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Archive for the ‘foreign policy’ Category

Secretary Clinton aims to fix future path of US-EU policy

In foreign policy, Global News, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, STRONG WOMEN, United States on November 30, 2012 at 6:16 pm

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Hillary Clinton will give five artists medals for embassy art

The honors will go to Jeff Koons, Cai Guo-Qiang, Shahazia Sikander, Kiki Smith and Carrie Mae Weems.

http://www.trbimg.com/img-50b82b9c/turbine/la-et-cm-hillary-clinton-will-give-five-artist-001/600

By Mike Boehm

November 30, 2012

For 50 years the U.S. State Department has been deploying visual art as part of the art of diplomacy, via a program called Art in Embassies.

On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will give the U.S. State Department Medal of Arts to five artists who have shown “an enduring commitment” to the effort: Jeff Koons, Cai Guo-Qiang, Shahazia Sikander, Kiki Smith and Carrie Mae Weems.

It’s the first time the award has been given – and its future will likely depend on whether Clinton’s successors want to make it a tradition.

The State Department uses art to generate goodwill in foreign countries by organizing temporary exhibitions and other art events at U.S. embassies and ambassadors’ residences. The exhibitions are group efforts, featuring artists from the host countries as well as Americans.

Staff curators for Art in Embassies stock the shows with loans from artists, collectors and museums. Since 2000, the program has gotten into the art-acquisition business as well, picking works to permanently adorn newly built embassies and consulates.

For the new U.S. embassy in Beijing, which opened in 2008, Koons provided one of his huge “Tulips” sculptures to stand outside as a 10-year loan. It’s identical to one that fetched $30.7 million earlier this month when it was auctioned by Christie’s in New York City.

The art inside the Beijing Embassy includes “Eagle Landing on Pine Branch,” one of Cai Guo-Qiang’s images scorched on paper with gunpowder. After the honors luncheon at the State Department, Cai is scheduled to use his explosive fireworks technique to light up a 40-foot pine tree outside the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art.

The intended effect is a tree image in floating black smoke that will serve as an ethereal doppelganger for the real one. In downtown L.A. last April, Cai scorched a work called “Mystery Circle” onto an exterior wall of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen Contemporary building.

LA Times

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US Secretary Hillary Clinton to visit Belfast

https://i1.wp.com/news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/64479000/jpg/_64479843_clintonafp.jpg

The White House has confirmed that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to visit Northern Ireland.

She will travel to Belfast on 7 December to meet officials as well as discuss the peace process and investment opportunities.

The visit, part of a four-day trip that will also take in Dublin, the Czech Republic and Belgium, could be one of her last foreign engagements.

Her term ends next month, and she has said she does not want a second term.

Mrs Clinton, who visited Northern Ireland three times with her husband, former US president Bill Clinton, during the 1990s, plans to discuss the trilateral US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership and economic opportunities for Northern Ireland.

Later Mrs Clinton will take part in an event hosted by The Ireland Funds – a global fundraising network supporting programs of peace and reconciliation, arts and culture, education, and community development in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Her journey to Belfast will follow a host of engagements in the Republic. In Dublin she is expected at a ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and will discuss areas of co-operation in promoting peace, human rights, and economic growth with Irish officials to discuss.

She is due to deliver a major speech on US achievements in support of human rights globally.

Mr and Mrs Clinton visited Northern Ireland three times during his time in office from 1993 and 2001.

The most memorable was in 1995 when they turned on the Christmas lights in Belfast just a year after the first  IRA  ceasefire.

Mrs Clinton has also come to Northern Ireland without her husband.

In 1999 she gave a keynote address to a women’s conference and in October 1997 gave the Tip O’Neill Memorial lecture at  the University of   Ulster’s Magee campus in Londonderry.

She has also addressed the Northern Ireland Assembly.

BBC NEWS

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Hillary in Paris…

In foreign policy, Hillary Clinton Unleashed, Paris, Secretart of State Hillary Clinton, United States on July 14, 2012 at 7:37 am

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends the third meeting of the “Friends of Syria” group in Paris July 6, 2012.

A shrug of the shoulders and an indication millions of Poles should just “get over it”…

In foreign policy, Obamanation, Poland, President Bill Clinton, United States on June 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Obama Refuses To Apologize For Polish Death Camp Gaffe

Suggesting a shrug of the shoulders and an indication millions of Poles should just “get over it”, the Obama White House makes light of President Barack Obama’s glaring gaffe against Poland during a Medal of Freedom presentation this past week.

