The Secretaries Speak

May 3, 2011 By Joel Paque

The Secretaries: Conversations on Diplomacy, a new series of interviews conducted by Charlie Rose and airing on PBS, will feature Secretary of State Hillary Clinton alongside each of her living predecessors, discussing how U.S. diplomacy has—and hasn’t—changed as we enter the second decade of the 21st century. The first installment aired on April 20th, featuring Clinton alongside former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. It provided insight into the constant pressure for our nation’s top diplomat to address the crisis of the moment, while also maintaining a strategic long term view. Secretary Clinton’s first two years in office have seen her deftly balance the two, generating the first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, while also responding to events like the Arab Spring.

Discussing the Arab Spring, Secretary Clinton highlighted the impact of a lack of development in North Africa on the revolutions currently taking place. “One of the problems about the Middle East and North Africa is that this region of the world did not grow and prosper during the last 50 years when all of the rest of the world did…But in many of the countries [currently undergoing revolutions] there was further and deeper poverty, and there was no real effort to chart a course of development that would move people upward on the scale of accomplishment, educational attainment, and the like.” She compared the situation with countries like South Korea and Brazil that invested in the development of their populations which have stable governments and have become global trading partners.

“How do you free time to think about the long-term problems and to think about them in a way that is operationally significant?” asked Kissinger, summing up the dilemma of balancing a constant barrage of incoming cables while also maintaining a strategic view. Clinton agreed, and added that this problem can be exacerbated in the information age, stating, “The flood of information that now comes to us, not just from traditional media but from all of the new forms of media, we’re just as likely to see events starting from Twitter feeds as from the statements of heads of state.”

This series serves as an important reminder of the challenges of modern diplomacy and the need to ensure that the U.S. security is assured in the short and long term, while demonstrating strong leadership and careful planning. The QDDR and USAID Forward are designed to move U.S. diplomacy and development into the 21st century while maintaining this balance, improving the State Department’s ability to react quickly in emergencies, while also protecting our national security and advancing our economic prosperity.