THE BLOG
02/22/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Smart Power and the New Secretary of State

Yes, I know -- "She lost. Get over it!" That's exactly what she did. She got over it and is moving on far more quickly than many of her critics. The "robust diplomacy" she described this morning, on her first day as Secretary of State, is exactly what she is suited to deliver. Only someone who truly welcomes debate, embraces challenge, and seeks advice can further America's interest by appreciating the interests of those the Bush administration ignored, dismissed or threatened.

Smart power is not soft power, though it includes that. It is not simply genteel collaboration or compromise, but a mix of those and street fighting. It's strategic and far from myopic. It is the power we need now to end divisiveness among countries that could, given half a chance, work together for peace.

Smart power in the service of the robust diplomacy Clinton intends to implement is about listening, learning what the other side truly wants and needs rather than reliance on assumptions. Smart power disarms by violating expectations -- agreeing when that is the last thing expected and standing firm when required. At the heart of smart power is negotiation. -- not alienation.

Clinton called this morning for a sense of openness and, like President Obama, invited us to contribute. She wants to send a clear and unequivocal message that she is part of a team and that is how she will lead. Divisiveness has left "the building."

She is a master of balance. She tempered optimism with joking today. "So far we're thrilled" summed up her awareness that this is just the beginning of a long, rocky road. She knows there are those anxious to see her fail. This time, however, her failure would be ours as well. And Clinton is not about to let that happen.

She didn't want anyone to depart after her speech this morning relaxed and thinking, "Oh, good," as if somehow her becoming Secretary of State meant the battle was over. Just as she raised our expectations, she told us the job ahead is going to be hard.

And isn't that the epitome of her skill and talent? She just doesn't quit. She is often ready for the next struggle even before the dust of the last one has settled.

"Be of good cheer," she told us. "Be of strong heart," she said as one who has been. And "Don't grow weary."

We have watched candidates Obama, Clinton and Biden battle to become their party's presidential nominee. They got past their disappointment and anger to come together -- to direct their energies in the service of the same purpose. They deserve immense credit.

No matter your feelings about Hillary Clinton, she is smart power personified in the company now of others of that same ilk. There's a sense that this woman's contribution to the country is only just now getting fully underway.

Dr. Reardon also blogs at bardscove.