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Challenges For Hillary Clinton

Publication Date: 
January 21, 2009
KCBS Radio

Lecturer in Law and co-director of Stanford's Center on International Conflict and Resolution Allen Weiner is interviewed on KCBS Radio regarding the priorities that Hillary Clinton should tackle as Secretary of State:

Hillary Rodham Clinton has a new job. She has now been confirmed by her colleagues in the Senate to take over as President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State. For more on some of the challenges she’ll face, we’re joined on the KCBS newsline by Allen Weiner. He is a senior lecturer in law and the co-director of Stanford’s Center for International Conflict and Resolution. Thank you very much for talking to us. There is so much going on in the world, where does she start?

Weiner: It’s a huge problem. One of the things that Senator Clinton, now Secretary of State Clinton, emphasized is that she’ll have to be selective. If you look, however, at what she said during her confirmation hearings, it’s a little bit hard to understand how she’s going to pick and choose. That said, there are four clear priorities for the new administration that she’ll have to devote her attention to. First is Iraq and the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the disengagement and stabilization of Iraq. Second is dealing with Afghanistan, although Afghanistan has become now a question of dealing with the terrorist threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. And although, I think, the administration has some ideas on what to do with Afghanistan, I think, how we deal with the rise of al Qaida in Pakistan is a real problem. The third main issue involves really a cluster of issues related to nuclear weapons. That involves first dealing with Iran and North Korea. Also a priority of candidate Obama was to safeguard to ensure that nuclear technology does not get transferred to non-state actors, to terrorists. Then a renewed emphasis on traditional arms control, like extending the strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia and pursuing the comprehensive test ban treaty. I think those would have been the top three priorities. I think now there’s a fourth, maybe not one of candidate Obama’s priorities, but recent events in Gaza have thrust the peace process or lack of a peace process in the Israeli Palestinian relations into the top tier of what they’ll have to deal with.


Weiner: I think the world is mainly interested not so much in the specific list of issues, but in evidence of a renewed approach. And so there are two things: one set of questions is the substantive issues we’re going to work on, but, and perhaps more important to the international community, is what is going to be the approach of the new administration. I think there are some important elements which Secretary of State Clinton will be pursuing. I think first of all in this regard will be an emphasis on a more pragmatic approach to policy making – a little bit less ideological than characterized some of the decisions in the Bush Administration. I think secondly we’ll see a de-emphasis on strictly military approaches to problems, but a greater emphasis on a phrase that I saw that Senator Clinton borrowed from the Edwards campaign, which is the idea of smart power—adding in diplomatic, economic law enforcement cooperation in addition to straight projection of military power. I think that will include a big emphasis on the promotion of cultural diplomacy and American values. Of course the Bush Administration tried to do that as well after 9/11, but they did that with a somewhat didactic and some would say ham-handed approach. Third, I think, would be a greater approach to multi-lateral engagement, less unilateralism on the part of the United States. That will mean working in cooperation with partner states and international organizations including the United Nations. Every country in the world is going to want to see evidence that they are priority one, and we know that can't happen and so instead of specific issues, they’ll be looking at evidence of a new approach.