The Big Idea

A sneak peek at Hillary Clinton's new global strategy

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By Carlos Lozada
Sunday, October 24, 2010

How Hillary Clinton sees the world

Every four years, the Pentagon puts out its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a massive document laying out military strategies, objectives, threats and doctrine, and setting priorities from spending on future weapons systems to the training of America's armed forces.

But what about the diplomats? Not to be outdone, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced last year that the State Department would begin issuing its own Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. "Instead of simply trying to adjust to the way things are," Clinton said in July 2009, when she announced the initiative, "we need to get in the habit of looking to the horizon and planning for how we want things to be."

So, how does Madam Secretary want things to be? The QDDR won't be made public until next month, but in a 5,500-word essay forthcoming in the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs, Clinton offers a preview:

It's not all about governments anymore.

"In the 21st century, a diplomat is as likely to meet with a tribal elder in a rural village as a counterpart in a foreign ministry, and is as likely to wear cargo pants as a pinstriped suit," Clinton writes. She calls on diplomats to engage directly with the private sector, civil society and opinion leaders, especially in authoritarian states. How? By drawing from all agencies of the U.S. government to create a "global civilian service of the same caliber and flexibility of the U.S. military."

Note the second "D" in QDDR.

Clinton wants to elevate development as a co-equal among the priorities of U.S. foreign policy. "Strengthening middle classes around the world will be key to creating the just and sustainable international order that lies at the heart of the United States' national security strategy," she writes. She also threads the needle on the old debates about the links between destitution and extremism: "Poverty and repression do not automatically engender terrorism," Clinton says, "but countries that are impoverished, corrupt, lawless . . . are more prone to becoming havens for terrorists and other criminals."

Diplomats at war.

Clinton notes that one in five U.S. diplomats is working in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan. In Iraq, for instance, there are 1,600 civilians working alongside the 50,000 U.S. troops still there, and in Afghanistan, some 1,100 diplomats and civilians are leading reconstruction and development efforts and "will remain there after U.S. troops are gone."

More cash is needed.

"The House and Senate have appropriated hundreds of billions of dollars for the military missions in Afghanistan and Iraq," Clinton writes. "The diplomatic and development activities there represent a fraction of that cost, yet the funding often gets bogged down in old debates over foreign aid. . . . These missions can succeed, but only with the necessary congressional leadership and support."

And that is really the critical question. Clinton and her colleagues at State can write all the strategy documents and policy reviews they want, but in midst of an economic crisis and exploding deficits, will they get the resources to see their vision come to life?

lozadac@washpost.com


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