The nomination of a secretary of state gives the Senate the opportunity to probe the administration’s foreign policy priorities — and many of President Obama’s policies demand inquiry. Republicans like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who have disgracefully sniped at U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, have expressed few coherent reservations about our current course. Instead, it will be incumbent on Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — particularly Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Bob Casey (Pa.) and Tom Udall (N.M.) — to lead a responsible review.
Here are only a few of the questions that senators could ask the nominee.
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editor and publisher of the Nation magazine, vanden Heuvel writes a weekly column for The Post.
●Presidential war making: Are there any limits to the president’s war powers in the so-called war on terror? Contrary to expectations, President Obama has broadened George W. Bush’s view that the congressional resolution authorizing pursuit of al-Qaeda after 9/11 gives the president the right to attack any suspect group in any country of the world for as long as there are terrorists — or essentially forever. That prerogative is said to include the power to identify, target and kill anyone — including U.S. citizens — the president decides poses a terrorist threat to the United States.
How would the nominee reconcile this assertion with the Constitution? How would he or she suggest the Congress enforce accountability on a president who mistakenly targets and kills an innocent U.S. citizen?
●Catastrophic climate change: Does the nominee consider global warming a clear and present danger to our national security? In his inaugural address, Obama raised the hope that we would begin to “roll back the specter of a warming planet.” Some progress has been made, but the warming of the seas and melting of the glaciers have exceeded the most pessimistic warnings. Yet the United States was essentially AWOL in the most recent, failed climate negotiations in Doha. Does the new nominee foresee any change in this default?
●Global economic recovery: Does mass unemployment in the United States, recession in Europe and Japan and the risk of yet more adversarial trade policies from China require new international policies from the United States? The United States is pivoting to more austerity at home, even as economic growth here and abroad is faltering. We are headed toward a synchronized global recession with new trade and currency wars when what we need is a global synchronized recovery program. What steps would the nominee recommend to revive sustainable economic growth as a priority in global policy?
●Militarization of U.S. foreign policy: How can the State Department reclaim from the military its proper role as leader of U.S. policy abroad? The militarization of U.S. foreign policy has continued unabated in the first Obama term. Regional military commanders act as effective proconsuls, with far greater weight than ambassadors in regions across the world. Many countries know the United States only for its military bases, its military trainers or its drone attacks. Our foreign assistance budget is a global disgrace, while military spending is now higher than it was at the height of the Cold War under Ronald Reagan. What commitments have been made, if any, from the president in terms of correcting this wrongheaded imbalance?