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Clinton’s Big Day

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s going to be giving her first major speech on the Obama administration’s foreign policy to a domestic audience this afternoon at the Council on Foreign Relations. I, for one, am not going to be writing much about the policy substance of the speech. That’s because I want to focus on the effort she devotes to bolstering the resources and the institutional capacity of the State Department and USAID to match the administration’s priorities. Rectifying the structural imbalances between the civilian and military components of national security and foreign policy — and getting the U.S.’s diplomatic and development agencies in position to contribute to that — will be a legacy-building project for Clinton. And as I wrote about yesterday, Clinton’s already taking some steps in that regard.

Anyway, you can read a lot about the substance of the speech from Mike Allen and the backstory behind it from Ben Smith and the overall framework from Laura Rozen, who broke the news of the speech last week. For more substance, Greg Sargent reports that Clinton will criticize Arab leaders for not doing enough to support the Saudi peace initiative with Israel. An advance excerpt:

The Saudi peace proposal, supported by more than twenty nations, was a positive step. But so far, those who embrace it seem unwilling to do anything until the Israelis and Palestinians reach an agreement. This may be understandable, but it is not helpful. Anwar Sadat and King Hussein crossed important thresholds, and their boldness and vision mobilized peace constituencies in Israel and paved the way for lasting agreements. By providing support to the Palestinians and offering a concrete opening, however modest, to the Israelis, the Arab states could have the same impact. So I say to all sides: You can’t claim to be sending messages of peace until you also act against the cultures of hate, intolerance and disrespect that perpetuate conflict.

Greg points out that the excerpt “seems designed to publicly reinforce the message that Obama delivered privately the other night to concerned Jewish leaders” who fret that the administration is putting more pressure on Israel than its Arab interlocutors for peace. To which I’d merely observe that if so, Clinton is still shifting the debate in favor of the Saudi initiative as a model for a comprehensive peace plan, which is not something that the rightward elements in either Israel or the U.S. favor.

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