First Week Launches New 'Smart Power'

Posted by Robert Wood
January 30, 2009
President Obama and Secretary Clinton Greet Department Employees

About the Author: Robert Wood serves as Acting Department Spokesman and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.

This week was busy and exciting here at the State Department. Last Wednesday, Secretary Clinton was confirmed and sworn-in as the 67th U.S. Secretary of State. Last Thursday, she arrived at the State Department’s headquarters, the Harry S Truman Building. Later that same afternoon, President Obama and Vice President Biden visited the Department, and President Obama and Secretary Clinton named Senator George Mitchell as a Special Envoy to the Middle East. They also named Ambassador Richard Holbrooke a Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. As Secretary Clinton said, President Obama’s visit to the Department and the announcement of these high level diplomats sent a loud and clear signal, both in word and action, of the President’s commitment to diplomacy.

As the week has continued, I’ve had a chance to read through your comments on DipNote. It is a great pleasure to hear what the public is thinking on a given topic. Based on your responses to last week’s “Question of the Week,” you all have many suggestions as to what the Obama Administration should establish as its top foreign policy priorities. DipNote readers who mentioned promoting peace in the Middle East would likely be interested in knowing that Special Envoy Mitchell is currently in the region. While in Ramallah yesterday, Special Envoy Mitchell said: “President Obama has…underlined our commitment to a better future for all Palestinians whose legitimate aspirations for an independent and viable state should be met, lasting peace is our objective and the United States will sustain an active commitment to reaching the goal of two states living side by side in peace, stability and security.”

We also received great comments about the Hometown Diplomat program, featured in two blog entries last week. I found it heartening that people responded so positively to the program. We received e-mails from groups and individuals interested in having U.S. diplomats visit their organizations. Thanks to those who have already expressed interest in doing so.

Finally, I appreciate the warm and enthusiastic comments many of you submitted in support of Secretary Clinton. As the Secretary said, it is a tremendous honor to represent America to the world. The DipNote team and I want you to know that we are reading your comments, the blog’s authors are reading your comments, and we value your comments.



Oklahoma, USA
January 30, 2009

L.D. in Oklahoma writes:

A tender for bids from rival war-profiteering companies vying for security contracts in Iraq is not appropriate. Unless you mean to underwrite the neo-con outsourcing of military roles, the security of diplomatic missions -- including your own missions as Sec'y of State-- should be entirely under the aegis of the U.S. military, not private firms who are only in the business of stealing taxpayer money.

As candidate and as Senator, you called for a ban on the use of private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan (Clinton Proposes Military Contractor Ban, Feb 29, 2008, Jeremy Scahill, Democracy Now!). On your website, you said you would co-sponsor a measure to ban the use of Blackwater and other private military firms. Now that you are part of the Executive branch, I hope that you can lend your support and provide momentum for the Nov 2007 proposal (by Illinois Democrat Schakowsky and Vermont Senator Sanders) called the "Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act," which mandates that U.S. military personnel undertake all diplomatic security in Iraq, rather than Blackwater or companies like it.

Also as a practical matter, it behooves you, as Sec'y of State, to provide an example of your faith in the U.S. military's ability to provide security for U.S. diplomats abroad, when necessary and appropriate, by refusing to hire any third-party contending for the Dept of State's "business." This distortion of the last 8 years needs to stop, right now.

At minimum, I expect you to blacklist Blackwater Int'l as an egregious example of the kind of mercenary company that the U.S. Dept of State should NOT be employing.

While I'm writing, I would also like to remind you of what you said, regarding the continued U.S. occupation of Iraq:

"It's time to bring our troops home [from Iraq] & to bring them home as quickly and responsibly as possible. I don't see any reason why they should remain beyond today. ... Within 60 days, I'll start that withdrawal"
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate

It is now 10 months since the March 31, 2008 deadline for pulling out all troops that you voted for. Not only should the U.S. exit from Iraq be completed as soon as possible, within the 60 day timeframe you mentioned, also I hope that you can expedite the return of ALL U.S. troops, minimizing future casualties, deaths, coffins, and gravestones, by bringing to a close the neo-conservative's misbegotten so-called "war on terror."

Out of Afghanistan in 2009!

California, USA
January 30, 2009

Wendy in California writes:

Dear Asst Sec Wood,

You have such a broad & distinguished record. The biggest lacuna or gaping hole in our outreach by State seems to be South America -- which I hope becomes a highest priority in this smart power Administration. Collaboration in this hemisphere has been pitiably undersung for many decades.

I know you all have been wildly busy, but respect is such an important force and commodity. I hope some public hat is tipped to South America very soon. Especially along the lines of "All of South America is our deep ally in the development of a green and prosperous future for all our children. We welcome this hemispheric partnership with the [20?] countries to our south as well as Canada to our north. What remarkable invention and collaboration we can look forward to as we all engage in a spirited collaboration for the future."

Lois D.
Pennsylvania, USA
January 31, 2009

Lois D. in Pennsylvania writes:

In spite of what I sometimes read in the more liberal Pittsburgh Post Gazette op/ed, I am encouraged with how fast and seriously your diplomacy is taking hold. I have faith in you. Sure, there is turmoil. It sort of makes everything that we work on have a success rate, when you have many wounds to heal in the world. After hard work, much is accomplished.

I've entered local government, so it's a similar much smaller scale. You/we all will make a difference!

With great admiration,


Terry G.
Connecticut, USA
February 2, 2009

Terry in Connecticut writes:

Secretary Hillary Clinton will restore America's standing in the world no doubt. Go Secretary Hillary Clinton.

United States
February 3, 2009

Hope in U.S.A. writes:

Dear Mr. Brook,

Thank you for providing access to Sec. Clinton's statements, including the recent gathering posted at:

Unfortunately, everyone's remarks were included except those made by the President! Is there any way that the President of the United States could also be included in remarks publicly made to State Dept officials, as a matter of unifying the message coming from the State Department and in keeping with the respectable goal of transparency? I was so disappointed in not being able to read what President Obama had to say to the gathering referenced (see link) above! Best wishes to Sec. Clinton and the new members to the State Dept. team. Yes we can!

United States
February 10, 2009

Robbie in U.S.A. writes:

I am pleased to see that our country and those in the Whitehouse are able to settle minor differences and work together for the betterment of our country


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