Clinton: Who’s Afraid of a Multipolar World?

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Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 2:23 pm

In 2002, the National Security Strategy issued by George W. Bush expressly precluded the United States from allowing a new superpower to develop. Speaking today at the Brookings Institution to officially unveil President Obama’s National Security Strategy, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton dismissed the idea that the U.S. had anything to fear from a “multipolar” world of new great powers like China or India.

Smirking a bit, Clinton, just back from a trip to Southeast Asia, acknowledged that “some” believe that a multipolar world “undercuts American power and leadership.” But she said that was simplistic. “We’re seeking to gain partners in pursuing American interests, and we happen to think those interests coincide with universal” aspirations, Clinton said. The alternative approach of demanding foreign nations cooperate with the U.S. is a nonstarter. ”We can’t begin a conversation with someone by saying, ‘Here are the ten things you need to do to be a responsible stakeholder,’” Clinton said when challenged by a former U.S. ambassador, Martin Indyk, on how to persuade sometimes recalcitrant nations that U.S. interests overlap with their own interests.

Several days’ worth of far-ranging dialogue with the Chinese government on energy security and China’s development role in Africa, Asia and Latin America, she said, contributed to her endorsement of the National Security Strategy’s rules-based internationalism. “The sum of the parts add up to a strong endorsement of American leadership,” she said.

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