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Hillary Clinton: Smart Power & Foreign Policy

Hillary Clinton implemented a “smart power” approach to foreign policy and international diplomacy as Secretary of State to harness, as she called it, “American engagement, other than unilateralism and the so-called boots on the ground.”  She defined “smart power” as a combination of strategies and tools – including diplomatic, economic, political, legal, cultural and military coalitions as a last resort – in unique combination as defined for each situation. Clinton’s “smart power” approach modernized American diplomacy for the 21st century, rebuilt America’s standing in the world, better engaged technology and led to tangible, lasting results.

Hillary Clinton, on Smart Power

Sec. Clinton: I use the phrase smart power “because I thought we had to have another way of talking about American engagement, other than unilateralism and the so-called boots on the ground.”

“…Most Americans think of engagement and go immediately to military engagement. That’s why I use the phrase ‘smart power.’ I did it deliberately because I thought we had to have another way of talking about American engagement, other than unilateralism and the so-called boots on the ground. You know, when you’re down on yourself, and when you are hunkering down and pulling back, you’re not going to make any better decisions than when you were aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward.” [Clinton interview, The Atlantic, 8/10/14]

Sec. Clinton: “For me, smart power meant choosing the right combination of tools – diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural – for each situation.”

In her book Hard Choices, Secretary Clinton wrote, “Beyond the traditional work of negotiating treaties and attending diplomatic conferences, we had to – among other tasks – engage activists on social media, help determine energy pipeline routes, limit carbon emissions, encourage marginalized groups to participate in politics, stand up for universal human rights, and defend common economic rules of the road. Our ability to do these things would be crucial measures of our national power. This analysis led me to embrace a concept known as smart power, which had been kicking around Washington for a few years. Harvard’s Joseph Nye, Suzanne Nossel of Human Rights Watch, and a few others had used the term, although we all had in mind slightly different meanings. For me, smart power meant choosing the right combination of tools – diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural – for each situation.” [Hard Choices, pg. 33, 2014]

Smart Power as a Framework for Diplomacy

Sec. Clinton’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review “aimed to map out exactly how we would put smart power into practice.”

In her book Hard Choices, Secretary Clinton wrote, “[State’s Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter] also helped lead a top-to-bottom review of the State Department and USAID that we called the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. It was inspired by the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, which I became familiar with as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and it aimed to map out exactly how we would put smart power into practice and use what I started calling ‘21st-Century Statecraft.’ This included harnessing new technologies, public-private partnerships, diaspora networks, and other new tools, and it soon carried us into fields beyond traditional diplomacy, especially energy and economics.” [Hard Choices, pg. 551, 2014]

Having the QDDR blueprint for was “critically important,” and the kind of “coordination and strategizing” that went into it was “monumental.”

  • According to Foreign Policy columnist Aaron David Miller, “Of special note was the introduction of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR). I know it sounds like a bunch of bureaucratic mumbo jumbo. But for the Department of State, an organization that’s risk adverse and conservative, with a culture that doesn’t reward planning and discourages change, this kind of coordination and strategizing was monumental. The notion of a blueprint for highlighting America’s civilian power by coordinating the resources of the nation’s civilian agencies and better partnering with the military in advancing the national interest abroad is critically important.” [Foreign Policy, 6/20/12]

Sec. Clinton promised to use “smart power” and make diplomacy “the vanguard of foreign policy” during her nomination hearing.

According to Sec. Clinton’s testimony at her nomination hearing, “I believe that American leadership has been wanting, but is still wanted. We must use what has been called ‘smart power’: the full range of tools at our disposal — diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural — picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy. This is not a radical idea. The ancient Roman poet Terence, who was born a slave and rose to become one of the great voices of his time, declared that ‘in every endeavor, the seemly course for wise men is to try persuasion first.’ The same truth binds wise women as well.” [Nomination Hearing to be Secretary of State, state.gov, 1/13/09]

Sec. Clinton’s use of “smart power” was “a foreign policy agenda powered by partnership, principles, and pragmatism.”

According to a State Department fact sheet on American “smart power,” “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is pursuing a foreign policy agenda powered by partnership, principles, and pragmatism. Co­operating and collaborating with other nations and organizations, the State Department is working to design and implement global and regional solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.” [“American ‘Smart Power’: Diplomacy and Development are the Vanguard,” state.gov4/28/11]

Clinton’s Use of Smart Power Produced Results

Rebuilding America’s Standing In The World

Book: “The objectives of using a smart-power approach and rebuilding America’s standing meshed perfectly.”

In the book HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, authors Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen wrote, “In that way, the objectives of using a smart-power approach and rebuilding America’s standing meshed perfectly. America would increase its influence in the world by taking advantage of opportunities to engage other countries in trade, investment, philanthropic partnerships, and military coalitions. In particular, Hillary told aides in those early days, she believed it was vital to engage not just the governments of other countries but their people as well. Political leaders are responsive to their people, so engaging the public at the grassroots level could bolster America’s ability to influence foreign nations.” [HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, pg. 75, 2014]

Using Smart Power to Fight Terrorism

Sec. Clinton’s smart power approach to counterterrorism brought together “traditional allies, emerging powers, and Muslim-majority countries” to establish a global counterterrorism forum.

According to Sec. Clinton’s remarks on a smart power approach to counterterrorism, “Later this month, we will take another significant step forward by establishing a new global counterterrorism forum. We’re bringing together traditional allies, emerging powers, and Muslim-majority countries around a shared counterterrorism mission in a way that’s never been done before. Turkey and the United States will serve as founding co-chairs and we will be joined by nearly 30 other nations. Together, we will work to identify threats and weaknesses, devise solutions, mobilize resources, share expertise and best practices.” [Remarks on a Smart Power Approach to Counterterrorism, state.gov, 9/9/11]

Sec. Clinton called for a “smart power” approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan that combined “daring military action, careful intelligence gathering, dogged law enforcement, and delicate diplomacy.”

In her book Hard Choices, Secretary Clinton wrote, “I thought we needed a new strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and a new approach to counterterrorism around the world, one that used the full range of American power to attack terrorist networks’ finances, recruitment, and safe havens, as well as operatives and commanders. It would take daring military action, careful intelligence gathering, dogged law enforcement, and delicate diplomacy all working together – in short, smart power.” [Hard Choices, pg. 174, 2014]

Smart Power to Counterbalance China

Sec. Clinton’s “smart power” choice on foreign policy in Asia was melding multiple approaches, strengthening alliances, broadening relations with China, and working with ASEAN.

In her book Hard Choices, Secretary Clinton wrote, “One option was to focus on broadening our relationship with China, on the theory that if we could get our China policy right, the rest of our work in Asia would be much easier. An alternative was to concentrate our efforts on strengthening America’s treaty alliances in the region (with Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, and Australia), providing a counterbalance to China’s growing power. A third approach was to elevate and harmonize the alphabet soup of regional multilateral organizations, such as ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and APEC (the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation organization). […] In keeping with the position I had staked out as a Senator and Presidential candidate, I decided that the smart power choice was to meld all three approaches. We would show that America was ‘all in’ when it came to Asia. I was prepared to lead the way, but success would require buy-in from our entire government, beginning with the White House.” [Hard Choices, pg. 44-45, 2014]