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
Foreign Policy just published its first annual list of the top 100 Global Thinkers, and Secretary Clinton and husband Bill ranked No. 6! Secretary Clinton was selected for "giving 'smart power' a star turn at the State Department." More specifically, the magazine said:
This year, she has tirelessly broadcast the administration's banner diplomatic message: The United States under Obama is a smart power, a participant in a 'new era of engagement based on common interests, shared values, and mutual respect.' But Clinton is also aiming to remake the State Department itself. The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review she initiated promises a thorough, ongoing assessment of the massive bureaucracy in order to create a leaner, more responsive State Department capable of being the engine of Washington's new diplomacy."
Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Many thanks for your questions and e-mails about this blog. We are in the process of figuring out the best way forward for Madam Secretary, and appreciate your continued patience.
In the meantime, consider this an open thread.
This will be my last day manning the Madam Secretary blog. After four great years, I have decided to leave FP and have accepted a position at the Online NewsHour as Economics Editor. I've had a fantastic time watching Secretary Clinton these past few weeks. With so much to be done, her tenure promises to be nothing less than fascinating.
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With rumors swirling about where Hillary will make her first official trip as secretary, we asked our Hillary Poll panel of experts which foreign capital should be at the top of her itinerary.
Where should Hillary go on her first trip as Secretary of State, and why?
She should go to the anchors of U.S. foreign policy -- Western Europe, Japan, India, and China. In times of world revolution and turmoil, the best strategy is to firm up what counts most and what will help our nation survive the quakes to come. Everybody else is running off to the problems from hell in the Middle East and South Asia, where there are no good answers. But Hillary can find good answers and ways to shore up our relations with strong and stable states.
Dee Dee Myers:
Secretary Clinton's inaugural overseas trip should start in London. First, it would signal that the Obama administration is committed to the US-UK special relationship, which has suffered due to the war in Iraq. In addition, it would make clear that the U.S. expects a stronger commitment from the UK -- and other NATO countries -- with respect to Afghanistan. And finally, Secretary Clinton has said she wants the State Department to play a bigger role in economic issues, and Prime Minister Brown has been a key player in developing a coordinated response to the global economic crisis. After visiting a couple of other European/NATO capitals (Paris, Berlin), Secretary Clinton should make stops in Israel and the West Bank to make clear that restarting the Middle East peace process is a top priority for the new administration -- starting now.
Her first trip should be to Mexico City. Normally, the first Mexican-American interchange after the election of a new American president takes place in the United States. The visit of the Mexican president is, however, something of a ritualistic event. All the right things are said. And then the Washington policy community forgets about it for four years.
Times have changed. Mexico is suffering from a serious expansion of its internal drug war. The military has now been called in to fight the drug lords because the police have been infested by corruption. The city of Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, suffers from a murder rate that, relative to its population, is four times that of New York City. Drug rings operate brazenly and in the open. The city's most recent chief of police was killed; the job remains vacant.
Mexico needs assistance, but it is very sensitive to any heavy handed overtures by its northern neighbor. The memory of previous American incursions continues to linger in the minds of the Mexican military in particular. Mexico therefore represents a major test for American diplomacy and for Hillary Clinton as America's chief diplomat.
President Obama's first television appearance may have been directed at the Muslim world, but he faces a massive problem much closer to home. How Mrs. Clinton addresses that problem will be a leading indicator of just how serious, effective, and innovative her diplomatic leadership is likely to be.
Secretary Clinton should do a tour of Asia, making stops in Japan, South Korea, Australia, Singapore, and possibly India. Why? President Obama will probably attend the NATO summit later this spring, so there's no need for Hillary to go to Europe right now. The Middle East is out because that's George Mitchell's responsibility, and she doesn't want to undercut his authority by showing up there. The same logic applies to Afghanistan-Pakistan, which is now Holbrooke's bailiwick, and Iraq is still more of a DoD issue. Russia doesn't deserve a visit so soon after the war with Georgia, and China got a presidential visit during the Olympics. Plus, the administration needs time to figure out its approach to Beijing, especially on economic matters. That leaves our Asian allies, who were largely neglected while the Bush administration was devoting its efforts to making things worse in the Middle East.
