Monday, July 14, 2008

Wish List for Secretary of State

I'm beginning to collect my thoughts on what characteristics/background the next Secretary of State should have ...

1) International business: I think we need to go back to having Secretaries of State that have spent some time in the business world. Those of us who come from academia and the think tank world may be good at scoring debating points or besting rivals in turf wars, but usually have not been held accountable for when our proposals have gone wrong.

Someone with a business background might be more amenable to the idea of setting priorities and comfortable with the concept of negotiations (rather than seeing diplomacy as extortion).

2) Asia background. Someone who has spent time in Asia and is fluent in a key regional language. For too long, I think we have assumed that the rest of the world would follow a "European" path and that modernization and economic development would lead to duplication of European patterns elsewhere. I don't think we can successfully engage with China and cultivate the rising south and east without a person at the helm who is not going to see everything through the lens of the North Atlantic region.

One of the problems with academics, is that many fields have been captured by theory and disdains seeing the world as it actually is. The National Interest once ran a brilliant piece by James Kurth entitled "Inside the Cave: The Banality of IR Studies" showing how this plays out in political science/international relations. One of the problems with business leaders who reach the top is that seeming matters more than doing. The cult of the celebrity CEO raised up a lot of movers and shakers who turned to have accomplished relatively little beyond self promotion. Such people can be as bad as flawed academics, with the added danger that since they know little themselves guess who thinks for them and sets policy.

What we really need is someone who knows the wider world, appreciates human nature, and has a record of getting things done.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?