Around the World with Hillary Clinton

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations September 8, 2010 in Washington, DC.

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Gideon Rose, editor of Foreign Affairs and author of How Wars End: Why We Always Fight the Last Battle, looks at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's latest international trip, including India, China, Bali and Turkey.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in India today to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is part of a twelve-day around-the-world trip, in which she visited Greece and will visit Bali and Indonesia for an Asian Regional Forum, before going to Hong Kong and mainland China to discuss global events.

Gideon Rose said the theme of this trip is trying to hold everything together, despite global conflicts and domestic political gridlock.

Somehow the executive branch has to keep doing their jobs and trying to ensure that government goes on, that foreign policy goes on and that the world doesn’t blow up overmuch and doesn’t slide into disaster, and that basically is what this trip is about.


Turkey and Greece made news recently by recognizing the Transitional National Council (TNC), the opposition in Libya, as Libya's legitimate governing authority. Clinton gave a statement in which she appeared to indicate that the US also supports the TNC.

While the US mission in Libya began as a humanitarian effort, Rose said it has evolved into a “Game of Thrones-like battle about who will rule Libya.” The Obama administration’s recognition of the rebels as the legitimate governing body reflects that continuation. Rose said policy regarding Libya has not been strategic but just reactionary, and he thinks that the alignment with the rebels is less a statement of confidence as it is a souring of US relations with Ghaddafi.

There are very few good guys out there… So you’re talking about lesser shades of bad guys, and what you’re hoping essentially is that by recognizing them and by making them in effect dependent on you… you now have levers over them and you can essentially control their behavior.

Rose finds the lack of global enthusiasm for what is seen as a US-led initiative in Libya is unsurprising.

Nobody likes the idea that gee, a bunch of countries can get together and suddenly decide to support the rebels and delegitimize the existing government of a country.


Rose said Syria is also crucial to the geopolitcs in the region. The United States is heavily invested in trying to align the country with the US rather than with Iran, yet doesn’t seem to have a strategy.

The old policy was to try to engage [Libyan President Bashar] Assad. They now realize that policy doesn’t work, but they don’t have a new one ion its place. And they don’t really want to topple Assad in a second, because Syria is this weird ethnic tinderbox with a minority government and a minority regime, and if it blows all sorts of other ramifications through out the Middle East might be the consequence.

Rose said developments will come from within Syria rather than from outside.

In Syria, it’s still in play. As in elsewhere in the region, the local parties, the suffering dissidents, the mass of the Syrian population, will have to ultimately decide this, whether they are going to ultimately give their support to the government or to the rebels. The outsiders aren’t going to decide Syria’s fate.


Clinton praised Greece’s recent austerity measures. Rose found that “hysterical,” given the current political deadlock of the United States.

Basically everybody knows what should be done in every country, except that it’s much easier to say that about someone else’s country than it is about your own.


Nearly a week after the bombs in Mumbai killed 19 people, it seems likely that terrorism will be high on the agenda. While India’s influence has grown dramatically, Rose said that India’s perspective has remained locally- focused, and the recent terrorism attack may reinforce that.

For years… we wanted in effect to educate the Indians to take the broad perspective of a rising major power, and they have largely done that. So in some ways this terrorism his doubly-unfortunate, both because it is actually unfortunate, it’s horrible, it’s terrorism, but also it is tempting to suck them back into a Pakistan-centric, regional-centric mindset.


While Clinton has said she will not serve anther term as Secretary of State, Rose said he would be happy if she would continue on in the position.

Do I think that so far she’s been one of the great Secretaries of State in American history? No I don’t think so. But do I think that she’s been a better-than-average Secretary of State? Absolutely.