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Inside Story Americas

Hillary Clinton's diplomatic legacy

How did the US secretary of state change the country's foreign policy during her time in office?
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2013 12:42

Four years ago, Barack Obama, the US president, surprised many in Washington when he appointed Hillary Clinton, his main rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, as secretary of state.

"I work with women around the world on the ground, who risk their lives every day, for them Hillary was the person that helped keep them alive. And so when they look for people that can help give them the confidence and courage that they need to pursue a policy that's inclusive, they look to Hillary .... It's not just the United States that she is engaging with, she's engaging with all the problems that confront the world today."

- Allida Black, the co-founder of the Ready for Hillary Superpac

She proved to be a high-profile holder of the top US diplomatic job, and now her supporters are already suggesting the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination is hers for the taking if she wants it.

But how successful a secretary of state was she?

The last four years have certainly seen significant developments throughout the world. In the Middle East, what was called the Arab Spring saw new regimes installed in Egypt and Libya, and Syria remains ravaged by conflict.

The US has largely withdrawn from Iraq and the majority of troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by 2014.

But many observers suggest the US foreign policy has been strongly driven by the president with Clinton playing a largely ambassadorial role. The escalation of the country's covert drone war seems to have been driven from the White House.

"When I look at each of the regions of the world, she's brought us into a much more antagonistic relationship with Russia, with China ... not just governments but countries and populations across the Middle East, where she's supported military interventions that have endangered women .... She's supported crippling sanctions on Iran .... These military interventionist policies have endangered women in country after country, region after region ... she says nice things about women and girls [but] when you do a sober reading of the record, it really [does not stack up]."

- Hillary Mann Leverett, a former US foreign policy official

Similarly the reorientation of US forces towards Asia and away from Europe in effort to counter China seems to have been an initiative of the president and those close to him.

Clinton's successor, John Kerry, the 2004 presidential candidate, began work on Monday, February 4.

Many hope he will make progress where Clinton did not, particularly with the Israel-Palestine conflict. Relations with Iran also continue to preoccupy many in Washington as sanctions partly negotiated by Clinton take their toll.

Before leaving office, Clinton gave a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations where she outlined how she felt the foreign policy arena has changed over the last four years.

To discuss Clinton's legacy, Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Allida Black, the co-founder of the Ready for Hillary Superpac which is raising money for a potential Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016, she also teaches at George Washington University; Hillary Mann Leverett, who served as a foreign policy official in both the Clinton and Bush administrations and is the co-author of Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran; and Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

"More than ever, foreign policy is economic policy. The world is competing for resources and global markets. Every day that goes by where America is uncertain about engaging in that arena or unwilling to put our best foot forward and win, unwilling to demonstrate our resolve to lead is a day in which  we weaken our nation itself.   

President Obama and everyone of us here know that American foreign policy is not defined by drones and deployments alone. American foreign policy is also defined by food security, energy security, humanitarian assistance, the fight against disease and the push for development."

John Kerry, US secretary of state

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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