Senator Hillary Clinton appears today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for confirmation hearings as Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of State. We have a few questions of our own:
1. Human rights groups have criticized Israeli attacks on Gaza as disproportionate and indiscriminate, bordering on war crimes. Yet the Bush administration has encouraged Israel’s offensive, blaming Hamas for the violence. Unconditional American support in the face of Israeli brutality is one of the principal reasons so many people in the Arab world hate the United States, providing fertile ground for radical Islamist groups to grow. What measures would you take to put Israeli leaders on notice that the United States will not unconditionally support Israeli actions? What would you have the United States do to reopen serious negotiations and bring about a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians? Would you encourage the parties to resume talks where they left off at the end of Bill Clinton’s administration, when the “parameters” he set forth in December 2000 led to promising talks at Taba in January 2001?
2. Last fall, five former secretaries of state agreed that the next US president should engage in dialogue with Iran, a position that President-elect Obama seemed to embrace in his recent conversation with George Stephanopoulos. In previous statements you have taken a tougher line toward Iran, and so far in the hearings you have said you are not “taking any option off the table.” In light of the upcoming Iranian elections, the failure of American diplomacy to date and the difficult economic conditions Iran now faces, how do you plan to proceed in to implement the president-elect’s announced policy?
3. US-Russian relations deteriorated seriously in the last days of the Bush administration. Moscow believes US policy was needlessly provocative in a number of respects: in its plans for a missile defense system in Central Europe and in its support for Georgian and Ukrainian membership in NATO. President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden seemed to signal that they would continue to support Georgia’s and Ukraine’s big for NATO membership even if that means a less cooperative relationship with Russia and less Russian support for American policy toward Iran and Afghanistan. What do you believe American policy should be toward Russia and toward Georgia and Ukraine?
4. President-elect Obama has committed the United States to a buildup of forces in Afghanistan, which is not just an issue for Washington but for other NATO members. How will you deal with European, in particular German, reluctance to get more deeply drawn into the war in Afghanistan?
5. While you were first lady, you were a champion of women’s rights globally. The improvement of the conditions of women in many parts of the world may be the key to modernization. Women in Afghanistan and Pakistan in particular suffer from the denial of many basic rights and from difficult economic conditions. What will you do to help women there, as well as in other parts of the world?