Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hillary's legacy: diplomacy should refocus our attention on the powerless

I ought to have known better than to check in at the PBS NewsHour last night. The point made by Ray Suarez and guests as well as in the analysis of Shields and Brooks about Hillary Clinton's legacy was essentially that she leaves no signature foreign policy achievement. It was a lukewarm acknowledgement of Hillary's tenure as secretary of state.

Compare the NewsHour drivel about Hillary to CNN contributor Donna Brazile's remarks on Hillary's departure from State (keep in mind that Brazile was not noted for her support of Hillary in 08):

Hillary has transformed our understanding -- no, our definition -- of foreign affairs. Diplomacy is no longer just the skill of managing relations with other countries. The big issues -- war and peace, terror, economic stability, etc. -- remain, and she has handled them with firmness and authority, with poise and confidence, and with good will, when appropriate.

But it is not the praise of diplomats or dictators that will be her legacy. She dealt with plenipotentiaries, but her focus was on people. Foreign affairs isn't just about treaties, she taught us, it's about the suffering and aspirations of those affected by the treaties, made or unmade.

Most of all, diplomacy should refocus attention on the powerless.


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