“I’m very happy that my 100th country was Latvia,” Clinton told students in Riga in June.
From the start, Clinton has explained her agenda as part of a new “21st-century diplomacy” that demands the United States be more attuned to the grass roots of the world and relies on development and civilian power as much as military might, an approach foreign policy gurus will debate for years to come.
Some say that Clinton diluted her energy and failed to achieve any signature triumphs, such as an end to the Syrian crisis. Others argue that through a thousand lesser-known efforts and initiatives, she has achieved nothing less than a transformative shift toward a more effective and modern American diplomacy.
What is certain is that Clinton’s choices tell a story about who she is, how she thinks and perhaps what she will decide to do in the future. And so the answer to the question of whether she will run for president in 2016 might begin on a trans-Atlantic flight this summer, the first leg of one of her longest trips as secretary.
As is her habit, Clinton walked to the back of the cabin to chat with the traveling press. It was early, and she seemed relaxed in a track suit and dark sunglasses.
The 12-day odyssey would include meetings in Paris, Kabul, Tokyo, Hanoi, Cairo and Jerusalem. But the stop Clinton was really looking forward to was Ulan Bator, Mongolia, where she once downed a glass of yak milk in the spirit of diplomacy.
A reporter mentioned that she was scheduled to visit with the Mongolian president in his ceremonial yurt, the traditional Mongol dwelling. Clinton smiled.
“It’s not a yurt,” she corrected, noting that Mongolians prefer not to use the Turkic term. “It’s a ger.”
Off the beaten path
By the time Clinton’s plane landed at Genghis Khan International Airport, she had already grabbed international headlines.
In Paris, she had blasted Russia and China for “blockading” a solution to the Syrian crisis. In Kabul, she had declared Afghanistan a “non-NATO ally.” In Tokyo, she announced U.S. aid to the Afghan government. There had been red carpets, photos with presidents and dinners under chandeliers.
Now it was a gray Monday in Mongolia, a country on China’s doorstep booming with coal, copper and gold mines, and because Clinton had decided it was important to be there, her motorcade was zipping along a potholed highway past grazing cows and construction cranes.