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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Sidebar on Smart Power

Bureau of Resource Management
November 15, 2010


Photo showing Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates being briefed at the Korean border of the Demilitarized Zone in a UN truce village building, July 21, 2010.

Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates being briefed at the Korean border of the Demilitarized Zone in a UN truce village building, July 21, 2010. ©AP Image

At the dawn of the 21st Century, the United States faces a broad and complex array of challenges to our national security, including ongoing wars and regional conflicts, the global economic crisis, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, climate change, worldwide poverty, food insecurity, and pandemic disease. Military force may sometimes be necessary to protect our people and our interests but diplomacy and development are equally important in creating conditions for a peaceful, stable, and prosperous world.

The 2010 National Security Strategy states, “We must balance and integrate all elements of American power and update our national security capacity for the 21st Century. We must maintain our military’s conventional superiority while enhancing its capacity to defeat asymmetric threats. Our diplomacy and development capabilities must be modernized and our civilian expeditionary capacity strengthened to support the full breadth of our priorities.” As part of a “Smart Power” approach, the Administration has reinvigorated U.S. foreign policy with robust diplomacy and strengthened our traditional alliances, built new partnerships, and elevated development to equal status with diplomacy and defense, recognizing that development is central to solving global problems. Smart Power for the Department and USAID translates into specific policy approaches in five areas. The Department and USAID will:

  • Update and create vehicles for cooperation with our partners;
  • Pursue principled engagement with those who disagree with us;
  • Elevate development as a core pillar of American power;
  • Integrate civilian and military action in conflict areas; and
  • Leverage key sources of American power, including our economic strength and the power of our example.

On September 22, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, the first of its kind by a U.S. administration. The directive charts a course for development, diplomacy, and defense to mutually reinforce and complement one another in an integrated comprehensive approach to national security. With Smart Power, diplomacy and development are indispensable in the forward defense of America’s interests in a world shaped by growing economic integration and fragmenting political power, by the rise of emerging powers and the persistent weakness of fragile states, by the potential of globalization and risks from transnational threats, and by the challenges of hunger, poverty, disease, and global climate change. The successful pursuit of diplomacy and development is essential to advancing our national security objectives: security, prosperity, respect for universal values, and a just and sustainable international order.

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