Hillary Clinton spoke bluntly about Syria, North Korea and the death of Osama bin Laden at the U.S. Naval Academy Tuesday, where as the keynote speaker at the close of a foreign policy conference she revealed that none of those watching the operation that killed the al Qaeda leader last year "could breathe for 30-35 minutes."
The Secretary of State prepared remarks on U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific region for the conference, but later took questions from the young future officers about any topic.
Though most of the evening focused on current global challenges to American foreign policy, the secretary's most poignant words were about the man responsible for the largest loss of life on American soil in modern history - Osama bin Laden.
When a student asked Clinton to reflect on bin Laden's death and the process leading up to the Navy Seal mission that killed him last May, she began by talking about her time as a senator from New York during 9/11, and how many of her constituents were affected by the terror attack. She said even all those years ago, she didn't believe there wasn't "anybody in Pakistan who doesn't know where Bin Laden is."
As she gave a play-by-play account of the day Bin Laden was killed, she recalled how none of the officials in the room watching the operation, including President Obama, "could breathe for 30-35 minutes."
Clinton also shared how moved she was when she saw the spontaneous gathering of young people, mostly college students, at the gates of the White House as Obama announced Bin Laden's death. She reflected on what that announcement meant to those constituents who lost so much on 9/11.
"They could think about the future in a way they hadn't been able to before," Secretary Clinton told the students, smiling as she said that closure made her very pleased.
Earlier, one of the midshipmen asked Clinton her thoughts on the diplomatic efforts to resolve the violence in Syria. Describing the continued stand-off with Russia as "frustrating," Clinton said she expected the G-8 conference beginning tomorrow, featuring foreign ministers from eight of the world's largest economies, to be a "rough couple of days" given Russia's deep ties to the Assad regime and it's unwillingness to stop supporting Syria. Clinton threatened that the U.S. and other allies may go back to the U.N. Security Council and force Russia to either veto or abstain on a new resolution condemning the violence.
"There doesn't seem to be any other pass than that one right now," Clinton said, vowing to keep pushing for a resolution, particularly one allowing humanitarian action into the country.
It's estimated up to ten thousand people have been killed in the conflict in Syria, which continues as a deadline for a truce set by U.N. Special Envoy Kofi Annan passes.
"We are not going to give up until we can get some action," Clinton said.
The Secretary of State's keynote speech centered on U.S. Asia-Pacific policy and she called North Korea's impending satellite launch a provocation that threatens the security of the region.
Clinton said the U.S. along with Japan, South Korea, Russia and China will work in "sending a clear message to Pyongyang that true security only will come from living up to its commitments and obligations." But in contrast Clinton praised Myanmar, which she refers to as Burma, as a country that was once rogue but is now engaging with America and the world, and is better because of it.
"Much of the history of the 21 st century is being written before our eyes," Secretary Clinton said. "And a quick glance at Burma and North Korea shows that we have a deep stake in how that history plays out."