In a landmark speech yesterday, top US diplomat Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State stressed the importance of economic and social development globally as the surest way to end terrorism and ensure the cooperation of states in achieving common goals. Speaking at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Clinton called development a "strategic, economic and moral imperative" for the US, bold terms seldom heard with such vigor since John F. Kennedy launched the Peace Corps almost a half century ago. Then, today, her renewed Middle East diplomatic efforts were announced, having told reporters that "we're starting this new year with that level of commitment and we're going to follow through and hopefully we can see this as a positive year in this long process."
Unfortunately for Clinton and US foreign affairs generally, President Obama is stealing nearly all of their thunder, inadvertently (or purposefully?) belittling their initiatives almost to the point of ineffectiveness, and certainly to the point of being sidestepped in the media. More coordination and cooperation between the two former rivals would benefit the US and the world. Yet, despite the ongoing financial and economic crises, the U.S. aid budget increased nine percent in 2010 to over fifty billion dollars. However, what we view as the world's most pressing short-term and long-term problem, that one billion people worldwide are hungry, was not directly addressed by Clinton in her aid speech. She did have the following to say: "We cannot be assured" of promoting a safer world "when one-third of humankind live in conditions that offer them little chance of building better lives for themselves or their children."
On the Middle East diplomatic front, the rhetoric was even more diluted and the plans even more convoluted. What became clear is that in the coming weeks, another flurry of meetings will take place in Washington and European capitals based on a series of letters of intent on the parts of Palestinians and Israelis. But the fundamental point of contention, whether the pre-1967 war borders or Israel's occupation of their insides since will be the basis for territorial peace agreements, has not been resolved. Meanwile the contested West Bank continues to be settled by Israeli extremists. All in all, throwing more money at economic and social development globally without detailing how they will solve the hunger and other pressing problems, and encouraging dialogue when it will apparently only be used express disagreement are hopeful but not audacious current events creating a more peaceful 2010.