A FOREIGN policy speech given by Secretary Clinton at Foreign Policy’s “transformational trends” forum, also included a Q&A with Secretary Clinton.
The speech comes as anticipation grows for President Obama to soon nominate her successor, perhaps even next week, with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in the eye of the storm and considered the leading candidate by everyone in Washington.
There will be continued speculation and hopes of what may be next for Secretary Clinton. The speech today will only hearten and strengthen the belief that there is no one in American politics that is more prepared for the job of the presidency than Hillary Rodham Clinton. You don’t have to agree with her politics or her policy prescriptions, including on foreign policy, to accept that this is a statement of fact, not opinion.
Clinton’s remarks in full are below.
Before I begin, I want to say a few words about the unfortunate and counterproductive resolution at the United Nations General Assembly that just passed, because it places further obstacles in the path to peace. We have been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace that both deserve: two states for two people, with a sovereign, viable, independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel.
And I see my longtime friend and colleague, Ehud Barak, here, and I know he would agree with that, as both the most decorated soldier in Israeli history and a distinguished public servant. I’ll have more to say about this later, but I did want to begin by recognizing the challenge that this will surely present.
I want to add my words of welcome to all of you. I want to thank Admiral McRaven for being here. It’s wonderful that you are here, Bill. We very much appreciate your participation. Foreign Minister Sikorski, a good friend and colleague, who himself is a top global thinker – well deserved because of the careful, comprehensive views he’s developed over many years of hard work about issues as fundamental as freedom.
And of course, I see right before me a wonderful friend and colleague, former Senator John Warner, who has been just a great example of public service – military and civilian – his entire life. And to all of our friends and colleagues from the diplomatic corps. And thanks, of course, to David and Susan and Deb and everyone at Foreign Policy for joining with the State Department’s Office of Policy Planning to organize this conference about transformational trends. And I want to thank Jake Sullivan and everyone at Policy Planning. When Jake Sullivan first came to work for me, I told my husband about this incredibly bright rising star – Rhodes Scholar, Yale Law School – and my husband said, “Well, if he ever learns to play the saxophone, watch out.” (Laughter.) Now we travel all over the world together and people say how excited they are to meet a potential future president of the United States, and of course they mean Jake. (Laughter.)
Well, I will state the obvious to begin. We do live in a rapidly changing world. And many of the constants that shaped American foreign policy for decades are shifting. That poses new challenges but also new opportunities for our global leadership. Let me offer a few examples.
First, our alliances in Europe and East Asia are stronger than ever. After four years of repairing Iraq-era strains and answering questions about America’s commitment to diplomacy, our staying power, our global leadership, we are working across the board on so many important issues to all of us. At the same time, however, many of our allies are struggling with serious economic challenges and shrinking military capabilities. This will have implications for how we uphold the global order going forward.
Second, China’s peaceful rise as a global power is reaching a crossroads. Its future course will be determined by how it manages new economic challenges, differences with its neighbors, and strains in its political and economic system.
Third, in the Middle East, the Arab revolutions have scrambled regional power dynamics. And the energy revolution around the world will likely further change the region’s strategic landscape in the coming years. Indeed, America’s increasing energy independence will have far-reaching implications not only for our economic future, but for our security relationships around the world.
Fourth, economics are increasingly shaping international affairs alongside more traditional forms of national power. Emerging powers like India and Brazil are gaining clout because of their size, of course, but more the size of their economies than of their militaries, more about the potential of their markets than their projection of what we used to think of as power. Meanwhile, the global economic system – open, free, transparent, and fair – that fueled unprecedented growth is now under unprecedented pressure from trade imbalances, new forms of protectionism, the rise of state capitalism, and crippling public debt.
Finally, the traditional sources of America’s global leadership are in need of renewal, a task for all of us. Now the cottage industry of Cassandras and declinists have dramatically overstated this case. But it is true that the reservoirs of goodwill that we built up around the world during the 20th century will not, cannot last forever. New generations of young people do not remember GIs liberating their countries or American development assistance changing the face of their economies or literally saving generations from hunger and disease. They are more connected and engaged with the wider world than their parents and grandparents could have ever imagined, but they face mounting social and economic challenges and are not automatically pro-American.
