As incoming Secretary of State, Kerry should continue Clinton’s diplomacy

The beginning of February marked the beginning of John Kerry’s term as Secretary of State. Now, for the first time in eight years, the position will be filled by a man. It was a bittersweet moment for many Americans who have enthusiastically supported Hillary Clinton in all her diplomatic travels. Though it is sad to see her go, the nation has to stand behind Kerry, who has acknowledged that he has “big heels to fill.”

Witnessing Clinton’s political journey for the past six years has been inspiring. She epitomizes the quality of making the best of what some might call a bad situation. Losing the Democratic nomination for the presidency in the 2008 election didn’t stop her. Cleary President Obama saw the kind of tenacity she could bring to his cabinet. She has faced an abundance of sexist comments in the media about her hair, her clothing choices, her apparently haggard appearances and all the other ways in which she has supposedly failed to look perfectly feminine. Recently she was even critiqued by opponents for “avoiding” questions about an attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya. I guess neither a blood clot nor a concussion is a good excuse.

Hillary’s focus during her time as Secretary of State was often on issues of women and children, who tend to be overlooked when diplomats discuss warring nations. She founded the Office of Global Women’s Issues as a way to draw attention to the rape of and violence against women that is prevalent in many nations. She has also discussed human trafficking in great detail and met with many foreign ministers with whom she became familiar during her time as First Lady. The other topic that tends to come up when summarizing her past four years is her travel. It is well known that she has visited over 100 countries and flown close to one million miles.

All of her infamous diplomatic journeys appear to be something Kerry intends to replicate. He has already planned a trip to the Middle East, with expected stops including Egypt and Israel. Kerry has also spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about relations between the two countries and recent elections held in Israel.

Yet Kerry seems to be building off what some considered a sour note in Hillary’s term. On September 11, 2012, an attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya took the lives of several Americans, including Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya. Many Republican senators seemed unsure of how much information Hillary had about possible threats to the embassy prior to the attack. Clinton defended herself, saying that although she took responsibility for the incident, she had received no indication that additional security was needed in Libya. When it was announced that Kerry would replace Clinton as Secretary of State, he made it clear that his focus would be to keep America safe from outside threats.

Though this is an understandable position to take, given the loss of American lives so recently, I cannot help but worry that the nation might return to an “us vs. them” dichotomy in foreign relations. There is a constant battle over how much authority the U.S. should have over international issues, especially in those nations that appear unstable and influenced by terrorist groups. I appreciated Clinton’s approach of meeting with leaders of such areas as well as taking the time to understand the way that people are affected on a day-to-day basis and to set up institutions that assist those whose voices aren’t heard. My hope is that Kerry continues to pursue this form of diplomacy.

The other question that everyone seems to be asking is, “Will she run?” Many assume that Clinton is resigning to prepare for a 2016 campaign for the presidency. Though this seems logical, and Clinton would certainly have a great deal of support, she may also be ready to take a long break. In several interviews Clinton has brushed off the question, stating that she is too tired to even think about it. Personally I cannot imagine the sleep deprivation she has endured. I know how I feel at the end of finals week, and I don’t even leave the Vassar campus.

What’s more important now is not the speculation but rather the issues that lie ahead, such as recent threats from North Korea and the ongoing civil war in Syria. The Senate’s bipartisan support for John Kerry, demonstrated in the 94-3 Senate vote confirming his nomination, looks promising for future negotiations. In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait for whatever surprises Hillary Clinton has in store.


—Meaghan Hughes ‘15 is a Psychology major and the Sports Editor for The Miscellany News.

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