JOHN FORBES KERRY AT THE STATE DEPARTMENT: A COMMENT
"Barack Obama has nominated John Kerry to be the next US secretary of state, marking the first step in an overhaul of the president’s national security team for his second term. Mr Kerry, a Vietnam veteran and Massachusetts senator who was 120,000 votes in Ohio away from being president of the US in 2004, will succeed Hillary Clinton after what is expected to be a relatively trouble-free confirmation. The selection of Mr Kerry brings to the state department a politician who first won national attention in 1971 when he told the senate foreign relations committee that the war in Vietnam was a “mistake”. Mr Kerry later came to chair that same committee and has become the epitome of the country’s foreign policy establishment....Mr Kerry’s nomination was seen as inevitable when Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, withdrew her name from consideration last week after being criticised for comments she made about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. A Massachusetts senator since 1984, Mr Kerry’s nearly three decades on the senate foreign relations committee have allowed him to build up extensive relationships with foreign leaders, the sorts of contacts that Mr Obama sometimes lacks. Friends and former aides say he has long coveted the position of secretary of state. Mr Kerry has acted as an informal envoy for the administration – at sensitive moments in Afghanistan during the 2009 elections and in Pakistan after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. He will take over at the state department at a time when the US faces complicated and dangerous challenges, from the nuclear programmes in North Korea and Iran to the civil war in Syria. Like Mr Hagel, Mr Kerry is considered to be cautious about the use of military force, which might make him more reluctant to advocate US intervention in places such as Syria than Ms Rice might have been. A former Senate aide said one of Mr Kerry’s core foreign policy beliefs was an idea that the US has “no permanent enemies”. Mr Kerry’s influence over policy will depend heavily on the sort of relationship that he has with the White House, which controlled a large part of the foreign policy agenda in Mr Obama’s first term. Although Mr Kerry was an early backer of Mr Obama’s presidential bid, he lacks the close personal relationship that Ms Rice enjoys with the president. However, that distance could allow."Geoff Dyer,"Kerry nominated to replace Clinton." The Financial Times. 21 December 2012, in www.ft.com.
"Lord Home is clearly a man who represents the old, governing class at its best and those who take a reasonably impartial view of English history know how good that can be. He is not ambitious in the sense of wanting to scheme for power although not foolish enough to resist honour when it comes to him. Had he been of another generation he would have been of the Grenadiers and the 1914 heroes. He gives that impression by a curious mixture of great courtesy, and even of yielding to pressure, with underlying rigidity on matters of principle".Harold Macmillan, "Memorandum." 15 October 1963. The Independent. Originally published in "You Never Had it so Bad." 1st January 1995, in www.independent.co.uk. In nominating John Forbes Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be the next American Secretary of State, the American President has no doubt done the state some service. While it would be an overstatement to opinion that Senator Kerry is the 'best candidate' for the position (probably the best 'candidate' for the position among members of the Democratic Party, would be former Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott perhaps), he is, given the overall situation well suited indeed to be the next holder of the office. It would be perhaps a bit of an exaggeration to say of Senator Kerry what the late Earl of Stockton, said about his successor as Prime Minister, the 14th Earl of Home in 1963. But not by much. Indeed it would be a truism, that Senator Kerry and Senator McCain represents two shades of an older American political tradition among its governing elites. Men for whom service to the state, in almost a Hegelian sense, was a higher order of duty than the mere quest to make money. Something which of course is now almost completely absent from the succeeding generations of American politicians. Viz: the current American President as well as President Clinton, not to speak of his wife, the current Secretary of State....The fact that we have avoided having the ultra-egregious Susan Rice as Secretary of State is in itself enough to thank Senator Kerry for accepting the position. Which is not to say that Senator Kerry is going to be a Bismarck or Metternich redivivus. Since of course the real chief diplomat in the current American Administration, nay almost any recent American Administration has always been the American Chief Executive. Whether or not Senator Kerry can change that calculus is at this point in time an imponderable proposition. We can only hope that someone with his known penchant for personal diplomacy, will be able to utilize his skills in negotiating the various sharp corners which American and indeed Western diplomacy has to deal with currently. In particular the crisis in Syria, the menace of the China in the Far East as well as the dangers of Persia acquiring nuclear weapons. Which is not to say that all or indeed any of these situations can merely be dealt with by 'pure diplomacy'. It is much more likely that a mixture of diplomacy and force, or the threat of force is the very best means of resolving these ongoing problems. It is reassuring though that someone of Senator Kerry's background and experience will be handling matters at the State Department in the next four years.