(President Obama poking the chest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  It should be noted that the former Israeli Special Forces member Netanyahu could likely and quite effectively incapacitate Barack Obama in seconds…)

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It is interesting to note that while Barack Obama has repeatedly been quick to apologize to the world for America, he rarely if ever is willing to apologize to others for himself.  Such is the case yet again when the president incorrectly used the term “Polish death camps” when referencing Nazi death camps located inside Poland during WWII – a distinction particularly important to Poles who lost many many lives during those horrific years of war.

EXCERPT:

“We regret the misstatement, but that is what it was,” said Obama spokesman Jay Carney, reiterating that the president “misspoke” during a ceremony awarding the highest US civilian honor to late Holocaust hero Jan Karski.

Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Obama’s words had hurt all Poles and he expected more from Washington than just regret.

“I am convinced that our American friends can today allow themselves a stronger reaction than a simple expression of regret from the White House spokesman — a reaction more inclined to eliminate once and for all these kinds of errors,” Tusk told reporters in Warsaw.

“Today, this is a problem for the reputation of the United States,” the prime minister said.   LINK

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Prime Minister Tusk is correct – President Obama should have quickly made a personal apology to Poland, and yet, the dismissive attitude by this president to America’s long standing allies is nothing new and has been on display before with others such as Israel and Great Britain.  Do not forget the reports that had former French President Nicolas  Sarkozy declaring Barack Obama “insane” – a dispute that apparently arose out of Obama’s dismissive attitude toward Sarkozy’s concerns over the growing threat of Muslim dominance in Western Europe.  Just as he is now doing with Poland, Barack Obama’s attitude toward that threat was also for France and other nations to simply “get over it”.   LINK

Obama Turns to Bill Clinton for Foreign Policy Cred

In Afghanistan, al Qaeda, Barack Obama, Bin Laden, foreign policy, Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood, Romney on May 2, 2012 at 7:08 am

President Obama’s foreign policy is in complete disarray.  He has misunderstood and underestimated the need for the War on Terror from the word “go,” and as a result, his administration has now simply decided the war is over–as if they honestly believe that telling our enemies we’re packing up and going home will settle everything.

Yet Obama needs a nail on which to hang his hat, so he’s out on the campaign trail summing up his foreign policy thus—Osama bin Laden is dead. But this approach has hit with such a thud that Obama has been forced to jet around the world for fancy photo ops and parade around Bill Clinton to convince the Democrat base that the current Commander-in-Chief is actually up to the task. Clinton is a strange choice, however, *since he is best remembered as the president who refused to kill bin Laden.* ( *pre 9/11 )

So now we have Obama  trying to represent himself as a foreign policy success story, while actually fleeing from records of weakness and appeasement. (especially with Iran and Pakistan)

And from his not-so-lofty perch, he is working to distract the public from Obama’s utter failure by asserting that Republican candidate Mitt Romney would never have okayed the bin Laden kill. Their basis for this assertion is a statement Romney made on the campaign trail in 2007. And it’s important to note it’s a statement they’re taking out of context in order to suit their intentions:

“I wouldn’t want to over concentrate on bin Laden. He’s one of many, many people who are involved in this global jihadist effort. He’s by no means the only leader. It’s a very diverse group – Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and, of course, different names throughout the world. It’s not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person. It is worth fashioning and executing an effective strategy to defeat global, violent jihad, and I have a plan for doing that.”

To be honest, the fact that Obama would seize upon this quote is as embarrassing as it is telling.  Obama does not understand the immensity of the War on Terror or the commitment necessary to see such a war through. Thus, when Romney says, in effect, the war is bigger than one man—Osama bin Laden—he’s not saying “I would not okay a kill on bin Laden.” Rather, he’s saying, the war is too big to be orchestrated solely for the apprehension or death of one man. Moreover, Romney understands the war continues beyond bin Laden’s death, which is something that Obama has missed.

In other news, security measures have recently been beefed up around U.S. airports because of “concerns… that terrorists will ingest explosives and try to detonate them on a commercial flight.” But rest easy, folks;  Obama gave the order to kill Bin Laden so the war is over.