So, how should we – how should America lead in this changing world? As we look ahead to the next four years and the years beyond, what should top our agenda? Well, one thing I’ve learned and that you’ve been discussing all day is that the best-laid plans are quickly turned on their heads by the rush of events. And certainly the first job of our nation’s policymakers in the years ahead will be to get the big crises right, whether that’s Iran, North Korea, or some unexpected threat. But we cannot allow the in-box to overwhelm us. There also has to be room to think out of the box. We have to deal with the urgent, the important, and the long term all at once.
Now I mentioned five significant ways in which the international landscape is shifting, so let me offer five big-ticket agenda items that we absolutely have to get right as well. This starts with following through on what is often called our pivot to the Asia Pacific, the most dynamic region in our rapidly changing world.
Much of the attention so far has been on America’s increasing military engagement. But it’s important that we also emphasize the other elements of our strategy. In a speech in Singapore last week, I laid out America’s expanding economic leadership in the region, from new trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership to stepped-up efforts on behalf of American businesses. The President’s visits to Burma and the East Asia Summit highlighted the democratic values and diplomatic engagement that power the pivot.
None of this is about containment. It’s all aimed at advancing a rules-based order in the Asia Pacific that will drive peace and prosperity for decades to come. And by the way, that’s why we need to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty as soon as possible, something that Senator Warner has been leading us on. Over the next four years, the region will be watching to see whether America will make the diplomatic, military, and economic investments to lock in this strategy. That is exactly what we need to do.
Now, when we talk about a pivot, we have to be mindful about both ends of the equation. The end of the war in Iraq and the winding down of the war in Afghanistan do create an opportunity to increase our engagement in Asia. But this does not mean we are abandoning our traditional allies in other parts of the world or taking our eye off the ball when it comes to fighting terrorism and finishing the job in Afghanistan.
Bin Ladin is dead and the core of al-Qaida’s leadership has been decimated. But the threat from its affiliates in places like Yemen and North Africa is still very real. So in the years ahead, we need to accelerate an integrated counterterrorism program that uses all our tools – civilian as well as military, multilateral as well as unilateral – to go after terrorist finances, recruitment, and safe havens; in effect, to marry up with the extraordinary work that Admiral McRaven leads on behalf of our special forces.
In Afghanistan, as we transition full responsibility for security to the Afghan Government in 2014, we also need to focus on helping the Afghans crack down on corruption, move toward economic self-sufficiency, elect their new leadership in 2014, advance a peace and reconciliation process, and pursue a regional framework, hopefully with Pakistan as a constructive partner.
And in Europe, we need to continue modernizing NATO for the demands of today’s global landscape, including unconventional threats like cyber warfare, and we need to stand by the EU as it meets its economic challenge in the Eurozone. Because as we move to seize the opportunities of the 21st century, including in the Asia Pacific, we need our traditional partners of first resort right by our side. I spoke about this earlier today at the Brookings Institution. So let me just add this: America is not pivoting from Europe to Asia; we are pivoting with Europe to Asia. We have deepened and intensified our dialogue and collaboration with Europe about how to work together in the Asia Pacific to our mutual benefit.
Now the second item on the agenda is closely related to the first. We need to successfully manage our relationships with emerging powers like China and India. Navigating the U.S.-China relationship is uniquely important but also uniquely challenging, because, as I have said on many occasions, and as I have heard Chinese leaders quote my words back to me, we are trying to write a new answer to the old question of what happens when an established power and a rising power meet. No one should have any illusions that this will be smooth or easy. But there is reason to hope that over the coming years we can, in fact, chart a path that avoids conflict and builds on the areas where our interests align.
