New Beginnings: Foreign Policy Priorities in the Obama Administration

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Opening Remarks Before the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Washington, DC
April 22, 2009

(9:50 a.m. EDT)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Ranking Member. Greetings to many friends and former colleagues. It is a pleasure to be here with you this morning. This Committee has been the source of many advances in our nation’s foreign policy and I look forward to working with you to continue that tradition.

When I appeared before the Senate – that’s that other body on the other side of the Capitol – I spoke during my confirmation hearing of a commitment to pursue a policy that would enhance our nation’s security, advance our interests, and uphold our values. Today, nearly 100 days later, I am pleased to report that we have begun making progress toward achieving that goal.

I want to begin by recognizing and thanking the men and women of the State Department and USAID, who are serving our country around the clock and around the world. I’m extremely proud of their work. With their talents, and under President Obama’s leadership, we have put forward a new diplomacy powered by partnership, pragmatism, and principle.

Our priorities are clear. We are deploying the tools of diplomacy and development along with military power. We are securing historic alliances, working with emerging regional powers, and seeking new avenues of engagement. We’re addressing the existing and emerging challenges that will define our century: climate change, weak states, rogue regimes, criminal cartels, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, poverty, and disease. We’re advancing our values and our interests by promoting human rights and fostering conditions that allow every individual to live up to their God-given potential.

Now, I know that many of your questions today will deal with longstanding concerns: Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, certainly the Middle East, the fallout from the global financial crisis. I will speak briefly to those, and I look forward to answering any questions you might have.

As you know, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the President has outlined a strategy centered on a core goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida, and to prevent their safe return to havens in Afghanistan or Pakistan. We combined our strategic review with intensive diplomacy, and nations from around the world are joining our efforts. More than 80 countries and organizations participated in the international conference in The Hague, and a donors’ conference just concluded in Tokyo raised over $5 billion.

In Iraq, we’re working toward the responsible redeployment of our troops and the transition to a partnership based on diplomatic and economic cooperation. We’re deploying new approaches to the threat posed by Iran, and we’re doing so with our eyes wide open and with no illusions. We know the imperative of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. After years during which the United States basically sat on the sidelines, we are now a full partner in the P-5+1 talks.

In the Middle East, we engaged immediately to help bring the parties together to once again discuss what could be done to reach a two-state solution. We’re maintaining our bedrock core commitment to Israel’s security, providing economic support, security assistance, and we are also doing what we can to bolster the Palestinian Authority, and to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

More broadly, we’re working to contain the fallout from the global financial crisis. Our efforts at the G-20 focused in large measures on the poorest and most vulnerable countries. We need to provide support for the International Monetary Fund. We need to provide direct assistance to countries such as Haiti, where I traveled last week. These resources will help democratic, responsible governments regain their economic footing and avert political instability with wider repercussions.

Now, these challenges demand our urgent attention, but they cannot distract us from equally important, but sometimes less compelling or obvious threats, ranging from climate change to disease to criminal cartels to nonproliferation.

In today’s world, we face challenges that have no respect for borders. Not one of them can be dealt with by the United States alone. None, however, can be solved without us leading. All will have a profound impact on the future of our children. As daunting as these challenges are, they also offer us new arenas for global cooperation. And we’re taking steps to seize these opportunities.

First, we are pursuing a wide-ranging diplomatic agenda premised on strengthening our alliances with democratic partners in Europe, Asia, Africa and our own hemisphere. We are cultivating partnerships with key regional powers. We’re building constructive relationships with major nations that will have a lot to say about what happens in the world to come – China, Russia, India.

We’re working with longtime allies like Japan and South Korea to address not just regional concerns, but a host of global issues as well. I want to say a special word about Asia. You know, advancing our relationship with India – which I know the Chairman and the Ranking Member and others mentioned – is essential. It’s the world’s largest democracy. It’s an important ally in so many efforts. I made my first overseas trip as Secretary of State to Asia, a signal that we are not just a transatlantic power, but also a transpacific power, and that Asia will be an indispensable partner in years to come.

But we haven’t forgotten our traditional allies. We have worked hard with the European Union and with NATO, and then just a few days ago, we did go to Latin America to meet with nations who share a common home, a hemisphere, a heritage, and a common future. We discussed a new energy partnership, fighting drug trafficking and the drug cartels, consolidating democratic gains, and so much more.

We’re also building closer ties with regional anchors, including Brazil, Indonesia, and Turkey. These are not only partners, but they can be leaders on issues ranging from deforestation to democracy. We will work with China and Russia wherever we can, and we’ll be candid about our areas of disagreement. We will be starting a strategic and economic dialogue with China very shortly. We’ll be working with them to develop technologies to reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. And we have committed ourselves to working with Russia on finding a successor agreement to the START arms control agreement.

But we also understand that redefining diplomatic engagement is not just between governments. Policies and political leaders change over time. But ties between citizens, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, universities, NGOs, all of those endure. And these are very effective tools of diplomacy, and we’re committed to engaging these groups.

And so finally, we will work to expand opportunity and protect human rights, strengthen civil society, live up to the ideals that define our nation, work to advance education and healthcare, the rule of law and good governance, fight against corruption, expand opportunities for women and girls, and those on the margins of society.

As we promote responsible governance abroad, we have to invest more in our tools here at home. As the Chairman said, I’m working hard to create a more agile, effective Department with the right staffing and resources to fulfill the President’s agenda. That’s why I have filled, for the first time, the position of Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources.

I’ve also challenged the Department to reform and innovate and save taxpayer dollars. We’re turning our ambassadors into in-country chief executives with authority and responsibility for the programs on the ground. We’re consolidating IT support services that will yield savings of tens of millions of dollars. We’re deploying new media technologies to carry our message more effectively.

And I am determined to see that the men and women of our Foreign and Civil Service get the resources they need to do their jobs safely and effectively. Even Secretary Gates has pointed out our country has underinvested in diplomacy. That must end. Just as we would never deny ammunition to American troops headed into battle, we cannot send our diplomats into the field in today’s world with all of the threats they face, 24/7, without the tools they need. We don’t invest in diplomacy and development; we end up paying a lot more for conflict and all that follows.

So Mr. Chairman, we’re pursuing these policies because they’re the right thing to do. We believe that no country benefits more than the United States when there is greater security, democracy, and opportunity in the world. Our economy grows when our allies are strengthened and people thrive. And no country carries a heavier burden when things go badly. Every year, we spend hundreds of billions of dollars dealing with the consequences of war, disease, violent ideologies, and vile dictatorships.

So let’s invest in the type of world that we want. We have no shortage of challenges or opportunities. The world is looking for leadership and looking to see how this new Administration meets this moment. I believe if we follow our plans and our principles, we will succeed. We can lead the world in creating a century that we and our children will be proud to own, a century of progress and prosperity for the whole world, but especially for our beloved country.

But to achieve these goals, we need your help, we need your advice, and we need your support. And I look forward not only to the formal hearing today, but to the informal, ongoing dialogue that I’ve started with some of you and look forward to having with all of you. We’re in this together. We have to row in the same direction for the benefit of our country and our children.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

PRN: 2009/360