Hillary Clinton Does 185,731 Miles and Asks If I was a Party-Crasher. . .


hillary clinton impressive.jpg
Hillary Clinton would have probably flown more miles this year had she not badly injured her wrist in a nasty State Department parking lot fall, but she still logged a very impressive 185,731 in flight miles so far this year.
Andrea Mitchell, master of ceremonies at the US Global Leadership Coalition 2009 Tribute Dinner and senior diplomatic correspondent for NBC News, told me that she called State and got the very latest numbers as Secretary Clinton was just back from Brussels. Boeing Corporate President James Bell said, “and thanks for flying all those miles on Boeing.”
Hillary Clinton was last night the most compelling and comfortably confident I have seen her since taking on the responsibility of serving as Barack Obama’s Secretary of State.
When I was standing in a threesome with Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Eric Schwartz and the USGLC’s John Glenn at the very end of a long line waiting to get through security into the thousand person dinner at DC’s Grand Hyatt, I saw Hillary Clinton and her entourage pass us by. She caught my eye and I said, “Any chance you can help us out??”
Hillary’s reply: “Oh, are you guys trying to crash the party and cause some trouble?”
Hillary Clinton was relaxed off stage and on last evening – and my view is that she knows well and enjoys speaking about the nuances of American “smart power” as opposed to the “hard power” national security portfolio.
Clinton is sometimes characterized as a liberal hawk, an interventionist, a Democratic neocon, a person who clings a little too tightly to the rhetoric of “coercive diplomacy.” But last night I saw and heard a different Secretary of State than the one who seems to tilt easily towards force and triggers.
Clinton explained more fairly and fully the concept of “smart power” than I had heard in any of her speeches of late. She talked about elevating the roles of “diplomacy” and “development” alongside the “third D” of “defense.”
She stated that the world’s challenges today – the big ones – are so sizeable that “no nation can meet today’s challenges – or seize its opportunities – alone. Leadership in this era means stepping up to the plate and galvanizing others to do the same.” She is right. She didn’t offer swagger or platitudes about American exceptionalism. She talked about creating lasting, sustained change in the international system in concert with other stewards of the global order.
There was one disappointment in her talk, a mistake that she should not continue to make.
Clinton expressed her support, obviously, of the surge of US forces to Afghanistan – noting that the US would soon send 30,000 troops to buttress those already in theater, along with another 7,000 pledged troops for ISAF allies. But then she said:

When I became Secretary of State, there were about 320 civilians in Afghanistan, and many of them were on six-month tours. And we have been on the path to more than tripling that number, and we have one-year tours and we have very specific assignments for the people who are being sent to Afghanistan.

