Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for secretary of state, appears today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Op-Ed page asked 10 experts to pose the questions they would like to hear Senator Clinton answer.
1. United States policy has failed with respect to Israeli-Palestinian peace. The reluctance of any American president to act as an honest broker in the process, rather than as a strong, unquestioning friend of Israel, has contributed to this failure. How do you propose to bring success to the peace process?
2. There is clearly an imbalance of influence and power between the State Department and the Defense Department. An enormous shift of foreign policy influence has also occurred, since the era of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, from the State Department to the National Security Council staff and its head, the national security adviser. How do you propose to bring some of that influence back to the State Department?
— Lawrence B. Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005.
1. Does it benefit American security to have more liberal democracies in the world? If so, what steps would you take to advance this trend?
2. Do you believe that NATO enlargement has contributed to American security and moved former Soviet states toward greater democracy and regional cooperation?
— Mikheil Saakashvili, the president of Georgia.
1. Some say “war on terror” is a misnomer that has led our policy astray. They argue that terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology or a cause, and that a war against it is bound to be ill focused and inconclusive. Do you think we should drop the term “war on terror,” and describe our policy more precisely as a war to defeat Al Qaeda and violent Islamic extremism?
2. In the Middle East, we see a paradox: Countries with pro-American governments like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have populations with high levels of anti-American sentiment. Meanwhile in Iran, whose government is hostile to the United States, public opinion of America is more favorable. How do you explain this, and what can we learn from it? Should the United States disentangle itself from autocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt?
3. One of the most damaging legacies of the Iraq war is that it has given idealism and internationalism a bad name. How will you persuade the American people, and the world, that the United States can be a force for democracy and freedom?
— Michael Sandel, a professor of government at Harvard.
1. Tibet may prove to be the most divisive issue between China and the West. There is a real possibility that China and the Obama administration will have friction or even a temporary diplomatic clash over Tibet. How will you treat this possibility? If Barack Obama is inclined to meet with the Dalai Lama, what will be your attitude? Might you or other senior members in the State Department meet with the Dalai Lama or other leaders of the Tibetan exile government?
2. Will you criticize strongly and frequently the status of human rights, religious freedom and public welfare in China? If so, how do you plan to deal with the angry reactions of the Chinese government — and of the Chinese people themselves? Do you think there is any truth to the argument that China is an “authoritarian success”?
— Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations and the director of the Center for American Studies at Renmin University in Beijing.
1. In 1913, Woodrow Wilson appointed William Jennings Bryan secretary of state for solely domestic political reasons. He needed but distrusted him, and thus relied on other advisers to conduct diplomacy. Have you read up on Wilson’s relationship with Bryan, and will it be relevant to your own situation?
2. In the past, you have taken different positions on Iraq. As secretary of state, which of these foreign policy positions are you likely to adopt? Will you be the hawk who voted to authorize the war, or the war critic who referred to reports of progress in Iraq as requiring a “willing suspension of disbelief?”
3. You speak about the 1990s, President Bill Clinton’s era, as a time of peace and prosperity. Yet the ‘90s witnessed a steady trail of anti-American terrorism that emboldened Al Qaeda’s leaders. In the Clinton era, terrorism was generally viewed as a law enforcement problem. Did we really do so well in handling terrorism in the 1990s?
4. Do you think that you have sufficient knowledge of foreign cultures and languages to prepare you to lead America’s relations with the rest of the world?
— Fouad Ajami, a professor of Middle East studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and an adjunct research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.
1. The gross human-rights violations and mass displacement of citizens in Darfur has rightly drawn world attention. How would you help end this conflict, which in its governance and environmental challenges reflects similar situations throughout Africa?
2. One key way for Africa to mitigate global warming’s effects is to conserve forests, especially in the Congo Basin. How will the United States support protection of forests as part of its response to climate change?
3. African leadership is seeking closer ties with the East, especially China, which is willing to do business without conditions like respect for human rights. How will the United States address Africans’ willingness to sacrifice some of the most important principles of democracy and good governance?
— Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, founder of the Green Belt Movement and goodwill ambassador for the Congo Basin Forest Ecosystem.
1. The chances of peace between Israel and Gaza seem more remote than ever. Many of the Palestinians in Gaza are impoverished refugees and the overcrowded Gaza Strip has few resources. The two-state solution offers little hope for these people; that is one reason Gaza has historically tended to support radical Palestinian parties like Hamas. How will you make the two-state solution popular among the people of Gaza?
2. Which is worse for the United States, an Iran with nuclear weapons or a military confrontation between the United States and Iran?
3. The Atlantic was the center of world politics in the 20th century. The rise of Asia means that the Pacific is likely to play that role in the 21st, and developing countries in many parts of the world are likely to enjoy rising influence and power. But European countries are still grossly overrepresented on the Security Council and enjoy disproportionate influence in the Group of 8, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. How will you alter American foreign policy, reform international institutions and reconfigure the State Department to adjust to new realities, without damaging relations with our European friends and allies?
— Walter Russell Mead, the author of “God and Gold: Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World” and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
1. During the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations there were clear signs of American solidarity with democratic dissidents in Cuba, both on and off the island. Will the Obama administration maintain its support for these groups and people? Broadcasts by Radio Martí, for example, are trustworthy sources of information for the Cuban people. Will President Obama support these broadcasts?
2. It is possible that after Fidel Castro’s death, the government of Raúl Castro will try to move toward the Chinese model of capitalism within single-party rule. Would the Obama administration go along with this type of transition or would it insist on the establishment of a liberal democracy where human rights and civil liberties would be respected?
— Carlos A. Montaner, the author of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution.
1. Imagine we see broad demands for truly democratic presidential and parliamentary elections in Russia. Should the United States join in these calls for new elections, despite their destabilizing potential? What should the American reaction be if the opposite scenario takes place, with Vladimir Putin returning as president in a new “election” and further tightening the authoritarian screws? How would we maintain a functional relationship with Moscow without condoning the further strangulation of democracy in Russia?
— Cathy Young, a contributing editor at Reason magazine and the author of Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood.
1. What concrete steps will you take to rebuild America’s diplomatic strength? What can be done immediately and what can be done over the next three to four years?
2. Foreign policy is not the exclusive purview of the State Department. What role should the State Department play in foreign policy and how will you integrate and coordinate the department’s objectives and activities with those of the Defense, Homeland Security and Treasury Departments, the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies operating overseas?
3. Negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program, Iran’s nuclear program and Arab-Israeli peace are at a standstill. How will you revitalize these negotiations and what are your immediate priorities in these areas?
— Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the 9/11 commission and president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.