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Hearing Holds Clues to Clinton’s Foreign Policy Approach

Sen. Hillary Clinton took questions on Iraq, Iran and other foreign policy issues in her confirmation hearing Tuesday. Analysts examine what she may face as the nation's top envoy.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    For more now on what to expect from a Secretary of State Clinton, we turn to Joseph Nye, dean of the Kennedy School at Harvard — he held intelligence and Pentagon posts in the Clinton administration — and Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank. She serves as an informal adviser to the U.N. officials — to U.N. officials on Middle East issues.

    So, Phyllis Bennis, what did we learn today from Hillary Clinton at this hearing about what kind of secretary of state she would be?

  • PHYLLIS BENNIS, Fellow, Institute For Policy Studies:

    Well, I think, Gwen, that we learned that her stated commitment to making diplomacy the vanguard of foreign policy is a very important commitment, but it's one that is already somewhat undermined by specifics that she gave, for example, the idea of not talking to Hamas until certain criteria that externally are met.

    At a moment of crisis, you need to talk to both sides. She said that we are not giving up on peace in the Middle East. But it seems to me that you are giving up on peace if you refuse to talk to both sides. It means you're even giving up on a cease-fire.

    So, I think that was a bit problematic. She also said very little about the fundamental point that president-elect Obama had made such a stirring commitment to during his campaign, which was this idea that we need to change the mind-set that led to war.

    He was very clear about that, and it was, in my view, one of the key reasons that his support grew so exponentially, that it wasn't only about ending the war in Iraq. It was also about changing the mind-set.

    And it seems to me that Hillary Clinton, as we heard today, is not representing change. She's representing that same mind-set that leads to war, despite some words that indicate to the contrary.

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