The Grande Dame of Smart Power: Secretary Clinton’s Farewell Tour

February 6, 2013 By Ashley E. (Chandler) Chang

What an extraordinary week it was for the Smart Power Agenda! In the flurry of events that accompanied Secretary Hillary Clinton’s farewell to her role as the top U.S. diplomat, the necessity of American engagement in the world was everywhere you looked. As she made the rounds, an overarching theme appeared: the cornerstone of American power is our ability to effectively deploy diplomacy and development, along with military might.

Let’s recap.

When Secretary Clinton sat down with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, the importance of U.S. foreign policy in combating today’s increasingly complex global threats was featured front and center:

“There are things that you know you always have to deal with – the threat of nuclear weapons and their spread, the threat of extremism and its incredible dangers, and on and on. Those are the challenges. But then you have to also respond to the crises of the moment, do everything you can to manage them.” (Jan 29)

That “everything” means deploying a full range of military and civilian tools. Secretary Clinton was “determined,” she told State Department officials during her Final Town Hall Meeting:

“to elevate diplomacy and development as pillars of our foreign policy alongside defense, because I was convinced they were critical for solving problems and seizing opportunities worldwide. And I will walk out the door this Friday even more convinced.” (Jan 30)

Secretary Clinton also highlighted the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which identified ways in which our development and diplomacy tools could become more effective. The QDDR, said Secretary Clinton, makes “State and USAID stronger and thereby making our nation stronger.”

Back in 2010, USGLC described the QDDR process as an “essential step in modernizing our civilian-led tools of global engagement.” Another “hallmark” for the Smart Power Agenda is using the foreign assistance resources we’ve got to leverage the expertise, funds, and passions of the private sector, nongovernmental, and philanthropic actors – e.g., partnerships.

During the reception honoring the State Department’s efforts to expand public-private partnerships, Secretary Clinton remarked that these types of initiatives “have proven to be an invaluable tool for meeting very tough challenges.” Later in the day, she gave a speech on American leadership at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where she discussed the need to create “partnerships that are tailored for new challenges and modeled to the needs of a variable landscape.” This speech was all about the need:

“to be smart about how we use our power we have, not because we have less of it. Indeed, the might of our military, the size of our economy, the influence of our diplomacy and the creative energy of our people remain unrivaled. No, it’s because as the world has changed, so too have the levers of power that can most effectively shape international affairs.” (Jan 31)

She referenced several “levers of power,” but I’ll just focus on two. The first is economics. The QDDR called a focus on sustainable economic growth, and through Secretary Clinton’s Economic Statecraft, “creating jobs at home is now part of the portfolio of diplomats abroad.”

The second lever is development, which Secretary Clinton described as, “an investment in our own economic future.” Why? For starters, 95% of the world’s consumers, and America’s potential customers, live outside our borders, and our development and diplomacy programs can help American businesses gain greater access and open markets. There are three reasons the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been calling for a strategic investment in America’s global leadership through development and diplomacy for years: jobs, jobs, jobs.

How? Well, as Secretary Clinton explained:

“We are helping developing countries grow their economies not just through traditional assistance but also through greater trade and investment, partnerships with the private sector, better governance and more participation from women.”

At the close of the event, CFR President Richard Haas said, “John Kerry has some fairly large Manolo Blahniks to fill.” Kudos to the fashion plug (by the way, it’s completely ok to champion on behalf of America’s “3 D’s”  – development, diplomacy, and defense – and get excited about shoes). But the more important part is the fact that the new Secretary of State comes to Foggy Bottom with a long track record of support for the International Affairs Budget and U.S. global engagement.

During Secretary Clinton’s final farewell remarks to State Department Employees, she asked them to “redouble” their efforts for Secretary Kerry. While we will no longer call her Madame Secretary, I think the Grande Dame of Smart Power has a nice ring to it.