Hillary Clinton Deserves an A+ For Leaving the State Department Better Than She Found It


On January 21, 2009, Hillary Rodham Clinton was sworn in as the 67th Secretary of State of the United States. Now, after four years, her mandate is reaching its end. Even though her task was not easy — moreover, it was full of obstacles (she has, among other things, dealt with the Arab revolutions, intervention in Libya, warned Pakistanis and North Koreans, and still even managed to show us how to party in South America). That is enough to justify the Forbes' writing about her as a "no non-sense" diplomat, and to support the claim that during her term in office, the State Department has regained its influence.

Since 2001, when the war on terrorism began, the role of American soft power and diplomacy had been in a constant decline. The States have turned to the use of hard power, and military campaigns against states or organizations perceived as a threat became a common phenomenon. Unilateralism of the U.S. and the politics of the Bush doctrine, praised by Max Boot, William Kristol, Robert Kagan and other neocons, were not regarded as something desirable from the rest of the world. But then, in 2009, Clinton came to be the Secretary of State that further led to the slight rise of importance of the diplomacy in the creation of American foreign policy, by turning to cooperation with the European allies and growing importance of international organizations.

During her mandate, she believed in the use of "smart power," or as Nye would define it, in using a full range of tools at one's disposal — diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural — picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation.

Clinton came to State at a time when American diplomacy was at a very low ebb — indeed, diplomacy had become less than a footnote to military intervention. Yet, she has managed to become the "rock star" State Secretary because of the successes she made. With her traveling around the world, only last year she visited 42 countries, she was presenting in person what President Obama was saying from the White House.

Furthermore, Clinton managed to have 0 casualties in the military intervention in Libya. Namely, the war in Iraq costs the tax payers approximately $10 billion a month, and has already taken 31,000 lives of Americans, but in the Libyan case NATO will be reimbursing the U.S. with $200 million for the help with the intervention. Clinton underlined on many occasions that military spending needs a cut and that those funds should be redirected towards the diplomatic sector.

During her mandate, the State Department employed some of the most prominent supporters of the soft power approach. Those people, such as Susan Rice, Anne Marie Slaughter, Samantha Power, Cheryl Mills, and others, brought a more internationalist approach in the politics of the USA. Moreover, by hiring them the Department has created more gender equality within its lines, and with regards to their policies, it embraced the participation in the international organizations.

Indeed, there are some points to be improved. Yes, Syria remains a mess and Iran is still a threat, but with Clinton's efforts, and ever-toughening sanctions, Iran is still being held quiet, and the world safe.

The unfortunate episodes of Clinton's term have certainly been releases of diplomatic cables by Wikileaks and the ill-fated event in Benghazi, when 4 U.S. diplomats lost their lives in the attack at the embassy. However, it is arguable that Benghazi is as much a State Department failure as a Department of Defense one.

Lastly, Clinton has, together with President Obama, once again topped the list of the world's most admired individuals, by USA Today/Gallup poll. According to the poll, which asked American respondents who they admired most in the world, 30% of respondents mentioned Obama, while Clinton was named by 21%. This year's poll marks Clinton's 17th time being voted to the top of the list, making her the most admired woman in the history of the poll.

To conclude, Clinton has done a remarkable job during her term in office. From bringing diplomacy to the front again, restoring the U.S. soft power, successfully dealing with the most crises in the world, and finally partying in Colombia, she has shown that she is a powerful woman, ready and eager to fight for her ideas and politics. She has indeed leaving the State Department far better off than it was holding when she arrived. That is why she is not going to be replaced, but followed.