U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton resigned from office, ending her first term under U.S. President Barack Obama. John Kerry, who has no less experience or renown abroad, replaced the head Democratic diplomat.
The differences between the two are negligible, but that does not mean that we will see another Hillary in one of the Senate’s oldest Democratic senators and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He ran against George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election, was one of the most informed politicians regarding the Arab region and was seen by many as the engineer for U.S. relations with the rising forces of political Islam, especially the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Kerry’s political value has exceeded that of Hillary, though the president himself acknowledged that she was knowledgeable, sophisticated, capable and pragmatic. This is evident in his relatively smooth Senate confirmation hearing, compared to that of the secretary of defense nominee, Chuck Hagel, who took Arab positions on the Israeli conflict and the Iranian nuclear situation. This confirms that Kerry plays nice and does not deviate from the script.
The confirmation of the new secretary of state will likely constitute a milestone in American politics, but he will probably not succumb to the fatal errors occurring under Clinton, particularly the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the subsequent misleading of American lawmakers through Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, who handled the situation unprofessionally, to say the least.
The issues before Kerry are very important and may be harder than those that faced Hillary. On the one hand, U.S.-Russia relations face uncertainty, as do all Western and European relations. There is also the end of the “Decade of War,” which the president wishes to address in his second term, and the escalation of Arab regional crises, ranging from instability in Egypt and North Africa, the Palestinian cause, the successful political end to the Syrian crisis and the issue of a nuclear Iran.
The transition is fraught with pending issues needing to be resolved, abuses in foreign policies needing new and realistic solutions, particularly as the changes do not simply affect the Arab world, but the entire globe, although there would presumably be less fuss and chaos as the world achieves a global balance of power. It is expected that Kerry, who, on his first day, called to meet with his staff, will implement landmark policies authorized by the administration concerning global issues. However, his foreign policy will be unlikely to cause revolutionary change due to the constraints of the U.S. administration, lobbyists and special interest groups, and his party’s Republican opponents.
Regardless, Washington will place the Palestinian issue first, followed by the explosive issues concerning the Arab region and their relationship to those rising powers. By this will all subsequent change be measured.