This is all true – but what I have learned in the last week is that Secretary Clinton’s own SCRS group (called the Secretary’s Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization) – which is designed to be the short term, applied shock therapy for rapidly stabilizing conflict zones and which is considered by some to be the first solid, tangible deliverable in the State Department’s “smart power” arsenal is not being used by Secretary Clinton and her team in Afghanistan.
Instead, the 300 plus civilian personnel being ramped up to approximately 900 civilians mentioned by Clinton last night at this “smart power” tribute dinner largely supported by private businesses and NGOS are “private contractors” hired by State.
There are rumors of internal bureaucratic strife between Deputy Secretary of State for Management Jack Lew and the folks who run SCRS, which reports directly to the Secretary, as well as with AfPak envoy Richard Holbrooke who according to several State Department sources wanted none of the internally trained professionals ready to go into the field and wanted to hire contractors on the outside.
There is probably more to the back story on this than I have at the moment, but last evening’s focus on “smart power” seemed perfectly designed to highlight the success and personnel output that Secretary Clinton’s SCRS (just say it Secretary Clinton – the Secretary’s Coordinator for Reconstruction and Development. . .) could have for her Department. As it is those emerging from the program are being dispersed here and there around the world – but not in Afghanistan.
But beyond this bureaucratic hiccup, Hillary Clinton’s focus in her speech on women, girls’ education, health, development, poverty, water, and the like – her mention of a “Global Partnership Initiative” in which the Department of State and US AID had partnered with General Mills and African farmers in 15 Sub-Saharan nations to provide healthy and fortified foods; her salute to the Millennium Development Goals and the development work of the Millennium Challenge Corporation; her passion about global justice, international law, and human rights were all on display last night.
Clinton said that her Department of State would re-establish and re-brand USAID as the “premier development agency in the world.”
Hillary Clinton also revealed strategic alliances with Google’s Eric Schmidt, Chairman of the Board of the New America Foundation, who recently committed to digitize all of the Iraqi National Museum archives and artworks as well as to launch an Iraq Government YouTube Channel to promote transparency in government.
Clinton bundled all of this into what she termed “21st Century Statecraft”. She noted that even at the height of the Cold War with many nuclear warheads pointed at each other, the Soviets and Americans had never stopped talking (she might consider then a shift in US-Cuba interactions?).
Bottom line last night was that Clinton was on top of this portfolio. Global justice, climate change, development, human rights, women’s rights – all of this is her thing.
Lately, I have felt that Hillary Clinton has been trying to prove herself in the hard power arena – competing with Generals and war counselors to Obama to show that she too could hang on the tough challenges of Iran, North Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
This reminds me of the old Soviet studies days when scholars, government officials, and other public intellectuals who watched for tiny shifts in Politburo politics or who were expert in the US-Soviet arms race – or arms reduction talks – were at the highest rung of national security experts. Those with expertise in anything else – like Japan at that time, or Latin America – were lesser mortals.
I attended and heard an interesting speech that Hillary Clinton gave on the Obama administration’s nuclear non-proliferation efforts for the US Institute of Peace – and she just didn’t have any of the confidence or ease of thought that she demonstrated last night. She misstated a key point in her speech then that the US would oppose any new expansion of full fuel cycle capacity in the world (implying this to be the case even if consistent with the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty). She also recently experienced rough, unforgiving encounters during trips to Pakistan and Israel/Palestine.
But these aren’t her strong suit themes.
After watching Hillary Clinton last night, I saw that she has a lot to say and much depth in the question of how to make “smart power” something more than a thin or vapid phrase. She has thought about this stuff and is on to something in the way that she frames “21st century statecraft.”
Kudos to Clinton and the US Global Leadership Coalition last night for an impressive dinner – that featured at the end young Republican Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) speaking on behalf of many other Congressman and US Senators in a letter to the President calling for a robust increase in America’s foreign aid and international engagement budgets.
This is a big change. Aaron Schock has a passport – and he’s convincing many of his colleagues to come out of the dark ages and recognize the importance of US global engagement.
Hillary’s speech, on the whole, gets my applause – and Aaron Schock was a great cap on a very impressive, internationalist evening.
— Steve Clemons


11 comments on “Hillary Clinton Does 185,731 Miles and Asks If I was a Party-Crasher. . .

  1. S Brennan says:

    Love you and all, I’ve reading you since you started…this phrase;
    “serving as Barack Obama’s Secretary of State”
    Is condescending as all get out, she serves the President, but she is not personal property. I was never Ronald Reagan’s or George Bush’s “soldier”. I was a soldier and Ronald Reagan or George Bush were president of the USA, I had to follow their [legal] orders, but my larger duty was to uphold my oath..which was to defend the constitution from all enemies…foreign or DOMESTIC.


  2. MarkL says:

    You know that Obama is going to go throught with Medicare and SS cuts next, as soon as his success at killing health care reform becomes final.
    It’s almost as if Newt Gingrich were elected as a Democrat in 2008. The main difference I see is that Newt is slightly more prickly than Obama—after all he shut down the government when he didn’t get a good seat on AF1


  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Heres a great article about Obama getting pissed at Conyer’s for “demeaning” him. I guess its alright for Hillary to make inept diplomatic blunders, and for Hoyer and Reid to tell Israel that Obama is on the wrong track on Isr/Pal. But its not OK for Conyers to disagree with a President that Conyers worked diligently to get elected. This article, if true, exposes a dangerous and petty side of this President.
    Seems Conyers doesn’t like being betrayed anymore than the rest of us do. It sucks when you recommend someone for a job, and after being hired, their resume ends up being a crock of shit, and their talents are shown to be severely wanting.