Consider what happened last May. I touched down in Beijing for the fourth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue with a jam-packed agenda that included everything from the South China Sea to intellectual property rights to North Korea provocations. But the world’s attention was focused instead on the fate of a blind human rights dissident who had sought refuge in our American Embassy. Suddenly an already delicate trip had become an outsized test of the U.S.-China relationship. This could have been, and many predicted it would become, the spark for a serious breach between two great powers unable to trust or understand each other. But this is not 1912, when friction between a declining Britain and a rising Germany set the stage for global conflict. It’s 2012, and a confident America has encouraged China to take greater responsibility in regional and global institutions. And we have built mechanisms like the Strategic and Economic Dialogue that help manage disagreements and promote trust.
In the end, the relationship we have worked so hard to build with China proved more durable and dynamic than many feared. Both countries stayed focused on our shared agenda and engaged candidly on a wide range of critical issues. And today, that dissident is safely studying law in the United States. Looking ahead, we have to build on this foundation. As I like to tell my Chinese counterparts, zero-sum thinking will only produce negative-sum results.
This also applies to our relationship with Russia. We have made some progress with Moscow on areas such as nuclear arms reduction, sanctions on Iran, and trade. And we continue to seek new issues where we can cooperate together. But the reality is we have serious and continuing differences with Russia – on Syria, missile defense, NATO enlargement, human rights, and other issues. So we have to take a smart and balanced approach going forward. We need to continue expanding our engagement with Russia, but with very clear eyes about where we draw our lines.
We also have to engage with a set of emerging democratic powers like Brazil and Mexico, India and Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey, that are exercising greater influence in their regions and on the world stage. The strategic fundamentals of these relationships – shared democratic values, common economic and security priorities – are pushing our interests into closer convergence. This is reflected in the broad strategic dialogues we have launched with these emerging powers. The key going forward will be to encourage them to leave behind the outdated politics of the past and take up the responsibilities that come with global influence, including defending our shared democratic values beyond their borders.
Let me turn to the third element of our agenda, what I call economic statecraft, because this will certainly help to shape our engagement in Asia and our relations with emerging powers. The United States is moving economics to the center of our foreign policy. In response to the trends I mentioned earlier and that you have been discussing, countries that are gaining influence more because of economic prowess than military power, and market forces shaping the strategic landscapes, are clearly driving change. We can either watch it or shape it.
Last year I laid out America’s economic statecraft agenda in a series of speeches in Washington, Hong Kong, San Francisco, and New York. Since then, we’ve accelerated the process of updating our foreign policy priorities to take economics more into account. And that includes emphasizing the Asia Pacific region and elevating economics in relations with other regions, like in Latin America, for example, the destination for 40 percent of U.S. exports. We have ratified free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. We are welcoming more of our neighbors, including Canada and Mexico, into the Trans-Pacific Partnership process. And we think it’s imperative that we continue to build an economic relationship that covers the entire hemisphere for the future.
Africa, which is home to seven of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies. People are often surprised when I say that, but it’s true. And we are approaching Africa as a continent of opportunity and a place for growth, not just a site of endless conflict and crisis. All over the world, we are turning to economic solutions for strategic challenges; for example, using new financial tools to squeeze Iran’s nuclear program. And we’re stepping up commercial diplomacy, what I like to call jobs diplomacy, to boost U.S. exports, open new markets, lower the playing field – level the playing field for our businesses. And we’re building the diplomatic capacity to execute this agenda so that our diplomats are out there every single day promoting our economic agenda.
Now, our new focus on economics is also changing how we practice development around the world. Consider this: In the 1960s, official development assistance from countries like the United States represented 70 percent of the capital flows going into developing countries. Since then – even though we have actually increased our development budgets – because of surging private investment and trade, that official development assistance represents just 13 percent of those capital flows. So we are refocusing our approach to development to better harness market forces and make public sector investments that catalyze sustainable private sector growth.
Now, the fourth agenda item is very much on our minds today. What does the future of the Arab Spring hold for those who are experiencing it and for all the rest of us? One day we see the new government of Egypt stepping up to help mediate a cease-fire in Gaza, and the next it is raising concerns through new far-reaching constitutional decrees. We see territory slipping from the grips of the Assad regime, even as the opposition faces questions about its own coherence and the presence of extremists in its midst. Libya has freely elected moderate leaders, but has also become home to extremists and roving militias. Iran continues to cling to its nuclear ambitions while its economy crumbles. And just today, the Palestinian Authority, which has eschewed the violent path of Hamas and others, pursued a diplomatic move at the UN that is counter-productive to the cause of a negotiated peace.
