Secretary of State or Secretary of War?

Submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

We have seen the Republicans falling all over themselves to claim that the UN Ambassador, Susan Rice, should not be our next Secretary of State following her statements in our Libyan Ambassador’s death at the hands of terrorists.  Former GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain were at the forefront of the attacks on Ambassador Rice.  “Shortly after Romney conceded his loss earlier this month, McCain set his sites on UN Ambassador Susan Rice, a likely nominee to succeed Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Pointing to several television appearances where Rice communicated the intelligence community’s as-yet imperfect understanding of what happened during the Benghazi attacks, McCain promised that “I will do everything in my power to block her from becoming Secretary of State.” ‘ Think Progress

Now it seems that not only has McCain backed off his promises to block Ambassador Rice’s rumored nomination to succeed retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but a prominent Republican is actually advocating her as a better Secretary of State candidate than Senator John Kerry because it was alleged that Kerry is against War!  “Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol on Sunday suggested that Republican senators should confirm United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice if she is nominated as secretary of state because she is more likely to support going to war than Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). ”  Raw Story  

I realize that Mr. Kristol has been proven to be wrong in many of his predictions, but I was actually more intrigued by his reasoning.  He is suggesting that the Secretary of State should be a fervent supporter of going to war as opposed to using the mechanisms of Diplomacy to avoid wars!  Should any potential nominee for Secretary of State be disqualified because that nominee favors avoiding wars, if at all possible?

Where would our country be if we followed Mr. Kristol’s argument?  One possible answer is that we would be embroiled in another unnecessary war like Iraq.  What do you think are the proper qualifications for a Secretary of State?  I think that a Secretary of State should be a firm believer in the diplomatic process and any experience in that process and/or foreign policy matters would be a plus.

While I would not disqualify a Secretary of State nominee for being an advocate for a particular military engagement, I would want our Secretary of State to consider diplomacy first.  If you look at our recent Secretary’s of State, most of them had foreign policy and/or diplomacy experience.  Of course, one could argue that being a Senator, even with Foreign Relations Committee experience alone is not enough to qualify a person to be Secretary of State.  Just like being a former Four Star General alone, may not be enough to qualify a person to be Secretary of State.

Can you describe what experience you would require your Secretary of State should have?  Should a Secretary of State be a professional Diplomat or is the position more administrative than diplomatic?  Should Sen. Kerry’s opposition to some military engagements be a detriment to his possible nomination?  What do you think?

34 thoughts on “Secretary of State or Secretary of War?

  1. rafflaw,

    Does anybody pay attention to anything Kristol says these days? Hasn’t the man made himself irrelevant because he has–as you said–been wrong about so many things in the past?

  2. rafflaw:

    Kristol is just a nasty little neo-con. who gives a hoot about what he thinks.

    that whole group should just go pound sand along with something else.

    That is the real problem with the republican party.

  3. Since our unannounced foreign policy is continuous war to reach world hegemony, improving our empire position, gain trade advantages favorable to international companies, maintain control of nations through control of one dictator each……etc.; I would say that what we think is completely irrelevant.

    Rice does not smell good in Wikipedia. Neither does Kerry. What to do? Screw both. Poster wonks both.

  4. raff,

    Kristol’s argument (such as it is) is pure neocon dogma. They’re war profiteers. You expected a reasonable and sane statement from him about what qualities our senior diplomat should possess? With him, it’s always . . .

  5. @rafflaw: Nobody seems to be answering your question!

    For me, Secretary of State is a diplomatic position and I would prefer somebody with at least a few years of experience (preferably more) either leading negotiations or at minimum with years of being privy to the gritty details of such negotiations.

    We have the Joint Chiefs to advise on war, and the Secretary of State should be willing to play the card of war or threaten it to get our way, but first and foremost I think the position is one of getting what the President wants by non-military means. Which may in fact be bribery, horse-trading, the granting of reflected glory and credit, state visits, etc, but in my opinion the Secretary of State is the Chief of the Hallway Handshake; the way things really get done in both corporate and political dealings.

  6. P.S. I am not sure it makes much difference whether the Secretary of State advocates for war or not; they serve the President and s/he is who matters. As a point of logic, given my opinion of the job of a Secretary of State, advocating for war is an admission of an inability to get the job done by non-military means. Which could be taken as an admission of incompetence in negotiation and influencing decisions without resorting to force.

  7. Is there something about SOS and the name of Rice……

    If she is the pick of the president then…. She should be confirmed…. Period…. Just remember the SOS is I think 4th in line of succession….. That’s a powerful position to be in…..

