Why Is The Senate Hobbling American Diplomacy?


Op-Ed Contributor


Published on 09 July 2014


by John Kerry

(WireNews+Co)

Washington, D.C.

John Kerry
John Kerry

Boko Haram’s horrifying abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria ignited universal calls for help to “bring back our girls.” President Barack Obama responded with urgency, but lost in the story is that one tool the United States would like to have at our disposal is hampered by the absence of U.S. ambassadors in neighboring Cameroon and Niger.

Both embassies have been without ambassadors for more than eight months. That means we lost eight months when we would have had full-strength, highest-level capacity to build greater regional cooperation and trust to combat the rising threat from this brutal extremist group. Eight months when U.S. advice and training could have helped equip these critical countries to better help themselves. Eight months when we could have provided better assistance to respond to a moral outrage.

This is not an isolated example. The United States continues to operate without a complete diplomatic toolbox to exert our leadership and advance our security and economic interests across the globe, because a broken Senate confirmation process has left us without permanent ambassadors in 40 countries.

The nominees for these jobs, including Niger and Cameroon, are victims of a confirmation backlog that grows with each passing day. It leaves too many of our best and brightest — particularly career Foreign Service officers — languishing on the sidelines instead of being on the ground fighting to protect and promote our interests.

Who are these diplomats? Fifty-three State Department nominees are pending before the Senate. Thirty-seven of them have been approved by the Foreign Relations Committee and could be confirmed immediately with a simple vote. The majority of the nominees, 35 in all, are apolitical career diplomats, and none of them are controversial.

There is a solution staring us in the face — and that answer is the powerful example of how military nominees are traditionally treated by the Senate. The administration’s military nominees are confirmed quickly and en bloc, which is the proper way to handle them. For America to play a strong role in the world, we need equal treatment for diplomats. The Senate should carve out State’s career nominees and expedite their confirmation just as it does for military promotions.

Make no mistake: Vacancies in so many world capitals send a dangerous message to allies and adversaries alike about America’s engagement. This perception makes it much more difficult to do the nonpartisan work at the heart of U.S. foreign policy — defending the security of our nation, promoting our values and helping our businesses compete to create American jobs back home.


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Posted 2014-07-09 15:27:00