I will have more to say about that tomorrow night at the Saban Forum here in Washington, but for today let me offer this one thought for U.S. strategy in the region going forward. We cannot view any of these challenges or changes in a vacuum. They are all connected, and our strategy needs to account for the intersections and relationships.
For example, you cannot understand what happens in Gaza without tracking the path of the rockets from Iran, or how the upheaval in Syria and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt have affected Hamas, how the treaty between Egypt and Israel remains the bedrock for peace in the region, despite all the change going on around it, and how Israel’s concerns over Iran’s nuclear program shape its overall security posture. Then there are the economics of border-crossings and fishing rights, and concerns about smuggling and arms proliferation, and the list goes on.
So the United States really does need to bring an unprecedented level of strategic sophistication to these problems, rather than just chasing after the crisis of the moment. American policymakers need to play chess, not checkers. And although some would have us wall off certain challenges, that is just not realistic in today’s world.
And that leads to the fifth area, a set of cross-cutting and interconnected global challenges that defy both national borders and easy solutions: climate change, poverty, hunger, disease, nuclear proliferation, human trafficking, women’s rights, international terrorism, and more. No one nation can solve any of these problems alone. Each one calls for a global network of partners – governments, businesses, international and regional organizations, academic institutions, civil society groups, even individuals, all working in concert. Building those coalitions is one of the great tests of American leadership.
We rightly call America the indispensible nation because only the United States has the reach and resolve to rally disparate nations and peoples together to solve problems on a global scale, certainly in defense of our own interests but also as a force for shared progress. Our ability to convene and connect is unparalleled. And that, in the end, in the 21st century, is what leadership is about.
Diplomacy and development are not always glamorous. It’s like what Max Weber said about politics; it’s the long, slow drilling of hard boards. But it is the only way we’re going to be able to bring together the disparate, often conflicting interests in order to move together in this interconnected world.
Here’s one moment that captures this for me. In December 2009, the international community gathered in Copenhagen to try to negotiate a way forward on climate change. Interests collided, talks stalled, tempers frayed. And I remember well late one night being in a very small room in the convention center with a large number of leaders. We emerged after 2 a.m. following a particularly frustrating session. Everyone rushed to the doors. The cars were trying to get to everyone waiting to take all of us to our hotels. We were standing there when Nicolas Sarkozy looked up into the cold Danish sky with exasperation and declared, “After this, I want to die.” (Laughter.) I think that’s how we all felt, to some extent.
But we kept at it. And thanks in large measure to the fun that President Obama and I had in intervening in a meeting to which we were not invited, we hammered out a deal that, while far from perfect, set the stage for future progress on this critical issue, because starting in Copenhagen and continuing in Cancun, Durban, and this week in Doha, we have pushed for a global agreement that would apply to all significant emitters, developed and developing alike, because there is no way to get ahead of this crisis unless we do that.
Over the past four years, the Obama Administration has also struck a deal with car companies to nearly double fuel efficiency by 2025. We’ve doubled production of clean energy, made historic investments in breakthrough technologies, launched new international partnerships like the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to take aim at pollutants like black carbon and methane that account for more than 30 percent of current global warming. That’s grown from just six countries to more than two dozen today.
And we are committed to continue this hard, slow, boring of hard boards in order to take the practical, effective steps necessary to tackle climate change. Our focus is on results – not on today’s headline, but on the trend line. And we’re after what works. We will continue to chase down every opportunity to move forward bit by bit, if that’s what it takes. That is a model for how change happens today, from advancing peace in the Middle East to securing the rights of women to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons step by step, day by day. And there’s no substitute for that hard work, no replacement for diplomacy, and no alternative to American leadership.
So certainly, there is a lot to do in the years ahead to tackle this agenda, and we’ll need to use all the tools in our arsenal. That means institutionalizing smart power, continuing to tap 21st century technologies from social networking to clean cookstoves, building a network of partnerships with other governments to fight terrorism and AIDS, with the private sector to advance food security and financial literacy, and so on. It also means doubling down on good, old-fashioned, shoe-leather diplomacy.