    Great article raff….

  8. raff,

    not Da Bears! We Browns have been fumbling through the wilderness for so long … please let us enjoy this one small victory over our hated rival, gag, the Steelers.

  9. Can the President do the following. Wait for Congress to adjourn between sessions. Hilary resigns. He appoints Rice as a Recess Appointment. Then he nominates her. When they finally get around to voting on her she will have been flying around the globe fixing this or that. When fat jaw McCain votes against her he will look like the dumb schmuck that he is. When Hillbilly from South Carolina votes against her he will look like Jeffrey Leonard with one flap down. Can the President appoint her while Congress is not in session? Inquiring minds want to know. I alslo want to know what McCain has in his left cheek. It looks like he is sucking on a golf ball or something. I also want to know if Lindsey Graham really talks with all that cornpone when he is not on tv. Its like he does it for the JoeBobs up in Possum Holler.

  10. I would not want Kerry in Defense or State. I support Susan Rice. Hilary has done a great job. I dont understand the political calculation of McCain and Graham on this Rice situation. They just appear so bald and calculating. They should have picked a real issue. Why dont they call for the evacuation of embassy staff in all of these pirate countries aroudn the world. They are not safe places and can not be made safe or adequately defended. There are probably twenty countries that are unsafe. Here are some I have been to that are not safe for an embassy: India, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Korea, Egypt, sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Greece, Ireland, Cuba, Mexico, Columbia, Nicaruagua, To name a few. McCain needs to concentrate on fixing that cancer in the cheek,

  11. You do realize our Navy, last I saw, had a 17 on tonnage (meaning it takes 17 other nations to match the tonnage). IIRC, Britain at it’s height was a 3 or a 4. So why not war? Naval power allows projection of power. /sarc (especially if you understand that tonnage is not an exacting measurement of ability to fight naval battles in this day of missiles).

    As for Rice, Secretary of State has a lot to do with diplomacy. The UN Ambassador serves a different purpose than Secretary of State, and there is a lot about how her temperament might work as UN Ambassador but not well as Secretary of State. It has to work within as well without.

    Ignoring Kristol, why conjoining this in terms of Rice or anyone? “I think that a Secretary of State should be a firm believer in the diplomatic process and any experience in that process and/or foreign policy matters would be a plus.” Any experience in the latter of process and/or foreign policy matters doesn’t mean that the former holds, and her position at the UN doesn’t mean either holds in terms of Secretary of State. I could have all sorts of experience in the process while deploring it. I could be a firm believer in the diplomatic process in the UN, but not in the Department of State.

    In the vetting process, too often what is said is only to survive the vetting process. I’ll let the Senate sort this out. After all, it is a political appointment.

  12. Great article, to the point, Rafflaw.
    The Secretary of State should be a diplomat, very skilled at persuasion and at delivering the sense of what the government of the U.S.A. desires and expects. The Secretary of State has no say in whether the U.S.A. goes to war. Congress declares war. Not the President. Not the Secretary of State.

    If war is a possibility, the Secretary of State should try to convey that to the rest of the world, if, and only if, directed to do so by the President.
    If the Secretary of State does not follow the President’s lead, in peace or war, there should be only a momentary pause, as that Secretary of State is replaced.

    Kristol’s remark indicates that the right wing has learned nothing from this last election. Still making idiotic remarks.

  13. Ariel,
    it is a political appointment with significant consequences on foreign policy. Are you suggesting that an Ambassador to the UN is not a benefit for someone nominated to be Secretary of State? I realize not everyone with experience is suited for the job, but some experience is better than none, isn’t it? Are you suggesting that Amb. Rice is not a believer in the diplomatic process at the Department of State level?

  14. Bob K.
    I think you are correct that the Right has not learned a thing from the last election cycle at the Presidential level, Senate level or House level.

  15. The Secretary of State has to be a realist, a diplomatic who can smile and glower when necessary. A powerful personality with a knowledge of history and the current lay of the land with the ability to both anticipate and respond quickly and clearly. Unfortunately neither Kerry nor Rice strike me as having those characteristics. Hillary was perfect. Not a push over, she could be counted on to be strong and reasonable . What a president she would make!

  16. CaptRatty,

    Funny, did no one amswer your question?

    As I recall, the Repubs staged a several day “session” to prevent a recess and an Obama recess appointment. Obama won, but the Repugs complained on formal grounds to no effect I believe. If memory holds.

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