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. 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….

  2. How about a Secretary of Peace? I know someone looking for a job who would love fill that position.

  3. Rafflaw, I would want someone who is willing to consider both sides, war and peace, not just war as the answer.

  4. 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.

  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. 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 . . .

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

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