Belmont Club

"As Obama Flounders, Hillary Takes Lead on Egypt ..."

Ya think? Fox reports that Hillary Clinton has called all available US ambassadors to a meeting at the State Department for a strategy session.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is convening an unprecedented mass meeting of U.S. ambassadors.

The top envoys from nearly all of America’s 260 embassies, consulates and other posts in more than 180 countries will be gathering at the State Department beginning on Monday. Officials say it’s the first such global conference.

The gathering comes at a time of crisis in Egypt that could reshape dynamics in the Middle East, fallout from leaked diplomatic documents and congressional calls for sweeping cuts in foreign aid.

According to Politico the agenda will include keynotes by Susan Rice and Admiral Mike Mullen.

The ambassadors hold meetings with their regional bureaus Monday and Tuesday. Clinton is set to address the ambassadors Wednesday about “leading through civilian power,” after a welcome from her chief of staff and counselor, Cheryl Mills. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice will then forecast the year ahead at the United Nations, and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns will do the same for the year ahead in foreign policy.

The ambassadors will also hear from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen on civilian-military operations in the 21st century, and USAID chief Raj Shah will speak on results-based development.

Although it’s nice to see the State Department reacting to events, how much staff work has been put into the meeting and will there be enough detail and process to focus such a huge meeting on the actionable items. In other words, has Hillary already sketched out a response which is going to be set before the ambassadors, or is this a brainstorming session to answer the basic question of WTF — “Win the Future”?

It’s interesting to compare the administration’s response to the crisis to one which occurred 66 years ago in the Ardennes. At the crisis of the Battle of the Bulge, Eisenhower asked how long it would take him to re-task the 3rd Army to relieve Bastogne. Patton’s answer was 48 hours. The reason he could do this was because he had anticipated that a crisis might arise and had ordered his staff to prepare contingency plans.

Finally realizing that this was a major offensive, Eisenhower sent the Airborne divisions refitting after Market-Garden to take Bastogne and Saint-Vith. The 101st Airborne, whose defense of Bastogne would become legendary, arrived by truck just hours before the town was cut off and surrounded, supported by units of the 10th armored. “Visualize the hole in a doughnut,” the 101st radioed SHAEF Headquarters in Paris, “That’s us.” Bad weather grounded the Allied air forces and prevented resupply. …

After the 101st arrived on December 18, Eisenhower asked Patton how long it would take to wheel his Third Army around 90 degrees and attack the Germans to relieve Bastogne. Patton shocked everyone by announcing he would attack in forty-eight hours. The Third Army, led by the 4th Armored Division, moved through the Ardennes in a lighting maneuver. It would take them six days to reach Bastogne.

Patton was mentally front-running the crisis. Events will soon show whether the plenary scheduled by Hillary signals decisive action or the opening cogitations of an institution caught off balance.


The meeting of ambassadors was apparently called before the Egyptian crisis in response to State’s straitened budget.  In that case it might as well be used as an opportunity to re-evaluate the crisis in the light of the Department’s reduced budget.

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