Hillary Clinton Calls For Renewed American Alliances in a Troubled World

Former-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed diplomacy with former-Ambassador Bill Burns at a Georgetown University symposium. (Bryce Couch, SFS ‘19)

Former-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed diplomacy with former-Ambassador Bill Burns at a Georgetown University symposium. (Bryce Couch, SFS ‘19)

Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, addressed Georgetown University in a keynote speech and conversation with former-Ambassador to Russia Bill Burns about the future of diplomacy on February 6. Responding to questions from Burns and the audience, Clinton discussed several topics, including the NATO alliance, immigration, state credibility, and climate change. Throughout the conversation, she stressed the critical role that she believes well-practiced diplomacy will continue to play in the ever-changing geopolitical landscape.

Clinton started by reflecting on the first trip she took as secretary of state for the Obama administration. Traveling to Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and China, she endeavored to repair strained relationships between the U.S. and its allies after a long period of military interventionism. Clinton wanted to “chart a new course” in her role, she said, shifting away from “soft power or hard power” and instead embracing what she called “smart power.”

As she and Burns discussed current international events, Clinton stressed the importance of re-establishing American credibility by projecting stability for the international community. She blamed diminished American credibility on the Trump administration, which has had different ideas about America’s role in the world. Changing policies in regard to several key allies have confused and destabilized ties and reduced the strength of a promise from the U.S. government, Clinton said. She urged cooperation and productive dialogue with countries that have “shared values” with the United States.

“I remember when I was going into the State Department,” Clinton recalled, “and I would ask people, ‘What are America’s strongest assets?’ And, no matter what other answer anyone gave me, in that answer, there would be ‘America’s alliances are the envy of everyone.’ Nobody else has that kind of network of support that can be deployed on behalf of specific goals but which provides a kind of ballast for everything else going on in the world.” Clinton said that one of the most important goals of the United States going forward should be the maintenance of these alliances.

Speaking of President Donald Trump’s recent decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Clinton was critical. She said that withdrawing from the INF Treaty was “a gift to Putin” and that the U.S. should have done a better job of “making it clear” to the international community “that the Russians were evading their responsibilities.” Clinton continues to believe that this treaty, as well as the New START Treaty set to expire in 2021, provide international accountability and staves off another nuclear arms race.

Clinton consistently touched on the importance of a renewed focus on American diplomacy. “The current administration has demonstrated an affinity toward dictators because they get things done,” she said. She alternatively advocated for a shift to “smart power,” which would entail international cooperation and dialogue addressing key issues that continue to pose threats to life around the globe, such as terrorism, climate change, and human rights violations.

In the end, Clinton spoke of looking forward. She urged young people to pursue futures in the foreign service, a career that requires the imagination, creativity, and new perspectives of the next generation to solve the issues that we all face.