I have found it highly ironic that in today’s world, when we can be anywhere virtually, more than ever people want us to show up actually. Somebody said to me the other day, “I look at your travel schedule. Why Togo? Why the Cook Islands?” No Secretary of State had ever been to Togo before. Togo happens to be on the UN Security Council. Going there, making the personal investment, has a real strategic purpose. The same goes for all those tiny Pacific islands. When you look at the future of Asia, you look at the voting dynamics in key international institutions, you start to understand the value of paying attention to these places.
And let me add that in recent months, we’ve been reminded once again, by its very nature, American diplomacy often is and must be practiced in dangerous places. The men and women who serve our country overseas represent the best traditions of a bold and generous nation. They are no strangers to danger. From Tehran and Beirut to East Africa and Saudi Arabia, and now in Benghazi and so many other places in between, we have seen diplomats and development experts devoted to peace who are targeted by terrorists devoted to death.
That’s why we are taking immediate steps to bolster security and readiness at our missions across the globe. We’ve already dispatched joint teams from the Departments of State and Defense to review high-threat posts to determine whether there are improvements we need in light of the evolving security challenges we face.
And as we mourn fallen friends like Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was fearless in his dedication to diplomacy, we refuse to be intimidated. Our people cannot live in bunkers and do their jobs. So we will do what we always have done: pull together, learn the lessons we must, and improve, because America always emerges stronger and more confident when we do that.
And there should be no mistake this work does makes a difference. That’s why Chris Stevens was in Benghazi to begin with. As we look ahead and consider the future of America’s global leadership, let’s remember what’s really at stake here.
America’s unrivaled military might will always be essential, and we are so grateful for every man and woman who serves in the uniform of our armed services. And our economic strength will be critical. That’s why we have to make the tough choices right now to get our own economic house in order here at home. But America’s global leadership goes deeper than that. It truly is rooted in the values that we champion and the ideals and aspirations we represent to the rest of the world. As my husband likes to say, America’s influence flows more from the power of our example than from the example of our power.
But memories are short, and we can’t afford to rest on the laurels of the past. So it’s our job to reintroduce a post-Iraq generation of young people around the world to principled American leadership. That is part of why I’ve logged so many miles over the last four years going to something on the order of 112 countries, holding town hall meetings with young people from Tunis to Tokyo, shining a spotlight on the concerns of religious and ethnic minorities from the Copts in Egypt to the Rohingya in Burma, putting down a clear marker on internet freedom, going to the UN Human Rights Council to stand up for the rights and lives of the LGBT people around the world, advancing a new approach to development that puts human dignity and self-sufficiency at the heart of our efforts, and pushing women’s rights and opportunities to the top of the diplomatic agenda.
Mountains of evidence tell us that no nation can achieve the progress we all want and need if half the population never gets to participate. So the economic evidence is overwhelming, we cannot exclude the energy and talent that women add to our economies and societies, and we know where women are allowed to and encouraged to participate, societies are more stable, less prone to conflict and the export of terrorism.
So there’s a lot for us to do as we shape our own global leadership and then use it to help shape the world that we want for our children. The United States should be at the head of a growing column of democratic nations, always extending the frontiers of freedom and opportunity, of peace, prosperity, and progress. That’s who we are as Americans. It truly is in our DNA. And that’s what makes us such an exceptional country.
So I thank all of you. As I look around this room, I see a lot of familiar faces of people who have been on the front lines of helping to define, examine, and practice American foreign policy and national security policy for many years. And we need you to keep doing what you are doing, to keep thinking out of the box.
In the years ahead, we will need all the wisdom and perspective that we can possibly gather. But I am absolutely confident that our nation has what it takes to continue leading the world no matter what comes our way. And with your help, and the help of so many others around our country and likeminded people around the world, America will remain the greatest force for peace and progress the world has ever known. And the world will understand and work with us to move toward the kind of future that we all deserve.
Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you.