Wed Dec 19, 2012, 10:37 AM
blm (97,101 posts)
Prospect: Kerry most progressive pick for State Department
Given that foreign policy circles are among the worst in terms of gender diversity, Rice’s withdrawal from consideration is a tough blow for the representation of women and minorities in top leadership positions.
Even so, John Kerry may be a better secretary of State for progressives when it comes to philosophical approaches to military intervention. Since his highly public protest of the Vietnam War following his tour of duty there, Kerry has been a prominent voice of caution against the 2003 war in Iraq as well as the U.S. support for the Nicaraguan Contras, the first Gulf War, and the 2007 Iraq surge. Most recently, when asked whether the United States should intervene in Syria, Kerry said: “Is that the right thing to do tomorrow or the next day? I think not … the world must respond in a responsible way.”
By contrast, Rice supported the Iraq war, telling NPR in 2002 she supported the notion of "regime change" and that "Iraq has these weapons and is hiding them.” Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol saw her as a better choice for State than Kerry on the basis of her support for intervention in Libya and Syria. Her background as assistant secretary of State for African affairs during the Clinton administration’s failure to classify Rwanda as a genocide led Rice to remark: “I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required." A New York Times op-ed criticizing Rice’s record of support for repressive African regimes demonstrates that at times she overemphasized military stability at the expense of human rights.
In this environment, Kerry’s race and gender may, counter-intuitively, prove to be a symbolic advantage, allowing him to be the iconoclast in sheep’s clothing. As The Washington Post’s David Ignatius put it, Kerry is “surprisingly willing to challenge conventional wisdom …This unlikely contrarian streak would be an advantage, especially because it’s so well disguised … Kerry would find it easier to take diplomatic chances than other potential nominees, especially the younger, less experienced Rice.”
Admittedly, any secretary of State will first and foremost execute the vision of the president, and Kerry’s presumptive tenure will likely include some military actions. Yet if we want to normalize a foreign policy that combines military strength with collaboration relationships around the world to ensure citizens’ rights to security and voice in their respective governments, our best bet may be the older white guy. He’s gone up against his peers’ machismo for forty years and has nothing left to prove.
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