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(Update, Aug. 31, 9:56 p.m.: Her meeting with Jimmy Carter today was about North Korea, not about Mideast peace, but who knows, he might have offered her some advice based on his experience with the Camp David talks.)
Message to Secretary Clinton: Please fix the United States' "incoherent, contradictory and apparently failing" Sudan policy, as the New York Times Nicholas Kristof described it on Aug. 29.
In a column on the Obama administration's "failure in Sudan," Kristof has this frightening warning:
"[I]n a place like Sudan, American diplomatic malpractice could lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths."
The country has a referendum coming up next year in which the oil-rich south will vote on whether to secede. The north doesn't want to lose all that oil, so if the south votes to secede (which it most likely will), that could spark a huge bloody war with mass killing. (The last north-south war killed 2 million people over 20 years.)
The United States needs an effective Sudan policy in place, one that will prevent mass death. Too bad, then, that there apparently isn't agreement at the State Department about what that policy should be. The U.S. envoy for Sudan, Maj. Gen. Scott Gration (seen in the photo above), favors a policy of engagement that focuses more on carrots than sticks. As reported on FP's The Cable, his plan "deemphasizes the ongoing crisis in Darfur" and "is devoid of any additional pressures on the government in Khartoum." Clinton supports this plan.
On the other hand, Susan Rice (seen in the photo above), the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and someone with more experience on Sudan, favors a stronger, tougher plan and was "furious" when Gration proposed his policy at a meeting earlier this month.
Kristof says that the United States needs to be more involved on the issue of Sudan and suggests supporting U.N. peacekeepers; coordinating with Britain, Egypt, and China to prevent war; and making Vice President Joe Biden the point person for Sudan for the following six months.
Whatever policy the United States decides to go with, let's hope Clinton will help steer it away from "diplomatic malpractice" and toward something that prevents another humanitarian tragedy.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
This is a bit of old news, but I'm getting caught up after having been away on vacation.
Secretary Clinton, in inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as other relevant parties, to Washington to relaunch Middle East peace negotiations, is urging everyone to "persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times."
Her statement from Friday, the 20th:
Since the beginning of this Administration, we have worked with the Israelis and Palestinians and our international partners to advance the cause of comprehensive peace in the Middle East, including a two-state solution which ensures security and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians. The President and I are encouraged by the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas and fully share their commitment to the goal of two states – Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
After proximity talks and consultations with both sides, on behalf of the United States Government, I’ve invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Abbas to meet on September 2nd in Washington, D.C. to re-launch direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues, which we believe can be completed within one year.
President Obama has invited President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan to attend in view of their critical role in this effort. Their continued leadership and commitment to peace will be essential to our success. The President will hold bilateral meetings with the four leaders followed by a dinner with them on September 1st. The Quartet Representative Tony Blair has also been invited to the dinner in view of his important work to help Palestinians build the institutions of their future state, an effort which must continue during the negotiations. I’ve invited Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to join me here at the State Department on the following day for a trilateral meeting to re-launch direct negotiations.
As we move forward, it is important that actions by all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it. There have been difficulties in the past; there will be difficulties ahead. Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles. The enemies of peace will keep trying to defeat us and to derail these talks. But I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times, and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region.
As we have said before, these negotiations should take place without preconditions and be characterized by good faith and a commitment to their success, which will bring a better future to all of the people of the region.
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Over at FP's Shadow Government blog, Daniel Blumenthal writes that Secretary Clinton is practicing "what one might call a distinctly American realism." He states:
The realism is manifest in the return to balancing China's power in the region, something the president said he would avoid as anachronistic. The distinctly American approach is practicing balance of power politics without abandoning our principles. We want and need a better relationship with authoritarian Vietnam. But we need not ignore Hanoi's poor human rights record.
HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, along with their advisors, had dinner in Kabul yesterday evening, and afterward the two had a private discussion that went on late into the evening, reports the Washington Post. The meeting was "deeply substantive," a State Department official told the Post, saying that it included talks about reintegration of Taliban members and the handoff of security responsibilities as U.S. troops start to leave in July 2011.
