Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton told senators Tuesday that the Obama administration will exercise "smart power" in international affairs with diplomacy taking the lead.
Clinton made no direct criticism of the outgoing Bush administration, but she clearly suggested that it was overly-ideological and relied too much on military power, rather than diplomacy, to project U.S. influence.
In an opening statement at the Foreign Relations Committee hearing, the secretary-designate said the Obama administration will seek a world "with more partners and fewer adversaries."
Clinton said she and President-elect Obama believe that foreign policy must be based on a blend of principles and pragmatism, and not rigid ideology, emotions or prejudice.
"I believe that American leadership has been wanting, but is still wanted. We must use what has been called smart power, the full range of tools at our disposal - diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural, picking the right tool or combination of tools for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of our foreign policy. This is not a radical idea. The ancient Roman poet Terrence declared that in every endeavor, the seemly course for wise men is to try persuasion first. The same truth binds wise women as well," she said.
Clinton signaled that she intends to build up the U.S. diplomatic corps, noting that Defense Secretary Robert Gates - who will be a Republican holdover in the new administration - has said the State Department and other U.S. civilian agencies abroad have been under-funded and under-manned for too long.
The secretary-designate outlined the general principles of the incoming administration but offered few specifics, saying key issues such as the idea of opening a U.S. diplomatic post in Iran, remain under review.
She did stress a continuing U.S. commitment to seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians, pointedly expressing concern about civilian casualties on both sides resulting from the current conflict in Gaza.
"The President-elect and I understand, and are deeply sympathetic to Israel's desire to defend itself under the current conditions and to be free of shelling by Hamas rockets. However we have also been reminded of the tragic humanitarian cost of conflict in the Middle East and pained by the suffering of Palestinian and Israeli civilians. This must only increase our determination to see a just and lasting peace agreement that brings real; security to Israel, normal and positive relations with its neighbors, independence, economic progress and security to the Palestinians in their own state," she said.
Clinton said the new administration would seek cooperative engagement with Russia while standing up for American values and norms, stressing the need to accelerate lagging efforts for a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Moscow to replace the one that expires at the end of this year.
She similarly backed a positive and cooperative relationship with China in which the two sides can candidly address differences, suggesting that success depends largely on choices Beijing will make.
Clinton said she hopes to organize a more effective international coalition to prevent Iran, through diplomatic means, from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. But like the Bush administration, she said President Obama will take no options, implicitly including military ones, off the table.
The New York Senator drew praise from committee members of both parties and her confirmation by the panel on Thursday appears certain. But there was concern expressed by several members about fund-raising overseas by the charitable foundation of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
The senior Republican on the committee, Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, said it would be best if the foundation - to avoid the impression of conflict of interest - ceased accepting foreign money altogether.
"The Clinton Foundation exists as a temptation for any foreign entity or government that believes it can curry favor through a donation," he said. "It also sets up potential perception problems with any action taken by the Secretary of State in relation to foreign givers or their countries."
Senator Clinton's nomination is expected to be approved by the full Senate next Tuesday at a brief session just after President-elect Obama's inauguration, and she is to take up her duties at the State Department Wednesday morning.