Hillary Clinton: Trying to Reset while on Overload

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s whirlwind trip to Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Belgium, Switzerland, and Turkey over the last seven days made one thing abundantly clear – American foreign policy is thankfully on reset. Current efforts to engage allies and others is way overdue.

You could almost hear the sigh of relief from NATO partners as the SecState reassured them that the US is back and working with them instead of against them. Even though Secretary of Defense met with the NATO defense ministers last month, the SecState’s visit reassured that the US was staying true to its diplomatic promises for robust engagement.

Never mind the fact that the US desperately needs its NATO partners to step up in Afghanistan, balance Russia’s attempt to reestablish colonialism and sidestep Iran’s journey toward nuclear hegemony in the Middle East.

Her ‘new’ style of relationship building is quite refreshing to us all. It is too bad though in the midst of giving European (and Asian) assurances the US itself still needs to tip toe through the Middle East.

Quite frankly with TalQaeda rising and AfPak falling, the US needs to get its Middle East policy squarely in order, that is toward peace, or Israel won’t be worrying about Iran at all, instead it’ll be dodging unsecured Pakistani nukes being lobbed by those who still don’t believe that the West is or ever will treat parties other than Israel fairly.

I’m sure her Turkish counterparts told her this. They themselves said they appreciated Clinton’s candor, but did she hear theirs when they outlined their need to back out of an long-term Israeli relationship – for awhile anyway – due to Israel’s devastating military action in Gaza.

Turkey itself is important on all fronts. Not only can it help with Syria in the Middle East, but Turkey can also assist the West by speaking freely with Iran, staying close to NATO, continuing to provide Afghan assistance and consel and, finally, providing, if needed, assistance on the border of Iraq for US troop withdrawal. As the US leaves Iraq, any continued Kurdish partition plans may stir up more border violence so, as a friend and ally, the US must be the one to honor and stand with the Turks should problems arise.

After NATO and before her Turkish visit, Clinton stopped off in Geneva to meet the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, with a defective reset button signifying that US foreign policy has been exactly that – defective. Nevertheless, Clinton is trying to turn over a new leaf of engagement and just in time.

The US does not need the Russians entering neighboring countries at will or playing roulette with their military supply routes to Afghanistan. The efforts in Afghanistan are far too important.

The gift of the defective reset button was more an embarrassing irony than a Russian insult so I wouldn’t worry about Moscow taking it personally. That button shows just how disengaged this country has become. If our best and brightest can not even get the correct Russian word on the button how are they supposed to clearly analyze the complexity of AfPac, TalQaeda, the Middle East, Sudan (a most recent fiasco) or anywhere else.

I, for one, couldn’t help feeling ashamed and concerned about the future of the State Department. Its predecessors stripped its budget – including depleting the Peace Corps, which is one place you can find the best equipped foreign policy experts. They also skimped on funds to maintain ‘expert’ knowledge, keep experts trained and knowingly weeded out some of our best people.

Now Clinton must not only fight to reinstate these lost programs funds,and recruit excellent people, but she must also work to the best of her ability to represent the richest, most powerful country in the world with so little monetary and, more importantly, constituent support.

Ironically, while trying to reset, Clinton is actually finding that her whole department is on overload.

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