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.
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When it comes to the Afghanistan war, Secretary Clinton says that U.S. leaders are making crucial life-and-death decisions based on what's best for national security, not based on results of public-opinion polls. She made the remark at yesterday's news conference on the Afghanistan war review after being asked whether the Obama administration could continue the war if high levels of American public support could not be maintained. (A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 60 percent of Americans surveyed -- a record high -- do not think the Afghanistan war has been worth it.)
Clinton had this response (my emphasis in bold):
It is our assessment, backed up by 49 other nations that are also committing their troops, their civilians, their taxpayer dollars, that this [war] is critical to our national security.
Obviously, if we had concluded otherwise, we would have made different decisions.…
I'm well aware of the popular concern and I understand it.… Leaders, and certainly this president, will not make decisions that are matters of life and death and the future security of our nation based on polling.…
So I think it's understandable and I'm very respectful of the feelings of the American people. But the question I would ask is, how do you feel about a continuing American commitment that is aimed at protecting you and your family now and into the future? Because that's the question that we've asked, and this is how we'd answer it.
Certainly, crucial security decisions shouldn't be made based on whatever public opinion happens to be at the moment, but over the long term, you can't sustain a war without a critical mass of public support. A full-blown, counterinsurgency, nation-building strategy will take decades to succeed, if it can even succeed at all. Most Americans are unlikely to have the stamina for such a long-haul approach, given the dire unemployment and fiscal problems at home. For now, it looks like the United States will pull out when Afghanistan reaches some minimally acceptable state that some administration officials have been calling "Afghan good enough."
Video of yesterday's news conference (the exchange about opinion polls begins at about 17:20):
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Stopping the scourge of rape, domestic violence, acid attacks, and honor killings perpetrated against women internationally has been an important priority for Secretary Clinton, an unflagging advocate for women and girls. And the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took an important step toward advancing that priority yesterday when it approved the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA).
IVAWA, drafted after consultations with more than 40 women's groups in developing countries and more than 100 experts and other organizations, will support local NGOs addressing the problem of violence against women and girls. The problem will be tackled through various means, such as services for survivors, economic-empowerment programs, girls' education, and legal and judicial training programs.
The act targets countries where violence against women and girls is rampant, but where three things are going for them, according to an op-ed by Ritu Sharma of Women Thrive Worlwide: The national government is receptive (or at least not opposed) to anti-violence efforts, local women's groups are active and ready to expand, and the United States has a positive relationship with the country.
As Clinton said last week at the TEDWomen conference, women's issues are a security issue. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, an original co-sponsor of IVAWA, referred to that rationale when hailing the bill in a statement yesterday, stating:
The Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that one of the most effective forces for defeating extremism is female safety and education. Violence against women undermines the effectiveness of existing U.S. investments in global development and stability, whether fighting HIV/AIDS, increasing basic education, or creating stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The bill was approved with an amendment that constrains the funding the act would receive if passed. A news release from the Foreign Relations Committee states: "Chairman [John] Kerry offered an amendment in response to concerns raised by Republicans and some faith-based groups. Among other things, the amendment reduces authorization levels to 'such sums' in order to focus on existing resources. While the use of new funds is possible, the focus is on transparency, accountability, inclusion, and longevity."
Sadly, too many lawmakers seem to have difficulty coughing up funds to help marginalized women in developing countries, while spending billions on pork-barrel projects. But supporting women benefits us all. As Clinton said at TEDWomen last week:
Give women equal rights, and entire nations are more stable and secure. Deny women equal rights, and the instability of nations is almost certain. The subjugation of women is, therefore, a threat to the common security of our world and to the national security of our country.
Next step for the bill: Get passed by the Senate and House by the end of the year.
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In Islamabad today, Secretary Clinton announced a whole slew of development projects for Pakistan: hydroelectric dams, refurbishment of municipal water-supply systems, hospital renovations, agricultural projects, etc. In the photo above, she points to a map marking the location of many projects, while Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi looks on.
The projects 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. The U.S. government is trying to dispel the distrust that many Pakistanis have toward the United States, and Clinton was trying to make it clear that the development aid is for helping Pakistan itself and is not just for advancing U.S. security interests. At the news conference with Qureshi, as seen in the photo above, Clinton said:
"There's a legacy of suspicion that we inherited.… It's not going to be eliminated overnight. But it's our goal to slowly but surely demonstrate that the U.S. is concerned about Pakistan for the long term, and that the partnership goes far beyond security against our common enemies."
"We are committed to building a partnership with Pakistan that of course strengthens security and protects the people of Pakistan, but goes far beyond security."
It seems pretty naive to think this aid package isn't primarily about security. Regardless of intent, however, will it win Pakistani hearts and minds? Methinks not. As of last October, when President Obama signed the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation, only 15 percent of Pakistanis surveyed supported it. Many think the aid money comes with too many strings attached and compromises Pakistan's sovereignty.
I wish Clinton good luck, though. With her star power, you never know.