  4. Roger says:

    As a big, former supporter of Hillary Clinton, I don’t see myself going back. I’m an advocate of “what happened on the primary trail, stays on the primary trail,” however after Clinton’s (and eventually Palin’s) campaigns, I’m disappointed. Clinton’s involvement with C Street, both Clintons’ closeness with corporate America, and the PUMA mentality along with hints of her still longing for the presidency, turned me further away from original respect. But honestly, Afghanistan and her continued hawkish stance on our involvement there is the proverbial nail. It’s good that she’s logging miles, but Clinton continues to move to the rrrrrrrright. I lost trust in her motives for America.


  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “What has changed?”
    The White House dog is a different breed than the last one was.


  6. JamesL says:

    320 civilians, 50,000 troops, and 106,000 contractors. That’s two tenths of a per cent for purported diplomacy. What is the priority? What has changed?


  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Who Wants More War?
    by Rep. Ron Paul, December 08, 2009
    If anyone still doubted that this administration’s foreign policy would bring any kind of change, this week’s debate on Afghanistan should remove all doubt. The president’s stated justifications for sending more troops to Afghanistan and escalating the war amount to little more than recycling all the false reasons we began the conflict. It is so discouraging to see this coming from our new leadership, when the people were hoping for peace. New polls show that 49 percent of the people favor minding our own business on the world stage, up from 30 percent in 2002. Perpetual war is not solving anything. Indeed continually seeking out monsters to destroy abroad only threatens our security here at home as international resentment against us builds. The people understand this and are becoming increasingly frustrated at not being heard by the decision-makers. The leaders say some things the people want to hear, but change never comes.
    One has to ask, if the people who elected these leaders so obviously do not want these wars, who does? Eisenhower warned of the increasing power and influence of the military-industrial complex, and it seems his worst fears have come true. He believed in a strong national defense, as do I, but warned that the building up of permanent military and weapons industries could prove dangerous if their influence got out of hand. After all, if you make your money on war, peace does you no good. With trillions of dollars at stake, there is tremendous incentive to keep the decision-makers fearful of every threat in the world, real or imagined, present or future, no matter how ridiculous and far-fetched. The Bush Doctrine demonstrates how very successful the war lobby was philosophically with the last administration. And they are succeeding just as well with this one, in spite of having the so-called “peace candidate” in office.
    We now find ourselves in another foreign policy quagmire with little hope of victory, and not even a definition of victory. Eisenhower said that only an alert and informed electorate could keep these war racketeering pressures at bay. He was right, and the key is for the people to ensure that their elected leaders follow the Constitution. The Constitution requires a declaration of war by Congress in order to legitimately go to war. Bypassing this critical step makes it far too easy to waste resources on nebulous and never-ending conflicts. Without clear goals, the conflicts last forever and drain the country of blood and treasure. The drafters of the Constitution gave Congress the power to declare war precisely because they feared allowing the executive unfettered discretion in military affairs. They understood that making it easy for leaders to wage foreign wars would threaten domestic liberties.
    It becomes more and more apparent why the bought-and-paid-for treasonous monolith known as “The Fourth Estate” sidelined candidates such as Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich. Does anyone really believe these lyin’ posturing snakes like Obama, Hillary, Bush, Clinton, etc., can slither their way into power if they truly wish to change the status quo? POA
    Listen to Rep. Ron Paul on the escalation in Afghanistan (MP3).


  8. Mr.Murder says:

    “Instead, the 300 plus civilian personnel being ramped up to approximately 900 civilians mentioned by Clinton last night at this “smart power” tribute dinner largely supported by private businesses and NGOS are “private contractors” hired by State.”
    Armed humanitarians, it’s what’s for dinner.


