November 8, 2012

Clinton's Replacement Frontrunners: Kerry, Rice, Donilon

Three poor choices being floated for Hillary Clinton's replacement at the State Department.
WASHINGTON — Foreign policy wasn’t the issue that got President Barack Obama re-elected Tuesday, but with upheaval in the Middle East, a war to end in Afghanistan and strained relations with superpowers Russia and China, it’s sure to play an outsized role in shaping his legacy as he enters a hard-won second term.

One of Obama’s first and most crucial tasks will be naming a successor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who’s vowed to step down after this year. Still reeling from his administration’s botched handling of the deadly terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets in Libya, Obama is no doubt seeking a deft and versatile replacement to guard and advance U.S. interests in a volatile world, especially in the Middle East, where creeping fundamentalism undermines longstanding U.S. influence.

“This so-called Arab Spring has not run its course and, in the short to medium term, and I certainly mean to the end of this decade, I think it’s going to be very tumultuous,” said Richard Armitage, who served as deputy secretary of state under President George W. Bush. “You are going to have volatile, weak leadership governments that are Islamic leaning. That is not necessarily going to end up that way. But it’s going to occupy an increasing amount of our time.”

Among those rumored to be under consideration for the top diplomatic slot are Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. Rice’s star has fallen somewhat since her role in spreading incorrect information – she says unwittingly – in the aftermath of the Libya attacks that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American personnel on Sept. 11.

Clinton’s replacement will inherit headaches in virtually every corner of the world: the unresolved debt crisis in Europe, the rise of militant Islamist factions in transitional Arab states, a nuclear showdown with Iran, a moribund Palestinian-Israeli peace process, trade disputes with China, looming wars in Africa, disagreements with Russia over missile defense and Syria, and a backlash to the U.S. drug war in Latin America.

Click here for an overview of Donilon's compliance with Washington's status quo in the Middle East.

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