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Secretary Clinton has made it very clear that she won't serve a second term as secretary of state, telling Tavis Smiley in January, "It's a 24-7 job and I think at some point, I will be very happy to pass it on to someone else." And despite recent remarks from conservatives about Clinton running for president in 2012, Clinton has repeatedly said she doesn't plan to make a run for the White House, telling Smiley in the same January interview that she is "absolutely not interested."
So what will Clinton do after her State Department tenure? Last Friday, the Washington Post's Sally Quinn wrote, in all seriousness, that Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden should switch jobs. She writes:
There are no horror stories about her coming out of the State Department. Most notable, though, is that Bill Clinton has not been the problem that so many anticipated. He has been supportive of her and of Obama, and he has stayed out of the limelight and been discreet about his own life.
In short, the arguments against Hillary Clinton being Obama's vice president have pretty much evaporated.…
Given the combination of votes that she and Obama got in the 2008 primary campaign, they would be a near-unbeatable team.
Quinn lays out one way it could happen:
It would not be out of the question for Clinton and Biden to switch jobs sometime after the midterm elections.…. She could then immediately begin campaigning for Obama for 2012, and she would also have at least two years in the White House as vice president to give her unassailable experience, clout and credibility.
Wow, Clinton out of Foggy Bottom after the midterm elections? Sounds far-fetched to me, but Quinn says, "Take it seriously."
But there's an even wackier scenario: Clinton becomes defense secretary and then vice president. In a June 12 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Leslie Gelb, a former official in the State and Defense departments, describes a scenario in which Defense Secretary Robert Gates retires in the next year as "clouds darken" over Afghanistan and maybe Iraq. The only suitable Democratic candidate for defense secretary would be Clinton:
Politically, no Democrat is better positioned. She has established herself as right of center or near conservative on national security. With Mr. Gates gone, Mr. Obama would need political cover, and Mrs. Clinton has the necessary hard-line standing in the country and in Congress. She'd give him more political protection for tough decisions on Afghanistan, for example, than would any other Democrat.
She also has terrific relations with the military brass, including Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired generals like the highly respected Army four-star Jack Keane. She knows defense issues from her days on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator from Indiana, would then become secretary of state, and as the 2012 presidential election drew near, President Obama would announce Clinton as his running mate. And if Obama were reelected, Biden would become secretary of state for Obama's second term.
Now why in the world would Clinton want to leave the State Department for the Pentagon? Here's Gelb's answer:
[W]hile two women secretaries have preceded her at State, she would be the first female defense secretary. She'd like that.
Gelb goes on to say that whether or not Obama is reelected, Clinton would then be well positioned for a presidential run in 2016.
This all sounds very different from the type of life Clinton says she wants to have after she leaves Foggy Bottom. She told Smiley in January:
There are so many things I'm interested in, really going back to private life and spending time reading and writing and maybe teaching. Maybe some personal travel - not the kind of travel where you bring a couple of hundred people with you.
These VP and Pentagon scenarios seem implausible right now, but as Gelb writes, "The biggest political surprises often hide in plain sight."
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Referring to efforts by Brazil and Turkey to make a deal with Iran on containing its nuclear program, Secretary Clinton said, as reported by Reuters:
We think buying time for Iran, enabling Iran to avoid international unity with respect to their nuclear program, makes the world more dangerous not less.
Clinton made the comment during a speech today that unveiled the Obama administration's new National Security Strategy. In responding to a question asked after the speech, Clinton said U.S. debt and government deficits weaken the United States, as reported by Reuters:
We cannot sustain this level of deficit financing and debt without losing our influence, without being constrained about the tough decisions we have to make."
Hopefully when the full transcript is up, I'll have more excerpts to post.
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From Secretary Clinton's news conference today in Seoul with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, it appears that the reaction to North Korea's attack on the Cheonan will be stern words, some sort of U.N. Security Council action (sanctions?), and joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises. It seems a somewhat weak response given that a country deliberately attacked a ship and killed 46 sailors, all unprovoked. But on the other hand, what can you really do, especially if you're South Korea, bordering the crazy North? As Clinton said, the attack "requires a strong but measured response."
A snippet from Clinton at the news conference:
Over the last week I have consulted with leaders in Japan and China, and we have stayed in close contact with our friends here in Seoul about the best way forward. We will be working together to chart a course of action in the United Nations Security Council, and I want to acknowledge Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's strong statement on this issue.
The U.S. and South Korean militaries have announced plans for joint exercises, and we will explore further enhancements to our posture on the Peninsula, to ensure readiness, and to deter future attacks. The United States is also reviewing additional options and authorities to hold North Korea and its leaders accountable. We call on North Korea to halt its provocation and its policy of threats and belligerence toward its neighbors, and take steps now to fulfill its denuclearization commitments, and comply with international law.
Today, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak harshly condemned North Korea for the March torpedoing of the South Korean ship Cheonan, which killed 46 onboard. He said almost all trade between the two Koreas is being canceled, and he demanded an apology from North Korea (though the odds of that happening are zero).
