Monday, November 12, 2012

Successors at DoD, State and CIA

The Washington Post is suggesting that Susan Rice, the current US Ambassador to the UN, will be President Obama's next Secretary of State (Clinton wants to retire). The Post is also reporting that Senator John Kerry is being actively considered to replace Leon Panetta as Defense Secretary (Panetta wants to go home to California). Both Clinton and Panetta have been impressive Secretaries who require worthy successors. 

These reports concern me a little.

First the Secretary of State. Susan Rice is evidently very bright. But her record at the UN has been far from stellar. Assad remains entrenched in power, China and Russia continue to prevent truly effective sanctions against both Assad and Iran. In addition, Rice's comments on Benghazi were poorly conceived and misled the American people (though I do not believe these comments were made with malicious intent). While many foreign policy powers are beyond the reach of an Ambassador, I lack confidence in Rice's record. Secretary of State Clinton's replacement must be an individual who possesses a strong reputation. I am not convinced that Ambassador Rice sufficiently meets that criteria. If I were the President (and IF I held Obama's foreign policy views), the top candidates on my list for State would be John Kerry, Colin Powell, Bill Clinton and Dick Lugar. All four of these individuals are extremely well informed on international relations and US foreign policy. All four would devote their focus to the major responsibilities of the office (they wouldn't get sucked up into the beltway bs flow).

With regards to the Secretary of Defense, I do not believe that John Kerry would make a good choice. Unlike with foreign policy, Kerry lacks a substantive background in defense issues and from my perspective would be far stronger interacting with diplomats than with generals. If I were the President (and IF I shared Obama's defense policy) I would have three names on my list. Colin Powell, Andrew Exum, John Nagl. Ignoring the fact that Exum would probably make the youngest SecDef in history, all three candidates would bring the drive, experience and intellectual understanding needed to effectively manage the US drawdown in Afghanistan and re-shape the US Military for the post Afghanistan-Iraq war environment.

On the CIA Director position, the President should short list John Brennan, Mike Morell (to go permanent), Dianne Feinstein and Cofer Black.

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