HRC in front of UN backdrop

By Whitney Smith


August 24, 2016



“[Promoting women’s rights in Afghanistan] is not only the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to so. A post-Taliban Afghanistan where women’s rights are respected is much less likely to harbor terrorists in the future. . . There is an immoral link between the way women were treated by the oppressive Taliban in Afghanistan and the hateful actions of the al-Qaeda terrorists. . . Long before the Taliban was at war with the civilized world, they were at war with half their population. The mistreatment of women in Afghanistan was like an early warning signal of the kind of terrorism that culminated in the attacks of September 11. Similarly, the proper treatment of women in post-Taliban Afghanistan can be a harbinger of a more peaceful, prosperous and democratic future for that war-torn nation.”

Opinion Editorial in TIME on November 24, 2001



“What happened in Benghazi has been scrutinized by a nonpartisan, hard-hitting Accountability Review Board, seven prior Congressional investigations, multiple news organizations, and, of course, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

“So today I would like to share three observations about how we can learn from this tragedy and move forward as a nation.

“First, America must lead in a dangerous world, and our diplomats must continue representing us in dangerous places. And make no mistake: the risks are real. Terrorists have killed more than sixty-five American diplomatic personnel since the 1970s and more than a hundred contractors and locally employed staff. Since 2001, there have been more than one hundred attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world. But if you ask our most experienced ambassadors, they’ll tell you they can’t do their jobs for us from bunkers.

“It would compound the tragedy of Benghazi if Chris Stevens’ death and the death of the other three Americans ended up undermining the work to which he and they devoted their lives. We have learned the hard way when America is absent, especially from unstable places, there are consequences. Extremism takes root, aggressors seek to fill the vacuum, and security everywhere is threatened, including here at home.

“That’s why Chris was in Benghazi. It’s why he had served previously in Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jerusalem during the second intifada. Nobody knew the dangers of Libya better — a weak government, extremist groups, rampant instability. But Chris chose to go to Benghazi because he understood America had to be represented there at that pivotal time.

“Retreat from the world is not an option. America cannot shrink from our responsibility to lead. That doesn’t mean we should ever return to the go-it-alone foreign policy of the past, a foreign policy that puts boots on the ground as a first choice rather than a last resort. Quite the opposite.

“We need creative, confident leadership that harnesses all of America’s strengths and values. Leadership that integrates and balances the tools of diplomacy, development, and defense. And at the heart of that effort must be dedicated professionals like Chris Stevens and his colleagues, who put their lives on the line for a country—our country—because they believed – as I do – that America is the greatest force for peace and progress the world has ever known.

“My second observation is this: We have a responsibility to provide our diplomats with the resources and support they need to do their jobs as safely and effectively as possible.

“After previous deadly attacks, leaders from both parties and both branches of government came together to determine what went wrong and how to fix it for the future. That’s what happened during the Reagan administration, when Hezbollah attacked our embassy. They killed 63 people, including 17 Americans. And then in a later attack, attacked our Marine barracks and killed so many more. Those two attacks in Beirut resulted in the deaths of 258 Americans.

“It’s what happened during the Clinton administration when al Qaeda bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing more than two hundred people, wounding more than two thousand people, and killing twelve Americans. It’s what happened during the Bush administration after 9/11.

“Part of America’s strength is we learn, we adapt, and we get stronger.

“Finally, there is one more observation I’d like to share: I traveled to 112 countries as Secretary of State. Every time I did, I felt great pride and honor representing the country that I love. We need leadership at home to match our leadership abroad. Leadership that puts national security ahead of politics and ideology. Our nation has a long history of bipartisan cooperation on foreign policy and national security. Not that we always agree — far from it — but we do come together when it counts.

“As Secretary of State, I worked with the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to pass a landmark nuclear arms control treaty with Russia. I worked with Republican Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, to open up Burma, now Myanmar, to find democratic change.