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2012/05/02/obama-turns-to-bill-clinton-for-foreign-policy-cred

Obama Bypasses Congress, Allows Funding for Palestinian Authority

In foreign policy, Global News, Israel, Palestinians, Politics, Secretart of State Hillary Clinton, State Deptment, United States on April 27, 2012 at 6:28 am

WASHINGTON, April 25 (UPI) — President Obama, citing the United States’ national security interests, Wednesday waived restrictions on funding for the Palestinian Authority.

In a memorandum sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama cited his authority under section 7040(b) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2012 section 7040(a) of the Act, to provide appropriated funds to the Palestinian Authority.

The president directed Clinton to inform Congress of his action.

State Department officials last month expressed concern the department had been unable to provide full funding to the Palestinian Authority for institution-building projects as the United States seeks to rejuvenate Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., had questioned the Obama administration’s request for $147 million for the Palestinian Authority at a time when P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded preconditions for returning to the negotiations while also pushing a unilateral statehouse plan at the United Nations. She also expressed concern that $26.4 million had been requested for projects in Hamas-run Gaza.

“The administration also says we need to help ‘rebuild the Palestinian economy’ — this at a time when our economy is facing serious challenges and Americans are suffering,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2012/04/26/Obama-frees-PA-funding

Hillary Clinton- hardest working woman in the State Dept while Obama Bypasses Congress, Gives $1.5B to Muslim Brotherhood

In Americans, Barack Obama, Congress, foreign policy, Gaza, Global News, Hillary Clinton Unleashed, HILLARY in 2012, Israel, Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton, Mexico, Muslims, Squanderer of Tax Payer Money, United States, White House on April 21, 2012 at 7:56 pm

During a trip through Colorado in December of last year, President Obama spoke of his intention to implement his economic policies with or without the approval of Congress. Said Obama, “And where Congress is not willing to act, we’re going to go ahead and do it ourselves.” It now appears that such a mindset applies not only to economic matters but to the distribution of Foreign Aid as well–in particular, Foreign Military Aid for the Muslim Brotherhood, who now hold the reigns of power in Egypt

Nevertheless, the news breaking now is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will soon announce that President Obama will “resume funding for Egypt’s military, despite Congressional restrictions and objections from human rights and democracy advocates.”

“Does this sound like the Hillary Clinton we know? Or has Obama’s executive power taken over every government job rolling over Congress and his Cabinet when it suits his agenda?”

We have more examples of Obama’s subversive behavior. (read on)

BREAKING: Obama White House Using George Soros Owned-Media Matters To Deflect From Fast and Furious!


Once again the Obama administration is openly expressing their links to the Far Left of America – this time using the George Soros funded Media Matters as an official government source to deflect from still-growing criticism surrounding the failed and deadly Fast and Furious gunrunning program.  In addition, new details are now emerging about a 3rd weapon found at the scene of Border Agent Brian Terry’s death – and the Obama administration’s intentional cover-up to hide that evidence.

Excerpt from a just released Washington Free Beacon report:

The Department of Justice is using the liberal “watchdog” group Media Matters for America to deflect questions about the Fast and Furious scandal, including those regarding a gun that might have been used in the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

In response to an inquiry from the Free Beacon, a Justice Department spokeswoman said in an email that she “was told to direct your questions to the FBI, and also to provide you with a link to this story: http://mediamatters.org/research/201204190011

The link was to a story at the George Soros-funded Media Matters for America supposedly refuting many of Pavlich’s claims. Media Matters is a partisan organization whose founder, David Brock, is also running a pro-Obama super PAC.

In Operation Fast and Furious, federal agents allowed more than 2,000 weapons to be smuggled across the U.S.-Mexican border and into the hand of violent drug cartels, with the intent of tracking them to learn more about the cartels.

Two weapons connected to Fast and Furious were discovered at the murder scene of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, who was gunned down in the Southern Arizona desert in 2010 by five criminals armed with AK-47s.

However, Pavlich asserts there was a third gun. The book details three separate pieces of evidence that point to a third weapon being recovered and then covered up by the FBI and the Justice Department.

Border Patrol agents, who have since been issued gag orders, were overheard at Terry’s funeral discussing the third gun.

