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Posted by on Feb 16, 2012 in At TMV | 3 comments

Secy. Clinton’s Strength at State Seen in Obama Budget

Secretary Clinton is welcomed to Munich conference by host Wolfgang Ischinger. State Dept Image (Feb 04, 2012)

WASHINGTON – It’s the Hillary Effect. An event that occurs or when something important is impacted because of Hillary Clinton’s presence, her power and strength of persuasion that is built entirely upon purpose.

Pres. Obama’s 2013 budget…

Provides $51.6 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), an increase of 1.6 percent, or $0.8 billion over the 2012 enacted level when including Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) resources. Within tightly capped budget constraints, the Budget makes investments in key priorities including the Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, plus continues funding for critical initiatives such as global health, climate change and food security. – Budget: DEPARTMENT OF STATE AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS

It’s why she’s been so effective, even when I’ve disagreed with her, like on Libya. This chasm doesn’t change that her cunning helped get people, the Arab League for instance, to listen, then act.

It’s another example of what I write about in The Hillary Effect.

However, looking at Syria through the lens of Libya, let’s be perfectly clear what the Obama administration is saying through policy.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be important to convince the Assad regime that they are leading Syria into the outcome that we all deplore. We do not want to see a civil war in Syria,” Clinton said. “No one wants to see a civil war in Syria. So we have to encourage the Assad regime, and those who support it, to understand that there’s either a path toward peacemaking and democratic transition – which is what we are promoting – or there’s a path that leads toward chaos and violence, which we deplore.” – Clinton: We need Assad’s consent to put troops in Syria, by Josh Rogin

Humanitarian intervention through military might will be utilized, but only when it’s fully convenient; access to water helps. Because if any situation required humanitarian action and intervention by the world it is in Syria, where innocents are being slaughtered and have been for weeks. In Libya there was only a threat of massacre, whereas in Syria it’s playing out now.

However, as Rogin reports, the Obama administration is “looking for a political solution in Syria and won’t consider putting international troops there unless the Syrian regime agrees.” Because of the proximity of Syria to Israel and its primacy in the region, as well as being land-locked, which is no small issue, there is little the U.S. can do without risking very serious consequences, something that wasn’t a threat with Libya.

In Pres. Obama’s new budget, where the State Dept. received a slight increase over last year’s budget, you can see the prowess soft power has gained since Bush-Cheney. You can peruse for yourself, the entire State Dept. budget available on pdf.

I was thinking of Ryan Lizza’s article “The Obama Memos” when the news of Clinton’s budget victory the State Department was reported:

One Cabinet official made it clear that she did not share the President’s growing commitment to coupon-clipping: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She rejected the White House’s budget for her department, and wrote the President a six-page letter detailing her complaints. Some in the White House saw the long letter as a weapon, something that could be leaked if Clinton didn’t get her way. “At the proposed funding levels,” Clinton wrote, “we will not have the capacity to deliver either the full level of civilian staffing or the foreign assistance programs that underlie the civilian-military strategy you outlined for Afghanistan; nor the transition from U.S. Military to civilian programming in Iraq; nor the expanded assistance that is central to our Pakistan strategy.” She went on, “I want to emphasize that I fully understand the economic realities within which this budget is being constructed, and I share your commitment to fiscal responsibility. But I am deeply concerned about these funding levels.”

The letter contained indications of a real relationship between the former rivals. “You and I often speak about the need to restore the capacity of civilian agencies,” Clinton noted. But the general tone was stern and businesslike. It ended with an urgent plea for Obama to intervene on her behalf. “There is little room for progress unless you provide guidance that you are open to an increase in overall funding levels,” she wrote. Obama did indeed fight for some additional money for Clinton.

Mark Leon Goldberg had the same idea when he wrote his piece for UN Dispatches.

As I noted at the time of Pres. Obama’s State of the Union speech, we are seeing the final moves of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She’s stated that if Pres. Obama is reelected she will not serve a second term and I doubt anything will change her mind.

From Goldberg’s UN Dispatch’s piece on the budget, first section in bold below is from his original post, the second is added:

This will be the last foreign affairs budget request in which Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State. At a time when other agencies are seeing their budgets slashed or flat-lined, the State Department managed to receive a slight increase over last year’s funding levels. I can’t help but think that having a politically powerful Secretary of State had something to do with this.

Without a strong secretary of state fighting for diplomatic and soft power priorities, the cuts seen at other agencies would likely be delivered to the State Dept.

