New Approaches

Upon taking office, the Obama administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced plans to increase resources devoted to diplomacy and development and to expand the size of the Foreign Service and U.S. representation abroad. Secretary Clinton cited diplomacy, development, and defense as the three legs to the stool of American foreign policy. She outlined a policy based on principles and pragmatism and the use of “smart power,” applying the diplomatic, foreign assistance, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural tools appropriate to each situation.

Secretary Clinton meets with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma in Decembver 2011.

Secretary Clinton meets with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
December 2011

The administration focused early on efforts to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Africa, and the Middle East. It also emphasized resetting relations with Russia, improving cooperation with China, and maintaining close ties with allies in Europe and Asia and countries in the Western Hemisphere. These themes continued as the U.S. withdrew its troops from Iraq and worked to end the war in Afghanistan.

Secretary Clinton meets with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma in Decembver 2011.

Men unload U.S. huminitarian assistance for victims of the flood in Pakistan in August 2010.

The U.S. declared its support for the exercise of popular will during the “Arab Spring”  revolutions in 2010 and 2011, and joined NATO in backing the forces that overthrew Muammar Qadhafi in Libya. Nuclear ambitions in Iran and North Korea continued to pose security threats in their respective regions. The administration worked with the G-8 and other nations to overcome the crisis in the world economy and in May 2012 it launched its “Feed the Future” global food security initiative.

Overall, Secretary Clinton stressed five policy approaches: 1) Updating and creating new vehicles for cooperation with international partners, including traditional allies, emerging powers (particularly in Asia), multilateral institutions, and non-state actors (especially civil society); 2) Pursuing principled engagement with adversaries and others with whom the U.S. disagrees; 3) Elevating and integrating economic development abroad, with a recognition that it creates U.S. jobs and markets for U.S. exports; 4) Integrating civilian and military efforts in conflict areas to operate in a coordinated and complementary fashion; and 5) Strengthening traditional sources of U.S. influence, including economic strength and the power of example. The Secretary emphasized gender integration as a theme that cuts across all policy issues and promoted a broad human rights agenda that includes the rights of LGBT and the disabled, as well as internet freedom.

She undertook the first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) to elevate civilian power in advancing U.S. national interests. The QDDR emphasized the importance of whole-of-government approaches under enhanced Chief of Mission authority abroad, and better interagency coordination at home. It also prioritized innovation, flexibility in managing human resources, and better strategic planning and evaluation. In 2012, the Secretary announced completion of the first phase of QDDR implementation and the launch of the second phase, to include legislation making the QDDR process permanent.


hillary Rodham clinton, 2009-

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

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