  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Clinton is sometimes characterized as a liberal hawk, an interventionist, a Democratic neocon, a person who clings a little too tightly to the rhetoric of “coercive diplomacy.” But last night I saw and heard a different Secretary of State than the one who seems to tilt easily towards force and triggers”
    What??? Bi-polar?? Schizo??? Come on, Steve, whats with this “different Secretary of State than the one who seems to tilt easily towards force and triggers”??? There hasn’t been a war that Hillary hasn’t liked. What you “saw” and “heard” last night was a dangerous hawk simply being a politician. Its what they do, and whatever the craven witch said, I wouldn’t take two cents worth of it to the bank.
    I have no doubt Hillary is shrewd, but her handling of Isr/Pal hardly telegraphs “smart”, unless it was designed to take the teeth out of Obama’s stance, (which is probably the case).
    “Global Justice”???? Screw that, Hillary and Obama can’t even bring themselves to institute “domestic justice”. What the hell are we doing prattling about “global justice” when the Bush criminals are not even being held accountable by these posturing frauds drooling this empty sales pitch about “change”?? And how does flushing Goldstone down the crapper figure into this shameless slogan, “global justice”?? Hillary wouldn’t know “global justice” if it bit her in the ass, (and I wish it would).
    “Human rights”??? Like Tristan Anderson is experiencing, with nary a word from this derelict and shameful Secretary of State who can’t even protect the interests of an American family and thier son, gravely damaged by a foreign government that shoots peaceful American protestors in the head??
    Hillary Clinton can go to hell. Cheney, Clinton, they both wear skull faces. They are two peas in a pod.
    Steve, its gettin’ so I’d rather read about what was on the menu, and who’s zoomin’ who, because if history is any indicator, whatever these over-stuffed elitist sacks of crap have to say at the podium is usually just a crock of excrement. At least the menu doesn’t lie.


  10. questions says:

    Taoism comes complete with the lovely notion of “wu wei” — action through inaction. In the Tao Te Ching, it’s kind of icky — you get the political system you want (central control and wealth) indirectly through the pacification and belly-filling of the people — “keep the people’s minds empty and their stomachs full” — this version is a fairly sickening way of maintaining hard power via the use of smart power.
    BUT, there are less vile versions of wu wei that might be worth thinking through. By backing off of direct force, one gives one’s target a chance to develop into its own force and if decent relations are maintained, one has a fully developed ally, a friend in the world, but a friend who exists for itself and not just for another (to toss a little existentialism in).
    I would hope that this second version of wu wei is more what the admin is pushing, rather than the first way which would seem to be in keeping with American hegemony.
    There’s the most mystical version in Chuang Tzu, by the way. For Chuang Tzu, detachment from earthly matters, especially from death, is the main issue. Realizing that one’s life is lived within a narrow perspective that one cannot really exit, and realizing that even life is such a perspective — these are central features. I doubt the US is going this direction, and it’s not a statist project anyway, but if there is some sort of detachment underlying a project of wu wei, the world might work a little more justly for a lot more people.


  11. DonS says:

    Thanks Steve for the quite interesting update on Secy Clinton and the doings at State. I would imagine Hillary is feeling pretty close to the top of her game just now. Being the point person for the administration to go up to Congress last week along with Secy Gates as spokespersons for the new Afghan “surge” certainly places her as the champion with the biggest portfolio.
    (by the way I was disappointed that neither Gates nor Clinton took the opportunity to disavow the notion of Bush’s “preventive war”, although I think Gates got closer than Hillary. Is this more of the same drift to the right by adopting more and more of the Bush excesses? Another example of the ‘tough guy’ stance that ‘no options are off the table’?)
    But on Clinton’s commendable embrace of ‘smart power’, how can we view any of this while the elephant in the room remains Afghanistan and the de facto aggressive use of power just demonstrated. Doesn’t that outweigh any soft words and promised future 21st century statecraft. Will a revitalized USAID be charged with reapplying new coasts of lipstick to the image of a US as aggressive pig?


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