Clinton sees diplomats of the future in cargo pants as well as pinstripes

October 26, 2010

CONGO-DEMOCRATIC/

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Congress to finance a major new U.S. push on overseas development aid, arguing that only by building up a global middle class will the United States increase its own national security.

Clinton, in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine which previews a pending State Department report on diplomacy and development, says it is essential for Congress to keep the money flowing even as the United States grapples with its own financial problems at home.

“The American people must understand that spending taxpayer dollars on diplomacy and development is in their interest,” Clinton wrote, saying it was time to put to rest “old debates on foreign aid.”

“It is time to move beyond the past and to recognize diplomacy and development as national security priorities and smart investments in the United States’ future stability and security,” Clinton said. “These missions can succeed, but only with the necessary congressional leadership and support. Congress must provide the necessary funding now.”

Clinton’s article comes ahead of the expected release of the State Department’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), a study launched in July 2009 which aims to set the framework for how U.S. diplomacy and overseas aid efforts will work together in coming years.

As with so many things in Washington, it will essentially be a plea for more money — a sore spot for Clinton, who frequently contrasts the relative ease the Pentagon has in pushing funding requests through with the much tougher sell she must make for diplomatic and development projects.

The total State Department and USAID budget for fiscal year 2011 is $52.8 billion, up about $5 billion from the previous year. The U.S. military budget for the same period is $708 billion, which includes $159 billion to fund U.S. military missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The QDDR will endorse the drive to rebuild the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as a major tool of U.S. foreign policy and envisions a future where U.S. diplomats are “as likely to wear cargo pants as a pinstriped suit,” Clinton writes. The goal will be to harness and organize the range of U.S. diplomatic and development initiatives with the goal of spurring real, grassroots economic growth in some of the world’s poorest and most instable regions.

“Economic growth is the surest route out of poverty, and expanding and strengthening middle classes around the world will be key to creating the just and sustainable international order that lies at the heart of the United States’ national security strategy,” Clinton said.

Clinton emphasized that, in the development game, the United States’ ultimate goal was to “put itself out of business” by building up host countries to take charge of their own projects and futures. Clinton’s article listed a range of projects where the new U.S. development priorities are already being implemented, ranging from the PEPFAR AIDS program and the President’s Malaria Initiative to efforts to help Central American and Caribbean countries develop biofuels resources to lessen their reliance on imported oil from Venezuela — a persistent U.S. critic in the region.

The full QDDR had been expected to be released earlier this Fall, but is now expected in early December. One point of contention, analysts say, has been how closely USAID will be tied to Clinton’s State Department. Her article makes it sound as though the relationship will be very tight.

CORRECTS name of magazine to Foreign Affairs.

PHOTO CREDIT:  REUTERS/pool photo (Clinton jokes with patients and staff of Heal Africa clinic in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, on Aug. 11 2009)

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