I’ve been thinking for some time whether Pres. Obama will pick Sen. John Kerry next; though I must say that Kerry coming out against Obama’s contraception mandate is not a small thing.

There can also be no doubt that Pres. Obama listened to Secy. Clinton’s case for the increase, proving this relationship has indeed been all that I wrote it would be.

State is also drawing down its personnel in Baghdad. Pres. George W. Bush’s boondoggle embassy in Iraq, a titanic monstrosity, is scheduled for massive cuts, which is very good news for everyone, especially the Iraqis.

The expansive diplomatic operation and the $750 million embassy building, the largest of its kind in the world, were billed as necessary to nurture a postwar Iraq on its shaky path to democracy and establish normal relations between two countries linked by blood and mutual suspicion. But the Americans have been frustrated by what they see as Iraqi obstructionism and are now largely confined to the embassy because of security concerns, unable to interact enough with ordinary Iraqis to justify the $6 billion annual price tag.

The swift realization among some top officials that the diplomatic buildup may have been ill advised represents a remarkable pivot for the State Department, in that officials spent more than a year planning the expansion and that many of the thousands of additional personnel have only recently arrived.

Michael W. McClellan, the embassy spokesman, said in a statement, “Over the last year and continuing this year the Department of State and the Embassy in Baghdad have been considering ways to appropriately reduce the size of the U.S. mission in Iraq, primarily by decreasing the number of contractors needed to support the embassy’s operations.”

Everyone remembers what the Cheney-Rumsfeld alliance did to the State Dept.

Secy. Clinton came in to a greatly diminished and in some cases, gravely demoralized foreign service team. What she’s done in Obama’s first term has injected new purpose, meaning and power into State, with the power she wields through the Hillary Effect giving her a seat at the boys’ table.

The Pentagon has won more battles, because the defense industry remains one of the toughest and most formidable lobbying arms in America, with the challenges in the world going well beyond State’s reach.

Issues, however, remain. They begin with Pres. Obama’s foreign policy itself and the eye-in-the-sky predator drone strike priority of his Administration, as well as the choice of surgical assassinations. It has rendered Obama counterterrorism policies a cold, bloodless, and lawless venture for Americans who simply look on from afar; the collateral damage we wreak void of glaring light or witness, except for the elite forces that sweep in and out unseen.

Progressives are looking the other way, with a Washington Post/ABC-News poll just last week showing Democrats approve of Pres. Obama’s tactics. Put the name Pres. Romney behind these same policies and I can hear the caterwauling echo. Both Glenn Greenwald and Greg Sargent made a similar point when the polling was first released.

The sharpest edges of President Obama’s counterterrorism policy, including the use of drone aircraft to kill suspected terrorists abroad and keeping open the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, have broad public support, including from the left wing of the Democratic Party.

The survey shows that 70 percent of respondents approve of Obama’s decision to keep open the prison at Guantanamo Bay. . . . The poll shows that 53 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats — and 67 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats — support keeping Guantanamo Bay open, even though it emerged as a symbol of the post-Sept. 11 national security policies of George W. Bush, which many liberals bitterly opposed. – Poll finds broad support for Obama’s counterterrorism policies

It’s why you have stories like what’s in the LA Times this week:

Pentagon working with FAA to open U.S. airspace to combat drones

The military says the nearly 7,500 robotic aircraft it has accrued for use overseas need to come home at some point. But the FAA doesn’t allow drones in U.S. airspace without a special certificate.

It means when hell comes knocking at the hands of people who have scores to settle, nobody will have clean hands.

Secy. Clinton getting a small increase in State’s budget won’t come close to challenging what’s become a foreign policy that adopts a water’s edge philosophy in the worst of what that means. It melds Bush-Cheney with the Obama-Biden era, with the lack of morality and conscience best represented in Libya and Syria.

Being moral and just, committed to upholding U.S. and international laws in the face of great challenges including political pressure, but only when it’s convenient, isn’t something to commend or support.

Taylor Marsh is the author of the new book, The Hillary Effect – Politics, Sexism and the Destiny of Loss, which is now available in print on Amazon. Marsh is a veteran political analyst and commentator. She has been profiled in the Washington Post, The New Republic, and has been seen on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic, as well as on radio across the dial and on satellite, including the BBC. Marsh lives in the Washington, D.C. area. This column is cross posted from her new media blog.