Muddy Notebook

January 22, 2009

New tone with new administration

I listened this morning to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak to State Department staffers on the first day of her new job. She hit all of the right notes to a civil-service staff of diplomatic professionals who had every right to feel beleaguered by the infighting and the disrespect for dipliomacy that marked so much of the Bush administration. She made clear that US foreign and national security policy had three legs — diplomacy, development and defense — and that the first two were thebest ways to keep America safe and promote its values and leadership around the world.  A visit to the State Depatrment by President Obama today will also be powerful proof of the new attitude in Washington toward what’s called ‘soft power.’  How I have longed to see this switch. You can’t take military options off the table, but war should be the last option when vigorous attempts to use the others have failed. 

Considering the well-publicized bickering between Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Department and Secretary of State Colin Powell in the first bush term (with Rumsfeld usually the winner), State Department staffers – and world leaders – needed to hear from Clinton and President Obama that the diplomats in his administration are equals, not junior partners, in this White House.

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