“I know it’s possible to find common ground, because I have done it. We should debate on the basis of fact, not fear. We should resist denigrating the patriotism or loyalty of those with who we disagree.

“So I am here. Despite all the previous investigations and all the talk about partisan agendas, I am here to honor those we lost and to do what I can to aid those who serve us still.

“And my challenge to you, members of this Committee, is the same challenge I put to myself. Let’s be worthy of the trust the American people have bestowed upon us. They expect us to lead, to learn the right lessons, and to rise above partisanship and to reach for statesmanship. That’s what I tried to do every day as Secretary of State. And it’s what I hope we all strive for here today and into the future.”

Opening Statement to the House Benghazi committee on November 22, 2015



“The US-China relationship is still full of challenges. We are two large, complex nations with profoundly different histories, political systems, and outlooks, whose economies and futures have become deeply entwined. This isn’t a relationship that fits neatly into categories like friend or rival, and it may never. We are sailing in uncharted waters.

“[In 1998], I came home from the trip convinced that if China over time embraces reform and modernization, it could become a constructive world power and an important partner for the US. But it was not going to be easy, and America would have to be smart and vigilant in how we engaged this growing nation.

“I returned to China as Secretary in February 2009 with the goal of building a relationship durable enough to weather the inevitable disputes and crises that would arise. I also wanted to embed the China relationship in our broader Asia strategy, engaging Beijing in the region’s multilateral institutions in ways that would encourage it to work with its neighbors according to agreed-upon rules. At the same time, I wanted China to know that it was not the sole focus of our attention in Asia. We would not sacrifice our values or our traditional allies in order to win better terms with China. Despite its impressive economic growth and advances in military capacity, it had not yet come close to surpassing the US as the most powerful nation in the Asia-Pacific. We were prepared to engage from a position of strength.”

Hard Choices pages 65 through 67



“As Secretary of State, it became clear to me that our policy of isolating Cuba was strengthening the Castros’ grip on power rather than weakening it—and harming our broader efforts to restore American leadership across the hemisphere. The Castros were able to blame all of the island’s woes on the U.S. embargo, distracting from the regime’s failures and delaying their day of reckoning with the Cuban people.

“As President, I would increase American influence in Cuba, rather than reduce it. I would work with Congress to lift the embargo and I would also pursue additional steps.

“First, we should help more Americans go to Cuba. If Congress won’t act to do this, I would use executive authority to make it easier for more Americans to visit the island to support private business and engage with the Cuban people.

“Second, I would use our new presence and connections to more effectively support human rights and civil society in Cuba. I believe that as our influence expands among the Cuban people, our diplomacy can help carve out political space on the island in a way we never could before.

“Third, and this is directly related, we should focus on expanding communications and commercial links to and among the Cuban people.

“Finally, we need to use our leadership across the Americas to mobilize more support for Cubans and their aspirations. Just as the United States needed a new approach to Cuba, the region does as well.”

Speech to Florida International University in Miami on July 31, 2015


European Union

“We respect the choice the people of the United Kingdom have made. Our first task has to be to make sure that the economic uncertainty created by these events does not hurt working families here in America. We also have to make clear America’s steadfast commitment to the special relationship with Britain and the transatlantic alliance with Europe. This time of uncertainty only underscores the need for calm, steady, experienced leadership in the White House to protect Americans’ pocketbooks and livelihoods, to support our friends and allies, to stand up to our adversaries, and to defend our interests. It also underscores the need for us to pull together to solve our challenges as a country, not tear each other down.”

Press Release on June 24, 2016


Foreign Policy Philosophy

“I believe that with foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology. I believe that American leadership has been wanting but is still wanted. We must use what has been called ‘smart power,’ the full range of tools at our disposal—diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural—picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of our foreign policy. This is not a radical idea. The Ancient Roman poet Terence declared that ‘In every endeavor, the seemly course for wise men is to try persuasion first.’ The same truth binds wise women as well.

