- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged Tuesday to use “smart power” to reduce the military’s role in U.S. foreign policy and put a “civilian face” on America’s role abroad after the Bush administration’s heavy reliance on the use of force.

“Our foreign policy has gotten way out of balance,” she said. “It’s going to be up to us to try to get back into more equilibrium, which will be good for our government and for the image of our country around the world.”

During a cordial and largely nonconfrontational hearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Mrs. Clinton promised broad engagement with U.S. allies and adversaries, including — in a break from current policies — Iran.

“We will do everything we can to pursue through diplomacy, through the use of sanctions, through creating better coalitions with countries that we believe also have a big stake in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapon power,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Mrs. Clinton is expected to name Dennis Ross as a special coordinator for Iran policy and also keep William J. Burns as undersecretary of state for political affairs. Mr. Burns, a proponent of engaging Tehran, is the highest-ranking U.S. official to meet with a senior Iranian official, attending multilateral talks in Geneva last year.

“We are not taking any option off the table at all, but we will pursue a new, perhaps different approach that will become a cornerstone of what the Obama administration believes is an attitude toward engagement that might bear fruit,” Mrs. Clinton said Tuesday.

She declined to be more specific, saying the issue had to be discussed with U.S. allies first.

On other foreign policy issues, Mrs. Clinton indicated that there will be continuity. Six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs, as well as bilateral negotiations, will go on, she said.

“On Israel, you cannot negotiate with Hamas until it renounces violence, recognizes Israel and agrees to abide by past agreements,” she said, echoing the Bush administration’s policy. “That is just for me an absolute.”

She said, however, that Mr. Obama will lift travel and remittance restrictions for Cubans visiting relatives on the island, as pledged during the campaign. She also promised to rebuild the arms-control and nonproliferation bureaus at the State Department, which she said have been weakened by the current administration.

Mrs. Clinton, who most recently was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said “foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology.”

She won praise from her fellow senators and demonstrated knowledge and understanding of all issues they raised.

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and new chairman of the committee, praised Mrs. Clinton as “extraordinarily capable,” smart and a figure with “global stature” and a “quick and impressive grasp of detail.”

Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican and the committee’s ranking member, also had kind words, saying she has “impressive skills and compassion,” as well as long-standing relationships with foreign leaders.

The hearing lasted five hours, much shorter than the hearing for Condoleezza Rice four years ago, which involved two days of intense and sometimes hostile questioning by Democrats. Mrs. Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, sat behind her.

In the only critical note, Mr. Lugar and other senators brought up contributions from foreign donors to the foundation of Mrs. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, that might give the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“The bottom line is that even well-intentioned foreign donations carry risk for United States foreign policy. The only certain way to eliminate this risk going forward is for the Clinton Foundation to forswear new foreign contributions when Senator Clinton becomes secretary of state,” Mr. Lugar said.

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