FULL STORY HERE

Thanks to Ulsterman and Breitbart for carrying the torch enlightening America…

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Receive Transparency International-USA’s Integrity Award

In Award, foreign policy, Global News, Hillary Clinton Unleashed, HILLARY FOR PRESIDENT, Madame Secretary Clinton, United States, Washington on March 22, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 21, 2012

On March 22, Secretary Clinton will receive Transparency International-USA’s Integrity Award. Transparency International-USA (TI-USA) is an international leader in anti-corruption advocacy in government, business, and development assistance. TI-USA’s Integrity Award recognizes Secretary Clinton’s efforts to promote transparency and integrity around the world. The event will begin at approximately 7:30 p.m.

Secretary Clinton will be honored for her leadership in drawing action and attention to the damaging effects of corruption in developed and developing countries. During her tenure, Secretary Clinton has elevated corruption as a major focus of U.S. foreign policy. She also has promoted the importance of international anti-corruption agreements, including the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and the U.N. Convention against Corruption, and has worked with the OECD, G8, G20 and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation to combat corruption and promote transparency and accountability.

The remarks will be open to the press.

Pre-set time for cameras: 6:00 p.m. from the Grand Ballroom of the Mayflower Hotel.

Final access time for journalists and still photographers 7:30 p.m. the Grand Ballroom of the Mayflower Hotel.

Media representatives may attend this event upon presentation of one of the following: (1) A U.S. Government-issued identification card (Department of State, White House, Congress, Department of Defense or Foreign Press Center), (2) a media-issued photo identification card, or (3) a letter from their employer on letterhead verifying their employment as a journalist, accompanied by an official photo identification card (driver’s license, passport).

For further information, please contact Laura Taylor at laura@gaiagroupdc.com or (202) 271 8216, or Office of Press Relations, U.S. Department of State, (202) 647-2492.

Hillary Clinton and the Limits of Power

In Draft Hillary, foreign policy, Global News, Iran, Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton, Smart Power, the Taliban and al Qaeda on October 28, 2011 at 7:56 am

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton records interviews for American TV shows in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Oct. 23, 2011.

By Massimo Calabresi | October 27, 2011

Hillary Clinton argues in our cover story this week, now available online to subscribers, that America is not so much in decline as adjusting to a world of increasingly diffuse power, where like-minded networked individuals, non-governmental organizations and other non-traditional global actors may steer events as much as great power capitals. Clinton lays out “smart power” strategies for protecting and advancing U.S. interests in that new non-polar world.


We argue that Clinton is something of an expert at coming up with strategies for maximizing limited power given her life experiences, including being a First Lady with high visibility but little official swat, and a Secretary of State in the administration of her former rival, President Obama, who makes the final call on most major foreign policy and national security decisions with a small group of aides at the White House—and without Clinton.

The story is told largely through the lens of the very limited war in Libya, which is in many ways Clinton’s war, thanks to her efforts lining up the Arab and European coalitions that fought it. We have some good reporting on her trip there last week, as well as on the internal and external challenges she faced in advancing the cause of intervention. We also lay out the ways in which Libya remains dangerously unpredictable, and underscore areas where her new strategies are more talk than action.

Lastly, we polled her against Romney and Perry, and found that she does better, by far, than Obama, leading Romney by 17 points and Perry by 26*. Her closest aides strongly dismiss any 2012 ambitions and say 2016 is very unlikely: she’d be 69 the day of the vote that year. We don’t speculate on the source of her popularity.

One item that came up in research but didn’t fit with the piece. Clinton has been talking about the limits of power from her first moment on the public stage–her rambling, idealistic speech to the graduating class of 1969 at Wellesley. In it, she refers to her favorite passage from T.S. Eliot’s “East Coker” about trying again and again in the face of resistance. It’s not my favorite poem—I like my inter-war humanism without the religious overlay. But it gives a sense of just how long Clinton has been thinking about power and how to leverage it:

…What there is to conquer

By strength and submission, has already been discovered

Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope

To emulate—but there is no competition—

There is only the fight to recover what has been lost

And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions

That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.

For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

*A national poll conducted for TIME on Oct. 9 and 10 found that if Clinton were the Democratic nominee for President in 2012, she would best Mitt Romney 55% to 38%, Rick Perry 58% to 32% and Herman Cain 56% to 34% among likely voters in a general election. The same poll found that President Obama would edge Romney by just 46% to 43%, Perry by 50% to 38% and Cain by 49% to 37% among likely voters.

link

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U.S. plans “virtual embassy” for Iran: Clinton

By Andrew Quinn

WASHINGTON | Wed Oct 26, 2011

(Reuters) – The United States plans to open a “virtual embassy” for Iran that will give Iranians online information about visas and student exchange programs despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.