The visit would give her the opportunity to let our allies know that we haven't forgotten about them and lay the groundwork for future initiatives. India is a question mark because it touches on Holbrooke's mission, but it might provide her with an opportunity to reinforce his efforts by making it clear to New Delhi that we expect cooperation on certain issues pertaining to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
There are a long list of priorities that could successfully be advanced by an early trip from Secretary of State Clinton. There are also several constraining or complicating factors that influence the planning. One is that George Mitchell has already gone to the Middle East, a region that will require a considerable amount of her hands-on attention...but since he is there, her visit would not have the same "first visit" impact it might if it were the initial high-level contact. The other, of course, is that Obama himself will be making trips and that hers need to be coordinated with his...laying the groundwork for them where appropriate and her flying the flag in places he will not be able to go soon.
(His trips are worth a separate discussion. Given his exposure and his unique appeal for a U.S. president to many groups and regions, he will be a traveling rock star and his visits will have extraordinary impact. In fact, he will be able to practice a kind of event diplomacy...especially in places like the Middle East and Africa where his trips will be very dramatic. That should be thought through and used carefully by the administration.)
With all this in mind, my sense is that the critical relationship that requires the most attention right now that has gotten the least is that with China. They are a critical strategic partner in every area of international priority for the U.S., from rebuilding the financial system to controlling global warming, from containing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to trade. Because they are also a potential rival, we need a dialogue open and constant enough to manage the relationship through those times when there are, as there inevitably will be, disagreements. The foundation for that relationship needs to be laid in an early high-level visit by her, followed by an early state visit by President Obama.
China is the unattended giant at the moment in U.S. foreign policy. They need to see her and realize she is more than the message she delivered at the Woman's Summit, which has many in the leadership nervous about her position on the US-China relationship, and so it is the best place for her to begin.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News
What did the Senate Foreign Relations Committee fail to ask Hillary that should have been asked?
What will be the first foreign policy clash between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?
Today, we're launching a brand-new feature here at Madam Secretary: The Hillary Poll. Each week, we'll ask a handful of HRC watchers -- experts on the State Department, Washington insiders, journalists who have long covered the Clintons -- to weigh in on a Hillary topic in the news.
For our inaugural poll, our esteemed panelists are:
Les Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations
Question 1: How big a problem does the Clinton Foundation pose for Hillary?
a) Not a problem. The ethics and disclosure agreement between the transition team and the foundation hits all the right notes.
b) It's a minor issue, and she handled it well at the hearing.
c) It will be an occasional nuisance, but Bill will be on his best behavior.
d) We’ll see “Clinton” and “conflict of interest” in a headline within months.
Begala: A. I returned this morning from a conference in Africa at which Pres. Clinton spoke. One of the questions from the audience was, “How can we persuade our own former presidents to continue to serve the way you do?” The audience cheered. The Clinton Foundation is a huge plus for America. It's a force multiplier—saving lives and putting America in a strongly favorable light.
Gelb: C. Republicans and cable newsies will scream from time to time, but it'll be manageable.
Question 2: Should Bill Clinton's foundation stop cashing foreign checks, as Sen. Lugar recommended at the confirmation hearing?
Begala: B. The disclosures and ethics vets in place are strong. It is not in America's foreign policy interests to hamstring a foundation that saves millions of lives. And a near-unanimous Senate agrees.
Gelb: B. Let Bill and his foundation do their things. If we didn't trust Hillary to do her job right, we shouldn’t have confirmed her in the first place. I trust her.
Question 3: What did the Senate Foreign Relations Committee fail to ask Hillary that should have been asked?
Begala: Because I was in Africa, I was able only to see Hillary's opening statement and a bit of Sen. John Kerry's. So I can't really judge. The dominant stories over there were of course Gaza and the Russian cutoff of gas to Ukraine and Europe. I'm sure both were dealt with.
Attali: The NATO membership of Ukraine, a vital issue in the U.S. relationship with Russia.
Gelb: Confirmation hearings are mainly for designees to dodge policy commitments and keep flexibility, particularly at the start of an administration. Hillary dodged well and appropriately -- and would have done so regardless of how smart the questions were.
Question 4: What will be the first foreign policy clash between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?
Begala: We will never know. Both Sec. of State Clinton and President-elect Obama are disciplined leaders. They'll keep what disagreements they have private and present a united front to the world.
Attali: Same as above: the NATO membership of Ukraine.
Gelb: Obama is going to come closer to many of Hillary's campaign positions, and she is on her best behavior to make this work, so clashes won’t be frequent in the first year. Failure will bring it on, and failure will come first in Afghanistan/Pakistan.
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