Secretary Clinton, speaking in Beijing, said she and the United States fully back him up:
The United States fully supports President Lee's responsible handling of the Cheonan incident, and the objective investigation that followed, which we and other international observers joined. The measures that President Lee announced in his speech are both prudent and entirely appropriate.
The Republic of Korea can continue to count on the full support of the United States, as President Obama made clear when he spoke to President Lee last week.
First, we endorse President Lee's call on North Korea to come forward with the facts regarding this act of aggression and, above all, stop its belligerence and threatening behavior.
Second, our support for South Korea's defense is unequivocal, and President Obama has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their Korean counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression. As part of our ongoing dialogue, we will explore further enhancements to our joint posture on the Peninsula.
Third, we support President Lee's call to bring this issue to the United Nations Security Council. I will be working with Ambassador Rice and our Korean counterparts, as well as Japan, China, and other UN Security Council member states to reach agreement on a way forward in the Council.
Fourth, President Obama has directed U.S. Government agencies to review their existing authorities and policies related to North Korea, to ensure that we have adequate measures in place, and to identify areas where adjustments would be appropriate.
Presidental House via Getty Images
Yesterday after her speech at the U.N. review conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Secretary Clinton explained why the Obama administration decided to reveal the number of nuclear weapons the United States has, which was previously a secret (though arms-control groups had some fairly accurate estimates). In answering a question about the decision to release a fact sheet showing that the United States has 5,113 warheads -- down from the peak of 31,255 in fiscal year 1967 -- Clinton said:
[W]e think it is in our national security interest to be as transparent as we can be about the nuclear program of the United States. We think that builds confidence. We think it brings more people to an understanding of what President Obama and this administration is trying to do.… And we don't believe that revealing the number of nuclear weapons we have in our arsenals, which most experts know already, but sharing it with the public is in any way in opposition to our nuclear security.
In marking World Water Day on Monday at the National Geographic Society in Washington, Clinton said:
Experts predict … that by 2025, just 15 years from now, nearly two-thirds of the world's countries will be water-stressed. Many sources of freshwater will be under additional strain from climate change and population growth. And 2.4 billion people will face absolute water scarcity -- the point at which a lack of water threatens social and economic development. […]
Access to reliable supplies of clean water is a matter of human security. It's also a matter of national security. And that's why President Obama and I recognize that water issues are integral to the success of many of our major foreign-policy initiatives.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images (Image from May 12, 2008)
I just returned from the Brookings Institution, where I heard Secretary Clinton deliver a speech previewing the United States' priorities during next week's U.N. General Assembly session.
Before diving into her speech though, Clinton remarked on President Obama's announcement yesterday of changes in the U.S. missile defense program. She said the new system stemmed from a "lengthy and in-depth assessment" of the threats posed by Iran and is based on the United States' "best understanding of Iran's capability."
The new system will "deploy sooner," be "more comprehensive," and have a "better capacity to protect." Clinton said it will "deploy technology that's actually proven" to work and "does what missile defense is actually supposed to do." She added that criticisms of the new system are "not connected to the facts."
Then Clinton delved into her official remarks. Nonproliferation of nuclear weapons will be the main topic that the United States will address next week. Clinton will lead the U.S. delegation to a conference on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the first time that a U.S. secretary of state has attended such a conference.
Another key topic for the United States next week will be Iran. The issue isn't Iran's right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, she said. Rather, she firmly stressed, the problem is that for years Iran has not lived up to its responsibilities to demonstrate that its program is "exclusively for peaceful purposes."
Clinton said that the United States' past refusal to engage Iran had yielded no progress and added, "We remain ready to engage." (Whether Iran is ready to engage on talking nukes, however, is an entirely different story.)
Some other tidbits:
•Clinton said the United States and Iraq have entered a new, "more mature partnership."
•Clinton will be chairing a session on women, peace, and security at the U.N. General Assembly session. She said, "If women are free from violence and afforded their rights," they can be "change agents."
•On corruption, Clinton said it was a "security problem," not just a "good government concern."
•Finally, at the end, Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott asked Clinton about U.S. health-care reform. Clinton said, "We're going to be successful," but went on to say it "won't be pretty."
Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
A few Clinton-related news articles:
•Secretary Clinton and the U.S. State Department are trying to find accommodations for Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, who'll be visiting New York for next month's U.N. General Assembly meeting. He prefers to erect Bedouin-style air-conditioned tents, such as this tent he set up in Paris in 2007, but his request to camp in Central Park was rejected. Now, he wants to put down stakes at a Libyan-owned estate in Englewood, N.J., but residents don't want to host the leader who just embraced the recently released Pam Am Flight 103 bomber.
•"Hillary's Right About the 'Defense Umbrella'" argues a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Referring to the "defense umbrella" that Clinton said the United States should consider extending over the Middle East to deter Iran's nuclear ambitions, the piece argues that Clinton has "the right idea," but that the Obama administration must put its money where its mouth is and support missile defense, not scale it back.
•The finance chairman of Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign has been accused of fraud for allegedly lying to Citibank to secure a $74 million loan.
Photo: GLENNA GORDON/AFP/Getty Images
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.