By Burl Rolett
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton paid tribute to Virginia Military Institute alumnus George Marshall during a visit to VMI Tuesday, as the school honored her own diplomatic accomplishments.
Former Secretary of State Marshall implemented a vision that was “both perfectly suited for his time and far ahead of it,” Clinton said, by forging a foreign policy of diplomacy and foreign development alongside a strong national defense.
“George Marshall knew … that the world’s most powerful military was not sufficient to ensure our security on its own,” she said. “[He] believed that to guarantee our own security, we had to draw on all the tools of our power.”
Clinton visited VMI to accept the Distinguished Diplomat Award, which is given by the school’s Department of International Studies to honor “outstanding achievement in advancing U.S. interests abroad through diplomacy.”
She spoke for about 30 minutes before about 2,100 people, including about 1,600 VMI cadets, at the school’s Cameron Hall.
Clinton’s speech centered on America’s “smart power” policy abroad, consisting of what she called the “Three Ds of foreign policy” – diplomacy, development and defense.
“We are bringing all the tools of American power to bear in conflict and post-conflict situations, where the links among defense, diplomacy and development are most obvious,” she said.
The United States is using the three-pronged strategy in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran as well as in Libya and elsewhere in Africa, Clinton said.
She cited continued sanctions against Iran as an example of the diplomacy aspect of smart power. All options remain on the table to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Clinton said, but the United States is making progress with the Iranian regime through what she called “the most comprehensive package of sanctions in history.”
“This sustained pressure is bringing Iran’s leaders back to the negotiating table,” she said. “We hope that it will result in a plan of action that will resolve our disagreements peacefully.”
Clinton cited Marshall’s plan for rebuilding Europe to illustrate the need for foreign development – the third prong of smart power.
“When Marshall looked at a Europe shattered by war, he knew that hunger and poverty would ultimately undermine our own prosperity and opportunity, that desperation and chaos would ultimately give rise to forces that would threaten us here at home,” she said.
Clinton noted that countries recovering from conflict are far less likely to revert to violence in the presence of a growing economy. She also said a focus on women is a common aspect in many of America’s foreign aid programs today.
“We simply cannot leave half the population behind anywhere if we’re going to make progress together,” she said.
Clinton is the third woman and the first U.S. secretary of state to receive the Distinguished Diplomat Award. Past recipients include former Ambassadors Robert Kimmitt, James Lilley and Jeane Kirkpatrick; ex-CIA heads Porter Goss and James Woolsey; and former Rep. Lee Hamilton.
The award was last given to foreign affairs strategist Susan Eisenhower three years ago.
Clinton concluded her speech with a challenge to the VMI cadets to carry Marshall’s vision of smart power into the future.
“It took a great citizen-soldier, a VMI cadet, to make the case for smart power then,” she said. “I think it will take your generation of citizen-soldiers to make the case for smart power in the 21st century.”