Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton indicated Tuesday that the new administration's top foreign policy priorities will be ending the war in Iraq, developing a new strategy in Afghanistan, and pursuing nuclear arms control efforts.
In her Senate confirmation hearing, Clinton said U.S. policy on Afghanistan will be reviewed and called the issue "the highest priority of the president-elect." She reiterated Obama's pledge "to responsibly end" the war in Iraq. Clinton also said of arms control and nonproliferation efforts: "This is one of the passionate concerns of the president-elect." She added that her transition review of the State Department had found that capacities in those two areas in recent years "had been significantly degraded." Clinton also indicated that she would be returning to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to request higher funding for the State Department, saying "we need to invest in our capacity to conduct vigorous American diplomacy."
Clinton fielded overwhelmingly friendly questions, and the tone at the packed hearing suggested that her confirmation in the coming days seems to be firmly on track.
Sen. Richard Lugar, the panel's ranking Republican, urged that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, not accept further foreign contributions for his global philanthropic work in order to avoid any possible conflicts of interest. But the issue did not play a significant part in the first part of the hearing.
The nominee also said that policy toward Iran and North Korea—two states pursuing nuclear programs—would be reviewed, declining to outline specific negotiating steps until a more thorough review is completed. She stressed that the emphasis in dealing with both would be diplomacy in various forms but added, "We are not taking any option off the table"—a traditional formulation that leaves open the question of potential military action.
Despite concerns that global economic and other problems had hurt U.S. standing in the world, Clinton sought to offer an upbeat counter to the gloomy outlook given by some foreign policy specialists in recent months. She alluded to the lift that the U.S. image overseas is expected to receive with the presence of Barack Obama, whom she said "embodies the American dream, not only here at home, but far beyond our shore."