“Our foreign policy must reflect our deep commitment to help millions of oppressed people around the world. And of particular concern to me is the plight of women and girls, who comprise the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unschooled, unfed, and unpaid. If half the world’s population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity is in serious jeopardy. The United States must be an unequivocal and unwavering voice in support of women’s rights in every country on every continent.”

Secretary of State confirmation hearing on January 13, 2009



“I support President Obama’s plan today to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and finally close the door on this chapter of our history. Over the years, Guantanamo has inspired more terrorists than it has imprisoned. It has not strengthened our national security; it has damaged it. That’s why I backed closing Guantanamo as a Senator, and when I ran for President in 2008, as did both then-Senator Obama and Senator McCain. As President Obama’s Secretary of State, I appointed a special envoy and worked with our friends and partners around the world to repatriate or resettle prisoners, with all appropriate monitoring and security. Closing Guantanamo would be a sign of strength and resolve. Congress should implement President Obama’s plan as quickly and responsibly as possible.”

Statement on February 23, 2016



“If we claim we are for family, then we have to pull together and resolve the outstanding issues around our broken immigration system. The American people support comprehensive immigration reform not just because it’s the right thing to do—and it is—but because they know it strengthens families, strengthens our economy, and strengthens our country. … We can’t wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship.”

Statement on May 5, 2016 at Rancho High School in Las Vegas



“Over time, our larger interests will be best served by safely and responsibly withdrawing our troops from Iraq, supporting a transition to full Iraqi responsibility for their sovereign nation, rebuilding our overtaxed military, and reaching out to other nations to help stabilize the region and employ a broader arsenal of tools to fight terrorism. We will use all the elements of our power — diplomacy, development, and defense — to work with those in Afghanistan and Pakistan who want to root out Al Qaida, the Taliban, and other violent extremists who threaten them as well as us in what President-elect Obama has called the central front in the fight against terrorism.”

Secretary of State confirmation hearing on January 13, 2009

“It’s our intention to staff that with effective and creative professionals, because we agree that the refugee problem is growing worse in many places around the world.

“One of the challenges of the Iraqi government and, insofar as we are involved, our government, in sort of balancing how we’re going to support the stability of the Iraqi government and help them deal with the repatriation and return, both externally and internally, of Iraqis is a big challenge to the Iraqi government that we’re conscious of. But we have refugee populations, some of decades longstanding and some of a few days standing, in so many places. I will do my very best to elevate this issue, to give you the kind of expertise within the State Department that will give you comfort that we’re going to make this a high priority, and to come up with solutions to some of our longstanding refugee challenges.”

Secretary of State confirmation hearing on January 13, 2009



“I am deeply concerned by reports that Iran has tested multiple missiles, which it claimed were stamped with words declaring that “Israel should be wiped from the pages of history.” This rhetoric is repulsive and has no place in the community of nations, and as President I will continue to stand with Israel against such threats. This demonstrates once again why we need to address Iran’s destabilizing activities across the region, while vigorously enforcing the nuclear deal.  These missile launches constitute a blatant violation of Iran’s UN Security Council obligations, and such violations must have consequences. Iran should face sanctions for these activities, and the international community must demonstrate that Iran’s threats toward Israel will not be tolerated. We also need to hold Iran to its promise to help us locate and bring home Robert Levinson – who disappeared nine years ago today. We cannot rest until he is reunited with his family.

Statement on March 3, 2016

“I also welcome the full implementation of the nuclear agreement, an important achievement of diplomacy backed by pressure. Implementation marks an important step forward in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Iran has dismantled centrifuges, disabled a reactor, and shipped out almost all of its enriched uranium. These are important steps that make the United States, our allies, and the entire world safer. I congratulate President Obama and his team, and I’m proud of the role I played to get this process started.

“But we shouldn’t thank Iran for the prisoners or for following through on its obligations. These prisoners were held unjustly by a regime that continues to threaten the peace and security of the Middle East. Another American, Bob Levinson, still isn’t home with his family. The treatment of our Navy sailors earlier this week was offensive, including the release of a demeaning and provocative video. Iran is still violating UN Security Council resolutions with its ballistic missile program, which should be met with new sanctions designations and firm resolve.