Clinton, in interviews with the Persian language services of the BBC and Voice of America, defended U.S. sanctions against Iran and said Washington had a strong criminal case linking Tehran to a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

Clinton used both interviews to stress that the United States hoped to broaden contacts with regular Iranians despite tensions with the Tehran government, which she said was being transformed into a military dictatorship.

“My goal in speaking to you today is to clearly communicate to the people of Iran, particularly the very large population of young people, that the United States has no argument with you. We want to support your aspirations.

“We would be thrilled if tomorrow the regime in Iran had a change of mind,” she told the Voice of America.

Clinton said the “virtual embassy” web site would be open by the end of the year and it would provide Iranians with information on visas and other programs.

The United States broke formal diplomatic relations with Tehran in 1980 following the Iran hostage crisis, and ties have remained tense amid disputes over Iran’s nuclear program and U.S. charges that Iran is the most active state sponsor of terrorism around the world.

In his waning months in office, President George W. Bush weighed opening a U.S. Interests Section, which could issue visas, in Tehran, but ultimately decided against it.

Clinton said the United States was providing both technology and training to help Iranians circumvent government limits on the Internet and other forms of communication while seeking to expand sanctions on Tehran.

She acknowledged economic sanctions sometimes caused difficulties for average Iranians, but said they were the best tool to pressure Iran’s leaders.

POWER STRUGGLE?

“We see disturbing trends and actions having to do with the continuing covert effort to build a nuclear weapons program … with a lot of deception, a lot of lying to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the rest of the international community,” Clinton told the BBC.

“We see aggressive behavior toward neighbors in the region, we see efforts to try to hijack and undermine the so-called Arab Spring awakening,” She said. “We do not want a conflict with Iran but we do want to see the rulers of Iran change their outlook and their behavior.”

Clinton said the door remained opened to talks with Tehran on its nuclear program, although she suggested the outlook was complicated by political divisions within the Iranian government itself.

“I believe there’s a power struggle going on inside the regime and they can’t sort out what they really are willing to do until they sort out who’s going to do what,” she said.

Clinton said she was aware that many people around the world were skeptical about U.S. charges this month that Iran was tied to a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador, but said she believed Washington had a strong case.

“I taught criminal law some years ago. It’s a very strong case. It certainly raises the right questions and I think it will be a successful case,” she told the BBC.

Iran has rejected the U.S. accusation as a fabrication designed to sow discord in the oil-rich Gulf.

Clinton said details of the case, in which two Iranians with security links are accused of seeking to kill the Saudi ambassador with help from members of a Mexican drug cartel, reflected a broader pattern of dangerous behavior by the Quds Force, the covert operations arm of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

“I understand people questioning it because it was such a shocking plot. It was shocking to us when we uncovered it,” Clinton told Voice of America.

“They’ve gotten more reckless,” Clinton told the BBC, saying the alleged plot was an attempt by the Quds Force “to thumb their nose at the Americans.”

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“TIME Managing Editor Richard Stengel accompanied Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her recent trip to Libya, Oman, Afghanistan and Pakistan. On Oct. 19, in the course of reporting for TIME’s cover story, which is now available online to subscribers, he conducted a wide-ranging interview with her, discussing among other things, the Middle East, China and American exceptionalism. A transcript of most of that conversation follows.

Read more:
http://swampland.time.com/2011/10/27/qa-hillary-clinton-on-libya-china-the-middle-east-and-barack-obama/#ixzz1c5n46wwb

Have you noticed… Where’s Hillary? What is Hillary up to?

In foreign policy, Global News, Greatness Award, Secretart of State Hillary Clinton, Smart Power, United States on April 29, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Tellurian says:  Take a break, Grab a cuppa coffee, make yourself a cocktail. Be your own best witness to the tremendous job Hillary Clinton is doing for you and our country- You will be asked to participate in a pop quiz in 6mos.  Taking notes is allowed.

