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!
Secretary Clinton hailed the Senate's repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military as a "historic step forward for all Americans, a step toward a more perfect union and a more perfect reflection of our core values." She made the remarks in a statement issued today in which she also said, "we are committed to universal standards abroad and here at home. Our progress on equality here strengthens our advocacy for human dignity everywhere."
Today the Senate voted 65 to 31 to repeal the 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" policy that came about during the administration of Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton. The House passed a repeal bill 250 to 175 on Dec. 15. Now the bill goes to President Obama, who supports a repeal.
Secretary Clinton has long supported gay rights, remarking in June that she was the first First Lady to march in a pride parade. In October, in the wake of several suicides by American gay teens, she issued a heartfelt message to gay adolescents, reminding them that their lives are valuable and urging them to hang in there, seek help, and reject suicide.
The senators who voted against the repeal today are going to end up on the wrong side of history, as the tide worlwide is turning in favor of acceptance of gays and lesbians. Obviously, there are still many areas of the globe where people are strongly opposed to gay rights. For example, read about how Turkey's military deals with gays in the recent FP article, "Do Ask, Must Tell." Nevertheless, the march of history teaches us that the circle of human inclusiveness continues to grow wider, slowly but surely.
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This week Secretary Clinton congratulated two countries, Qatar and Kazakhstan, on their important anniversaries. Today, Dec. 18, is Qatar's National Day, marking the anniversary of when Jassim bin Mohammed al-Thani came to power in 1878 and founded what ended up being the modern state of Qatar. Two days ago, Dec. 16, was the 19th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence from the Soviet Union. To mark both occasions, Clinton released the following statements earlier this week.
For Qatar (which earlier this month was celebrating its designation as host of the 2022 World Cup, as seen in the photo above):
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Qatar on your National Day this December 18.
The relationship between our nations has grown stronger and more dynamic over the past few years as Qatar and the United States work together to build a future that is more peaceful, more prosperous, and more secure for all our people. As partners, we have increased trade, promoted educational and cultural exchanges, and enhanced scientific and technological cooperation between our countries. I was honored to visit Doha earlier this year for the U.S.-Islamic World Forum to deepen the understanding between the United States and Muslim-majority nations, and to witness Qatar's rising presence on the global stage.
Under the leadership of His Highness Amir Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Qatar has become an international leader in areas from investing in educational infrastructure to increasing agricultural productivity in arid regions. Your successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup is a further testament to Qatar's bright future.
I wish all the people of Qatar a joyous National Day celebration, and I look forward to finding new ways to strengthen the vibrant relationship between Qatar and the United States.
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of the Republic of Kazakhstan as you celebrate your independence on December 16.
The United States was honored to be the first nation to recognize an independent Kazakhstan and welcome you into the community of nations 19 years ago. Recently, I witnessed the great progress Kazakhstan has made during my visit to Astana for the first summit of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe in 11 years. Chairing the OSCE and hosting this summit are important milestones in Kazakhstan's ongoing development as a regional and world leader.
Kazakhstan has accomplished a great deal since independence. Our people have worked together to improve economic ties, chart a responsible and reliable energy future, ensure regional security, and reduce the threat of nuclear weapons. The United States also is proud to work with Kazakh civil society and private sector leaders as well as government officials to improve human rights and help build a more stable, secure, democratic, and prosperous world for all our citizens. The strategic partnership between our nations will continue to grow and deepen as we work together to fulfill the promise of a bright future for Kazakhstan and its people.
I wish the people of Kazakhstan a safe and happy Independence Day celebration.
MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images
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
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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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
I strongly condemn today's terrorist attacks, claimed by Jundallah, that targeted Iranian men, women, and children worshipping at a mosque in Chabahar, Iran. On behalf of the people of the United States, I extend condolences to the families and loved ones of all those injured and killed as they marked the eve of the last day of Ashura. This is yet another example of terrorists using cowardly methods to inflict pain and fear on innocent civilians. The perpetrators of this attack must be held to account for their actions.
The United States condemns all forms of terrorism and sectarian-driven violence, wherever it occurs, and we stand with the victims of these abhorrent and reprehensible acts. The global community must remain vigilant in combating terrorist organizations and individuals that threaten lives in every part of the world.
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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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.