Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Clinton's not so "smart power"

The following appears in as part of a larger article in the March 14 edition of World Magazine:

QUESTION: The—I notice that you're going to go visit a church on Sunday.


QUESTION: And when Madeleine Albright visited . . . a church, she actually came out and made a statement calling for religious freedom in China. Are you planning to do anything like that, or is it just going to be, kind of, just a basic church visit?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I thought I would just go to church. (Laughter.) That's kind of what I was planning to do. . . .

When Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, she tried to set herself apart from her predecessor by pledging to use "smart power," which she defined as "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."

This is not a radical idea, she told the committee. And with "smart power" peppering nearly every speech during her inaugural journeys as secretary of state across Asia—I'll add that it's perhaps not very smart, either.

The news conference in Seoul on Feb. 20 was a blatant example (quoted above from the official State Department transcript). Clinton tossed off the idea that attending church in China had significance—in a country her own State Department described as "restricted" when it comes to religious practice, and where respect for freedom of religion has remained "poor."

In answer to questions about what she planned to say to Chinese leaders about human rights, Clinton told the reporters, "Our pressing on those issues can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis."

By declaring human rights and religious freedom off the table before she set foot in Beijing, Clinton jettisoned the first leg of smart power: how governments treat their own.

This article also noted that Clinton's cursory Sunday visit to a Beijing church

also stood in contrast to a visit she made in 1998 with then-President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The president and Albright gave brief speeches to the congregation highlighting the importance of spiritual values to a nation. And President Clinton, upon learning that a woman who tried to speak to him was hustled away, later made a point to meet with her. This time authorities also hustled away some churchgoers, but Hillary Clinton made no apparent attempt to follow up on them.

Tragic.  Disappointing.  I hope, not symptomatic of the next four years.


Anonymous said...

for a time like this people are raised up to positions of responsibility. I trust Secretary Clinton will realise that her wisdom alone is not enough to carry out the enormous responsibility of the position of Secretary of State

Glenn Penner said...

One should certainly pray to the end that she does realize that.