“Secretary Clinton Meets With meeting with European Parliament President”

“Secretary Clinton Meets With Israeli Defense Minister”

“Secretary Clinton Announces e-Mentor Corps initiative”


“Secretary Clinton Addresses Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship”


FOREIGN POLICYS TOP 100 GLOBAL THINKERS…(one guess)

In foreign policy, Global News, Smart Power, United States, Washington on December 3, 2009 at 8:19 pm


6. Bill Clinton

for redefining philanthropy in the modern era.

Former president | William J. Clinton Foundation | New York

Hillary Rodham Clinton

for giving “smart power” a star turn at the State Department.

Secretary of State | Washington

A year ago, there were questions. Would she play the follower in an administration she had hoped to lead? Would he use his global clout — tremendous, if no longer paramount — to give tacit support to the new, young Democratic administration? To both, the answer is yes, and more: In the past year, Bill and Hillary Clinton have solidified their status as the global power couple of all power couples.

Bill Clinton’s World

The former president on what to read, who to watch, and why there really is a chance of Middle East peace in 2010.

Bill Clinton’s brainchild, the Clinton Global Initiative, now in its fifth year, brings together leaders from aid organizations, academia, business, and government to put their checkbooks behind his big ideas. This year, they committed $9 billion to provide inoculations for 40 million, job opportunities for 80 million, and schools for 30 million, among other ambitious targets. In his off hours, he moonlights as a freelance diplomat, tackling Haiti, on behalf of the United Nations, and North Korea, as a private citizen.

In Port-au-Prince, he worked with humanitarian physician Paul Farmer to bolster investment and alleviate poverty. In Pyongyang, he successfully negotiated the release of two U.S. journalists and helped start a thaw in relations with the Hermit Kingdom.

Miraculously, Clinton kept his diplomatic side gig without stepping on the toes of his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This year, she has tirelessly broadcast the administration’s banner diplomatic message: The United States under Obama is a smart power, a participant in a “new era of engagement based on common interests, shared values, and mutual respect.” But Clinton is also aiming to remake the State Department itself. The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review she initiated promises a thorough, ongoing assessment of the massive bureaucracy in order to create a leaner, more responsive State Department capable of being the engine of Washington’s new diplomacy.

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images


Bill Clinton’s World


The former president tells “Foreign Policy” what to read, who to watch, and why there really is a chance of Middle East peace in 2010.

DECEMBER 2009

If you wanted to know how Bill Clinton thought when he was president, you ignored the scripted set-piece speeches and instead went to listen to him talk off the cuff at an evening fundraiser. At night, he would ruminate extemporaneously on race, religion, science, and the nature of the human soul. His mind would roam widely and yet pull together disparate themes into a coherent narrative as no other politician of his generation. Today, the place to hear him think out loud is at the annual Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York, where he gathers hundreds of heads of state, business moguls, nonprofit executives, academics, and even Hollywood stars not just to talk about the world’s problems but to do something about them.

Peter Baker, White House correspondent for the New York Times, and Susan Glasser, Foreign Policy’s executive editor, caught up with Clinton there for an expansive conversation about identity, virtue, and riding the steppes with Genghis Khan. Below, the edited excerpts.

Last year we did not expect the economy to collapse quite the way it did. This year we did not think the people of Iran would take to the streets after the election. Looking ahead to 2010, what are the strategic surprises we ought to be looking for?

Bill Clinton: We should look around the world and see if there are any places where the political analogue of the financial crisis could occur. That is, what we know about all systems subject to a combination of stress and dynamism is that there are fractures and vulnerabilities that are not immediately apparent because people expect tomorrow to be a replica of yesterday and today. I always say, in a highly dynamic environment, it’s obvious you should always be working for the best and preparing for the worst. That’s easy to say, but how do you do that? And what are the warning signs? For example, could something go wrong in Nigeria as a result of a combination of economic and political conflict?

On the flip side, which other places in the world could still surprise us by doing something really smart and good? I still think there is some chance the Israelis and the Hamas government and the Palestinian government could make a deal. Because I think that the long-term trend lines are bad for both sides that have the capacity to make a deal. Right now, Hamas is kind of discredited after the Gaza operation, and yet [the Palestinian Authority] is clearly increasing [its] capacity. They are in good shape right now, but if they are not able to deliver sustained economic and political advances, that’s not good for them. The long-term trends for the Israelis are even more stark, because they will soon enough not be a majority. Then they will have to decide at that point whether they will continue to be a democracy and no longer be a Jewish state, or continue to be a Jewish state and no longer be a democracy. That’s the great spur.

