Many of us have spent the last few years hoping that the 2008 Presidential elections would result in the election of a U.S. President willing and able to systematically work to address the range of foreign policy challenges facing our country.
The good news is that we have such a President – the bad news is that the list of urgent issues still seems to be growing. With that reality in mind, I have spent the last few days thinking about the foreign policy/ national security team President elect Obama is starting to put together and have come to the conclusion that there is a strong case to be made for the inclusion of Gov. Bill Richardson in that team as Sec. State.
At this stage let me be clear about one thing, I am not looking to make a case against any other prospective candidate. President elect Obama is spoilt for choice in this area. From Senator Lugar to Senator Kerry to Senator Hagel, the number of talented individuals willing to serve a President committed to restoring U.S. leadership in the world is long and distinguished. The case I want to briefly lay out today is a positive one – it is the case for Bill Richardson.
When candidate for President Obama chose Joe Biden for VP I was impressed. His foreign policy strengths are clear and known to all. If we add Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to the foreign policy team (and yes I do believe he will play a role in foreign policy – specifically the Middle East) and assume that Defense Secretary Gates will remain at the Pentagon for at least a year, we start to see the growth of a team that is very strong and capable of addressing the top tier crises facing the country (the Middle East including Iraq/Iran and Afghanistan/Pakistan).
With that in mind, I believe that the next Secretary of State needs to be able to check three boxes. He or she needs to be able to hold their own on these top tier issues while bringing a complimentary skill to the table – a “value added” – to help advance the U.S. agenda in the arc from the Mideast to South Asia.
On these two issues Richardson scores highly, he is very familiar with this region and, crucially, as an individual who has honed a reputation as a trouble shooting diplomat, he can add value to the team President elect Obama is building. Thirdly, and perhaps crucially, Gov. Richardson will also strengthen the Foreign Policy team in areas where it is not as strong – he has a keen understanding of issues in the Western Hemisphere, a region virtually ignored by the Bush Administration, and has engaged in important diplomatic missions in trouble spots from North Korea to Sudan (re: Darfur). Additionally, he understands the energy issue and the clear link between energy and foreign policy. It is for all of these reasons that I believe he is the right choice for Sec. State.
For the record, I should state that I have never worked for, spoke to or met the Gov, have never contributed to his campaigns and did not support him for the Dem nomination. Having said that – I do think he would be a terrific choice for Sec. State and hope he is given serious consideration.