“So we can’t take our eye off the ball. As President, my approach will be to distrust and verify. I will vigorously enforce the nuclear deal as part of a comprehensive strategy that confronts all of Iran’s negative actions in the region and stand side-by-side with our ally Israel and our Arab partners.”

Statement on January 25, 2016



“Let’s begin by being clear about what we are facing: ISIS controls a shrinking but still sizeable territory in Iraq and Syria. It leads a far-flung network that includes affiliates across the Middle East and North Africa, and cells in Europe, Asia, and even here in North America. It’s also part of a broader ideological movement that includes other terrorist groups.

“We need to do battle on all these fronts. First, we do have to take out ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq and Syria. We should intensify the coalition air campaign against its fighters, leaders, and infrastructure; step up support for local Arab and Kurdish forces on the ground and coalition efforts to protect civilians; and pursue a diplomatic strategy aimed at achieving political resolutions to Syria’s civil war and Iraq’s sectarian divide.

“Second, we must dismantle the global network of terror that supplies money, arms, propaganda, and fighters. This means targeted efforts to deal with ISIS affiliates, from Libya to Afghanistan. It means going after the key enablers who facilitate illicit financial transactions and help jihadists arrange travel, forge documents, and evade detection. And it means waging online battles with extremists to discredit their ideology, expose their lies, and counter their appeals to potential recruits in the West and around the world.

“Third, we must harden our defenses and build our resilience here at home. We need to counter each step in the process that can lead to an attack, deterring would-be terrorists and discovering and disrupting plots before they’re carried out.

“Our fight against radical jihadist terrorists will be long, and there is very real risk of future attacks here at home. But pursuing this comprehensive strategy will put us in the best position to defeat ISIS and keep our families and communities safe.”

Speech at Stanford University on March 23, 2016



“As intractable as the Middle East problems may seem — and many presidents, including my husband, have spent years trying to work out a resolution — we cannot give up on peace. The president-elect and I understand and are deeply sympathetic to Israel’s desire to defend itself under the current conditions and to be free of shelling by Hamas rockets.

“However, we have also been reminded of the tragic humanitarian cost of conflict in the Middle East and pained by the suffering of Palestinian and Israeli civilians. This must only increase our determination to seek a just and lasting peace agreement that brings real security to Israel; normal and positive relations with its neighbors; independence, economic progress, and security to the Palestinians in their own states.

“We will exert every effort to support the work of Israelis and Palestinians who seek that result. It is critical not only to the parties involved, but to undermining the forces of alienation and violent extremism around the world.”

Secretary of State confirmation hearing on January 13, 2009



“NATO, in particular, is one of the best investments America has ever made. From the Balkans to Afghanistan and beyond, NATO allies have fought alongside the United States, sharing the burdens and the sacrifices. In the 1990s, Secretary Perry helped guide NATO’s expansion based on the alliance’s core tenets of collective defense, democracy, consensus, and cooperative security. They became known as the ‘Perry Principles,’ and they’re still at the heart of what makes NATO the most successful alliance in history.

“Turning our back on our alliances—or turning our alliance into a protection racket—would reverse decades of bipartisan American leadership and send a dangerous signal to friend and foe alike.

“I will never forget what it was like to arrive in Brussels for the first time as secretary of state, in March of 2009.

“I was on my way to NATO. NATO headquarters was buzzing. Hundreds of young people at the European Parliament had stood and cheered—not for me, but for the idea of American leadership; for the promise of an alliance that delivered unprecedented peace and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.

“That’s what we need to remember today. Americans cannot—and I believe will not—turn on each other, turn on our allies, or turn away from our principles. We’re in it for the long haul. And that means we’re going to work together. And we’re going to prevail.”