The other thing that has not been sufficiently appreciated is the inevitable arc of technological capacity that applies to military weaponry, like it does to pcs and video games and everything else. I know that these rockets drove the Israelis nuts, and I didn’t blame them for being angry and frustrated — it was maddening. But let’s be candid: They were not very accurate. So it’s only a question of time until they are de facto outfitted with GPS positioning systems. And when that happens and the casualty rates start to really mount, will that make it more difficult for the Palestinians to make peace instead of less? Because they will be even more pressed by the radical groups saying, “No, no, look, look, we are making eight out of 10 hits. Let’s stay at this.” I think one of the surprising things that might happen this year [2010] is you might get a substantial agreement. Nobody believes this will happen, and it probably won’t, because of the political complexity of the Israeli government. But all I can tell you is, I spent a lot of time when I was president trying to make a distinction between the headlines and the trend lines. If there was ever a place where studying the trend lines would lead you to conclude that sooner is better than later for deal-making, it would be there.

FP: Who do you think is the smartest, most penetrating thinker you know (maybe other than your own family)? Are there people who should be on our list?

BC: Paul Krugman — I don’t always agree with him, but he is unfailingly good. David Brooks has been very good. Tom Friedman is our most gifted journalist at actually looking at what is happening in the world and figuring out its relevance to tomorrow and figuring out a clever way to say it that sticks in your mind-like “real men raise the gas tax.” You know what I mean?

Malcolm Gladwell has become quite important. The Tipping Point was a very good observational book about what happened and how change occurred. But I think his last book, Outliers, is even more important for understanding how we all develop and for making the case that even for people we view as geniuses, life is more of a relay race than a one-night stand by a one-man band or a one-woman band. I thought it was a truly exceptional book.

Robert Wright, the guy who wrote The Evolution of God, The Moral Animal, and the book he wrote in the middle, which had a huge effect on me as the president, Nonzero. This book about God is just basically an extension of his argument in Nonzero, which is essentially that the world is growing together, not apart. And as you have wider and wider circles of interconnection — that is, wider geographically, encompassing more people, and wider in bandwidth, encompassing more subject areas — you begin with conflict and you end with some resolution, some merging. So he says there is not an inherent conflict between science and God, and he explains why. Wright says, no, no, no, the religious and scientific can mix in accommodation. In Nonzero he argues that ever since people came out of caves and formed clans, people have been bumping up against each other, requiring expansion of identity, subconscious identity. You move from conflict to cooperation in some form or fashion. And so far the struggle between conflict and cooperation has come out before humanity triggered its capacity for self-destruction. So that whole Nonzero idea has now been translated into his argument on God, and I think he is a very important guy.

Another person I think has written some very interesting books on the ultimate imperative of cooperation in the human and other species is Matt Ridley. The one that had a pretty good influence on me is The Origins of Virtue. And by virtue he doesn’t mean, I never take a drink, even on Saturday night. He means civic virtue. How do we treat one another in ways that are constructive, and work together? I think that these are some of the many people. They are thinking about how the world works and how it might be at the same time. At this moment in history, we need people who have a unique understanding of both how the world works and how it might be better, might be more harmonious.

FP: The Cold War lasted about 40 years. Do you see this current struggle we are having with extremism, whatever you want to call it, the war on terror, do you see that lasting as long, or do you see that changing in some way over the next decade?

BC: How long it lasts depends on whether the places out of which really big, effective terrorist groups are operating remain essentially stateless. The territories in Pakistan and the border area with Afghanistan are not part of a centralized state. Robert Kaplan has written tons of books about what’s going on in the modern world, and if you read The Ends of the Earth and these books that say we are de facto, no matter what the laws say, becoming nations of mega-city-states full of really poor, angry, uneducated, and highly vulnerable people, all over the world, we would have a lot of slumdog millionaires. If that’s right, then terror — meaning killing and robbery and coercion by people who do not have state authority and go beyond national borders — could be around for a very long time. On the other hand, terrorism needs both anxiety and opportunity to flourish. So one of the things that the United States and others ought to be doing is trying to help the nation-state adjust to the realities of the 21st century and then succeed.

