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Charting the Historic Significance of Hillary Rodham Clinton (April 2017): The “Hillary Doctrine,” Stateswoman, and American Foreign Policy

By Angela Fritz

The “Hillary Doctrine,” Stateswoman, and American Foreign Policy

The overarching theme within many of the books by and about Hillary Clinton is “political resiliency.” Her willingness to accept a position in President Barak Obama’s administration exemplifies her efforts to recalculate her political course, stepping into a role that propelled her to a national and international stage. The works discussing Clinton’s role as secretary of state bring to light an overview of the complexity of US foreign policy in a post-9/11 world, and offer a continuing narrative of Clinton’s leadership on human rights and global feminism. The authors of these works measure Clinton’s legacy as secretary of state not in terms of any one grand event, but through the steadfast enhancement of diplomacy and development, alongside defense, as part of an overall extension of American power.

In HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes begin their analysis in 2008 with Clinton’s reluctant acceptance of the position of secretary of state after refusing the position three times. In addition to her strong advocacy of women’s rights, Clinton’s accomplishments as secretary of state include US engagement with the Asia-Pacific region, the opening of Myanmar, and NATO’s intervention in Libya. During her tenure as secretary of state, Clinton traveled 950,733 miles to 112 countries. For The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beruit to the Heart of American Power, Kim Ghattas, a BBC reporter who covered the State Department as part of the press corps, traveled with Secretary Clinton over many of these miles. Ghattas draws on interviews with Clinton’s inner circle to present a personal glimpse into the diplomatic processes, illuminating discussions on Iranian sanctions and the 2010 Wikileaks scandal.

No other First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt has spoken out on human rights more than Hillary Clinton. It is not surprising, then, that a bibliography of Hillary Clinton would detail her advocacy for women’s rights across the globe. For future scholars, her speeches and writings as First Lady on this topic will be held in special regard. From her high profile participation in the Beijing UN Conference in 1995, where she declared that “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” to her overseas tours promoting initiatives on women’s education, health care, literacy, and economic opportunity, Clinton has been committed to women’s empowerment. Clinton’s role as secretary of state gave her expanded resources to reaffirm her commitment to global feminism.

Although Secretary Madeline Albright and Secretary Condoleezza Rice had supported expanding women’s economic and educational rights, Clinton was the first US secretary of state to declare that “the subjugation of women” was a direct threat to the national security of the US. This declaration has become known as “The Hillary Doctrine,” which was formally incorporated into the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review of US foreign policy in 2010. Under the leadership of Clinton, the US committed itself to the proposition that the empowerment of women and girls is a stabilizing force for peace in the world and should be a cornerstone of American foreign policy. In The Hillary Doctrine: Sex and American Foreign Policy, Valerie Hudson and Patricia Leidl analyze the challenges and controversy that this commitment engendered while Clinton was secretary of state; they also discuss how the doctrine affected both the US and other nations. Dinesh Sharma notes that Hillary Clinton’s reoccurring message during her tenure as secretary of state was reminding leaders that the security of women and the security of the state were inextricably linked. In The Global Hillary: Women’s Political Leadership in Cultural Contexts, Sharma presents a collection of essays by leaders in the field of political science and history to place Clinton as a nexus for political development, democracy, and “national security feminism.”

An overview of Clinton’s years of as secretary of state would not be complete without focusing on the special alliance and strong relationship between Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, CIA Director Leon Panetta, and President Obama. Gates’s Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War and Panetta’s Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace are essential readings in understanding this relationship. In Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama, and the Twilight Struggle over American Power, Mark Landler addresses the balance between diplomacy (soft power) and military force (hard power) by comparing and contrasting the leadership approaches of President Obama and Secretary Clinton. Landler reveals a compelling analysis of the relationship between the two, arguing that the use of military power and soft diplomacy is grounded in Clinton’s and Obama’s life experiences, which inform two distinct worldviews.