Secretary Clinton: U.S. Leadership Needed

Helle Dale /

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is famous for approaching her various jobs with discipline, and discipline was the message she repeatedly conveyed at the National Defense University Tuesday morning in her “conversation” with Secretary of Defense (and former chief of staff to her husband) Leon Panetta: The world needs U.S. leadership, even in tough budgetary times.

Many of Clinton’s remarks were directed at the congressional “Super Committee” looking at budget cuts. She urged Congress not to let the deficit get in the way of U.S. global engagement, and not to fall into the trap of knowing “the cost of everything and the value of nothing.”

“Leon and I will continue to make that case,” she said, pleading for a “holistic” approach to U.S. foreign policy.

As true as it is that the world needs U.S. leadership, when it came down to details, Clinton’s case was considerably weaker, particularly given that leadership is hardly the outstanding characteristic of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy. Cases in point:

Talking a good game about leadership is not the same as exerting it, and the United States under Clinton and Obama is not doing it. As one astute observer of the Clinton–Panetta discussion said afterward, “U.S. foreign policy at the closing of the Obama term looks like nothing so much as a game of musical chairs, and the United States doesn’t have a clue where to sit.”