Resolving energy, ironically, could play a major role in reducing the appeal of terror because if we change the way we produce and consume energy all over the world, it would create opportunities for education, for entrepreneurs, for work, for involving women and girls in positive economic encounters, at every level of national income from the richest states to the poorest. Therefore, I think all of the creative energy thinkers need to be brought to bear on this because the world as it integrates has to have a source of new economic activity. In the poorer places just getting agriculture up to speed and putting all the kids in school, there is enough to keep going for a few years. But this energy thing could give us a decade of exhilarating self-discovery. Really smart energy thinkers, Amory Lovins, Paul Hawken, people who have been doing this for 30 years — what they’ve always known, before this ever became a serious debate, is, you couldn’t sell a clean green future unless you could prove it was good economics.

You should look at big thinkers on the question of identity. Samuel Huntington wrote the famous book The Clash of Civilizations. But we need an effort to explain and, if possible merge, theories of identity that are biological, psychological, social, and political, because it’s obvious that in an age of interdependence, you want Wright’s thesis, you want there to be more nonzero subsolutions. You want this thing to happen; you hope he is right that you can reconcile religion and science; you hope the president’s speech in Cairo turns out to be right, that it’s a walk in the park to reconcile religious differences. I gave a bunch of speeches on this after 9/11, saying that our religious and political differences could be reconciled. I think President Obama’s word was that we had to respect doubt.

What I always said was that if you are religious it meant by definition there was such a thing as Truth, capital T. So to make it work in a world full of differences, you had to recognize that there was a big distinction between the existence of Truth, capital T, and the ability of any one human being to understand it completely and to translate it into political actions that were 100 percent consistent with it. That’s what you had to do; all you had to do was accept human frailty. You can’t tell people of faith to be relative about their faith. They believe there is a truth. But the question of whether they can know it and turn it into a political program is a very, very different thing. That is an act of arrogance.

I was influenced by Ken Wilber’s book A Theory of Everything, because he tries to point out that throughout history we get connected to people who are different from us before our heads get around the implications of that, and then as soon as they do there is a parallel level of interconnectivity and we have to get our heads around that. All of the public intellectuals in the world need to be thinking quite a bit about this question of identity and need to recognize that in view of the findings of the human genome about the similarities of all of us, even the husband and wife who at the minimum are 99.5 percent the same — it’s pretty spooky, isn’t it?

FP: Lightning round: What are the three books you’ve been reading recently?

BC: I am reading H.W. Brands’s book on FDR. I am reading the new biography of Gabriel García Márquez, and I just finished Joshua Cooper Ramo’s book, which I thought was actually quite good, but I think he should write another one and think about the practical applications of the strategic insights and the theoretical insights.

FP: Top three leaders that people should pay attention to, other than Obama.

BC: The prime minister of Australia, Kevin Michael Rudd — he is really smart. He has a thirst to know and figure out how to do things.

I think people should study what Paul Kagame did in Rwanda. It is the only country in the world that has more women than men in Parliament (obviously part of the demographic is from the genocide). It may not be perfect, but Rwanda has the greatest capacity of any developing country I have seen to accept outside help and make use of it. It’s hard to accept help. They’ve done that. And how in God’s name does he get every adult in the country to spend one Saturday every month cleaning the streets? And what has the psychological impact of that been? The identity impact? The president says it’s not embarrassing, it’s not menial work, it’s a way of expressing your loyalty to and your pride in your country. How do you change your attitudes about something that you think you know what it means? How did he pull that off?

There are lots of fascinating leaders in Latin America worth studying. But I think it’s worth looking at Colombia. How has Medellín been given back to the people of Colombia? We all know President Uribe has faced criticism in the U.S., but how did Medellín go from being the drug capital of the world, one of the most dangerous places on Earth, to the host city of the 50th anniversary of the Inter-American Development Bank? I would look at that.

I would look at another guy, José Ramos-Horta, the president of the first country in the 21st century, East Timor. Is it too small to be a nation? Can you get too small? Can your courageous fight for independence and freedom lead you to an economic unit that is not going to have a population or a geographic base big enough to take care of your folks? How are the Kosovars going to avoid that?

FP: Is there any country you haven’t been to yet that you want to go to?

BC: I want to go to Mongolia and ride a horse across the steppes and pretend I am in Genghis Khan’s horde — but I’m not hurting anybody! I want to go to Antarctica. There are places where I have been where I have only been working. I would like to take Hillary to climb Kilimanjaro, while there is still snow up there.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/11/19/bill_clintons_world?page=0,0