Hillary Clinton on the Future of Diplomacy

MARIE SWAIN & JACOB DENNINGER: If the number of students who waited outside of Gaston Hall for hours is any indication, "The Future of Diplomacy" looks bright. 

 Georgetown had the honor of welcoming Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton back to campus on Wednesday to lead the keynote conversation of a half-day symposium focusing on "The Future of Diplomacy." The symposium was hosted by the Institute of Politics and Public Service at Georgetown’s McCourt School and the Walsh School of Foreign Service. 

If you didn’t get to see Secretary Clinton in person, here are some key takeaways from the event:


On the Trump Administration’s Foreign Policy:

Secretary Clinton criticized the Trump administration for undermining America’s credibility on the world stage by pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, warning that the future of American diplomacy was threatened by the “pendulum swing.” 

Clinton also disapproved of the Trump administration “almost egging on” the breakup of NATO and jeopardizing longtime alliances with countries that shared American values, stressing that the disruption of NATO plays into Russian hands. She underlined the importance of European allies and warned that the division currently being driven between the U.S. and Europe would come back to haunt America.

Clinton called the Trump administration’s decision to leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty without holding Russia accountable a “gift to Putin.” She said the Trump administration should have “demanded immediate talks” to confront Russian cheating on the deal and led more public diplomacy efforts, as abandoning the INF Treaty creates the potential for a dangerous new arms race.

In response to a student question, Clinton expressed concern about authoritarianism and the rise of political parties in democracies that advocate for authoritarian ideas. She criticized President Trump’s own affinity for dictators, saying that the president’s willingness “to dismiss political integrity” was troubling.

 Answering another student question, Clinton said “it will be difficult” for the next president to restore America’s standing on the world stage. She emphasized the need for the future Commander-in-Chief to focus on repairing relationships and undoing damage, adding that “rebuilding credibility will take time and sustained attention.”


On China:

While discussing America’s relationship with China, Clinton noted the precedent in international relations for a rising power (such as China) to come to dominate the established power (such as the U.S.), or for a conflict to break out between the two nations.

Clinton spoke about how during her time as Secretary of State, she strived to make clear to China that America neither wanted conflict nor would be deposed on the world stage. 

Clinton also discussed the need for the U.S. to build relationships with diplomatic counterparts. She said that while a country’s interests cannot be changed by these relationships, they can “soften edges and open doors.” 

Clinton stressed the need to set limits on China and follow through with them in regard to issues such as the control of the South China Sea, warning that otherwise China will return to their aggressive behavior. 

Finally, Clinton cautioned that “right now we are losing the influence campaign to China.” She explained that China’s use of cultural diplomacy to fund projects around the world through their Belt and Road Initiative was winning them friends and support in the international community. Clinton stated that the U.S. is “not competing to the extent we need to,” and emphasized the need to stay engaged with China and not just “pivot” to Asia sporadically.


Advice to Young Women Interested in Politics: 

In response to a student question, Clinton, the first woman to receive a major party’s presidential nomination, urged young women who are interested in politics to “go out there and get involved.”

While she acknowledged that there is “still a double standard” for women, Clinton advised the young crowd that “if you want to try it, don’t give up.”


On the Future of Diplomacy:

Clinton said she was excited have met so many Georgetown students who understood the importance of foreign policy and diplomacy. “It is young people like the students in the audience,” she remarked, “who will take on global problems like climate change, migration, and human rights and help shape the future of the world.”

“We need you,” Clinton concluded. “We need the energy, the imagination, and the skills of the next generation to deal with a lot of these problems.”

Max Magid