Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hillary's Calling the Plays, Says Washington Times

Hillary Clinton only seems to have receded into the background of the Obama administration, according to a story in the Washington Times. She's really in the backfield, being the foreign policy quarterback who hands the ball off to running backs and tosses long bombs to her intended receivers.

'Proxy' diplomats deployed for crises:

If President Clinton was known for political triangulation, his wife is establishing herself as the quarterback of a multidirectional diplomatic offense.

Sen. John Kerry's dramatic insertion into talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week marked the third time the Obama administration has used proxy diplomats to resolve major foreign crises.

While critics of the approach say it is undermining Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and regular diplomatic channels, Mr. Kerry and State Department officials say that the secretary fully supported the senator's unusual role.

But doesn't it cause problems to have so many special teams running around?

To supporters, the Obama administration's use of proxies demonstrates a highly pragmatic approach to foreign policy. To critics, it is a short-term strategy that may undermine Mrs. Clinton and her regular diplomats, confuse U.S. allies and embolden the nation's enemies.

Mr. Kerry's sudden elevation to such a crucial role in the region now at the center of U.S. foreign-policy attention raised questions, not only about Mrs. Clinton's role, but that of Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The secretary of state herself is undermined by a very wide array of special envoys and special advisers," said Nile Gardiner, a foreign-policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank.

With Mr. Kerry's star turn, Mr. Gardiner said, "You even have the extraordinary situation of a special envoy being undermined by a special adviser."


Michael J. Green, a former top adviser on Asian affairs in the George W. Bush White House, agreed that "proxies can confuse people."

In the case of Mr. Webb's trip to Myanmar, also known as Burma [last August, during which he met with dissident Aung San Sui Kyi as well as with the military junta] , Mr. Green said, the senator "ended up confusing the message - leading many in the region to think the administration would lift sanctions on Burma when there was never any chance of that."

You would think that the owner of our foreign policy franchise would at some point either sign those diplomatic free agents or tell them to get off the field.

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