Speech at Stanford University on March 23, 2016



“We have to look at Afghanistan and Pakistan together, particularly the border region. As you were telling me when we met, you personally have traveled along that border. You have seen with your own eyes the element of resistance and extremism that have taken root there. And it is imperative that we work with our friends in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, because this is not only about denying Al Qaida and other extremist groups safe haven, this is about persuading those two countries that their security and their future is also at risk.

“And I am encouraged that the democratically-elected government of Pakistan seems to be much more aware of how this is their fight, not just ours. The government of Afghanistan, as you know, the vice president-elect was just in both countries, is going to be presented with alternatives from the Obama administration that we think are not only in the interest of our overall mission, but in their interest, as well. So this will be a collaboration and the other countries you mentioned are also players, to some extent, that have to be brought in.

Secretary of State confirmation hearing on January 13, 2009



“Russia is attempting to create a gas equivalent of OPEC that would give it, in addition to the bilateral powers it has, a much greater multilateral international reach on gas. So this whole question of energy security, I think, has enormous implications for our country, for Europe, but, indeed, for the entire world.

“We’ve had individual envoys on specific pipeline issues, but we haven’t brought it all together in a way that I think reflects the elevated seriousness of the challenges that are being posed.

“Specifically with respect to Russia and its interactions with Ukraine, Georgia, other European countries, its recent purchase of the Serbian gas utility, I hope we can make progress with our friends in NATO and the EU to understand that we do need a broader framework in which we can talk about energy security issues. It may or may not be Article 5, but I think it certainly is a significant security challenge that we ignore at our peril.”

Secretary of State confirmation hearing on January 13, 2009



“On the Syrian side, the big obstacle to getting more ground forces to engage ISIS – beyond the Syrian Kurds who are already deep in the fight – is that the viable Sunni opposition groups remain understandably preoccupied with fighting Assad, who let us remember has killed many more Syrians than the terrorists have. But they are increasingly seeing the threat from ISIS as well.

“So we need to move simultaneously toward a political solution to the civil war that paves the way for a new government with new leadership, and to encourage more Syrians to take on ISIS as well. To support them, we should immediately deploy the Special Operations force President Obama has already authorized and be prepared to deploy more, as more Syrians get into the fight. And we should retool and ramp up our efforts to support and equip viable Syrian opposition units.

Now to be clear though, there is a role for Russia to help for resolving the conflict in Syria. And we have indicated a willingness to work with them toward an outcome that preserves Syria as a unitary, non-sectarian state, with protections of the rights of all Syrians and to keep key state institutions intact. There is no alternative to a political transition that allows Syrians to end Assad’s rule. Now, much of this strategy on both sides of the border hinges on the roles of our Arab and Turkish partners. And we must get them to carry their share of the burden, with military, intelligence, and financial contributions, as well as using their influence with fighters and tribes in Iraq and Syria.”

Statement on November 19, 2015



“I am following the fast-moving developments in Turkey tonight with great concern. We should all urge calm and respect for laws, institutions, and basic human rights and freedoms – and support for the democratically elected civilian government. All parties should work to avoid further violence and bloodshed, and the safety of American citizens and diplomatic missions must be ensured.”

Statement on attempted coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016



“For terrorism, we must have a comprehensive strategy, levering intelligence, diplomacy, and military assets to defeat Al Qaida and other terrorist groups by rooting out their networks and drying up their support for violent and nihilistic extremism.

“The gravest threat that America faces is the danger that weapons of mass destruction will fall into the hands of terrorists. We must curb the spread and use of these weapons — nuclear, biological, chemical, or cyber — and prevent the development and use of dangerous new weapons. Therefore, while defending against the threat of terrorism, we will also seize the parallel opportunity to get America back in the business of engaging other nations to reduce nuclear stockpiles.”

Secretary of State confirmation hearing on January 13, 2009


Whitney Smith is a summer assistant at TransAtlantic Magazine. She is a senior at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. and majors in journalism and political science. 






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