On Wednesday July 15th, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton gave a major speech at the Council for Foreign Relations - a major foreign policy think-tank in the United States.  It was an opportune moment for a major speech on the course of American foreign policy.  President Obama had just returned from his 4th major leadership Summit since assuming the Presidency.  And as I pointed out in a recent blog post, “Speaking of Architecture - A Concluding Obama Comment at  L’Aquila” - the President began to openly comment on the current global governance structure - in particular the Gx process - in his last news conference at the G8 L’Aquila Summit in Italy.  And, Hillary herself was preparing to undertake a trip to India - a major emerging great power in the G5 constellation of powers -China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico.

In her speech, Secretary Clinton, declared that the US was determined to build this, “Architecture of Global Cooperation,” which she stated required the US to, “devise the right policies and use the right tools.”  Now what is this “Architecture ofGlobal Cooperation.”  The speech provided some hints yet remains frustratingly vague.

Clinton signaled that the new American foreign policy is going to be made up of the following approaches:

  • updating and or creating new institutions for international cooperation with partners;
  • proceeding to engage those who disagree with the US - read that immediately as North Korea and Iran;
  • ‘development’ will be elevated to a major aspect of American foreign policy action;
  • the US will better integrate military and civilian action in conflict areas - read that as Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • better leveraging of key aspects of American power  - economic power and power generally - in the service of American foreign policy.

It is evident that this Administration is promoting a new multilateral action - one which they see as multipartner rather than multipolar.  Officials have begun to use this phrase - multipartner in many speeches.  As Clinton sees it the multipartner approach :

“… will lead by inducing greater cooperation among a greater number of actors and reducing competition, tilting the balance away from a multi-polar world and toward a multi-partner world.”

Now the Secretary of State recognizes that not all countries will accept this approach and in some cases the coalition will remain a power coalition designed to constrain or deter adversaries.  But to the extent she can, she and the Administration will bring the right tools and policies in a principled but pragmatic approach to create a common-sense policy. Somehow, this vision seems an awful lot like working with ‘friend and foe’ to advance the global governance agenda.  Good to find the US willing to extend the cooperation agenda but unclear that the conflicts of interest - Russia, Iran, North Korea - are likely to remain unresolved.

What then of the architecture of global cooperation?  On the substance side it is evident that the Secretary of State opens the agenda up - she pointedly notes that the China-US bilateral - meeting later in the month in Washington is  both an economic and strategic security one with a key rising power. This is potentially a serious effort to engage the Chinese but a small suspicion remains that this is more of an inter agency battle with Treasury to reengage State in the economic arena.  We need to watch the meeting closely later this month.

Like President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, acknowledges that the global and regional institutions built most formidably after the World War II are no longer adequate and they must be, “transformed and reformed.”   And like Obama, Clinton suggests - repeating Obama - what is needed are institutions that:

“… combine the efficiency and capacity for action with inclusiveness from the U.N. to the World Bank, from the IMF to the G-8 and the G-20, from the OAS and the Summit of the Americas to the ASEAN and APEC, all these and other institutions have a role to play.  But their continued vitality and relevance depend on their legitimacy and representativeness and the ability of their members to act swiftly and responsibly when problems arise.”

But what is that?  It can’t be all these organizations - or can it? And if it is how does the agenda move forward?  And what of the critical dimensions - effectiveness, legitimacy and representativeness.  Yet other critical dimensions -  if leaders are to be believed - include also “equality and informality”.  The vessel of the “Architecture of Global Cooperation”  has been declared but the structure and contact remain maddeningly unclear.  The time to clarify is fast approaching.

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