On the subject of reintegration of Taliban fighters: Reconciliation with militants was a subject Clinton touched up yesterday while she was still in Pakistan. During a news conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Mehmoud Shah Qureshi, she said:
We are supportive … of the reconciliation and reintegration efforts undertaken by President Karzai and the Afghan government. We have made it clear that we think reconciliation cannot succeed unless the insurgents, who have been fighting the Afghan government over the last several years, recognize the importance of renouncing violence if they wish to enter into the political system; renounce al Qaeda, which remains at the center of a syndicate of terror across the world; and agree to abide by the Constitution and the laws of Afghanistan. It seems to us that there will be some who are willing to meet those conditions and others who are not. And we would strongly advise our friends in Afghanistan to deal with those who are committed to a peaceful future where their ideas can compete in the political arena through the ballot box, not through the force of arms. And there are those who will never be reconciled, and we hope that they can be defeated because they pose a continuing threat to Afghanistan and, by extension, to Pakistan.
U.S. State Department/Flickr
Secretary Clinton worked to repair relations with Ecuador yesterday, and her "charm offensive had an impact," as the Washington Post put it.
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa -- who once said Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's comparison of George W. Bush to Satan was offensive to the devil -- referred to Clinton as "dearest Hillary." He spoke favorably of the United States, saying, as reported by Agence France-Press:
"[W]e are not anti-American. We love the U.S. very much. It is a trade partner. In fact, I spent the happiest four years of my life with my family in that great country."
(Those four years were when he was earning a master's degree and a doctorate at the University of Illinois.) He also said:
"The new left that I represent is not anti-anything.… We are not anti-capitalist. We are not anti-American. We are not anti-imperialist. We are pro-dignity, pro-sovereignty, pro-social justice, pro-good life for our people. We are in favor of the good things."
How did Clinton "charm" Correa? Well, first, she wasn't George W. Bush; Correa said he esteemed both her and her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and he said Latin Americans "loved" Barack Obama. But Clinton's conciliatory remarks and attempts to reassure Correa on tense issues helped, too. Clinton said:
"Now, like any two countries, we will not always agree. But we are committed to a partnership of open dialogue and cooperation that is rooted in mutual respect and mutual interest and for the benefit of both of our peoples."
Clinton sought to reassure Ecuador on the U.S. military's use of bases in Colombia to help that country fight the internal problems of the FARC insurgency and drug trafficking. Ecuador thinks the U.S. military presence threatens Latin American sovereignty by extending U.S. power and might even include espionage. Clinton said:
"I want to put your mind at ease that these, this agreement between the United States and Colombia is solely intended to assist Colombia in its continuing efforts against its internal threats."
It'll be interesting to see whether all this sweet talk will actually produce results when it comes to policy decisions, but at least Clinton seems to be undoing a lot of the damage from the Bush administration.
Photos: RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
Speaking at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, Secretary Clinton sought to reassure Indians that the United States doesn't see India merely in the context of Pakistan or Afghanistan. She said at the plenary session:
"[W]e must not only build on areas of agreement but, frankly, address doubts that remain on both sides, doubts among some Indians that the United States only sees India or mainly sees India in the context of Afghanistan and Pakistan, or that we will hasten our departure from Afghanistan, leaving India to deal with the aftermath."*
But how true is it that the United States doesn't see India primarily through the context of Pakistan and Afghanistan? It seems like the United States wants India and Pakistan to resolve their dispute ASAP so that Pakistan can concentrate more on its western border with Afghanistan.
*This quote was updated from a previous version from NDTV that had transcription errors.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
When it comes to salvaging the strained U.S. relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Secretary Clinton is the best person for the job, according to Daily Beast writer and Hoover Institution research fellow Tunku Varadarajan. In his piece yesterday, "Bring on Hillary," he begins with "It's time to end the sleazy whispering campaign against Karzai -- and empower Hillary Clinton, America's best hope to salvage relations with Afghanistan" and concludes:
Of all those who make (or mar) U.S. policy toward Afghanistan, Hillary is the one who bears no blame for the recent bad blood with Karzai. She has a fine grasp of the difference between diplomacy and bluster, and shutting her out of much of the main AfPak action has been a major -- even calamitous -- mistake. […]
One clear change that could, and should, be made to the architecture of our AfPak diplomacy is to elevate Hillary above Holbrooke in the AfPak theater. The latter has had an opportunity to make an impact. The results have been dreadful. It is now time to hand the job -- the hardest in American diplomacy -- to the hard lady of American politics.
(In the photo above, then-Senator Clinton meets with Karzai on Jan. 14, 2007, in Kabul, Afghanistan.)
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images (Jan. 14, 2007)
Madam Secretary is an obsessive blog about all things Hillary Clinton. From her policies to her pantsuits, Madam Secretary delivers up-to-the-minute news, analysis, and gossip about America's top diplomat.