Rumors spread over Washington, DC some time ago that Hillary Clinton may leave her job as Secretary of State. And although a White House spokesman promptly jumped in to claim that the president was very happy with Clinton in her current position, the occasion allowed observers to take another look at the role Clinton plays in defining U.S. foreign policy and also at her place on the Obama’s foreign policy team.
In most countries, the term “foreign policy” is closely associated with “diplomacy.” Consequently, the country’s foreign policy is in charge of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, in the U.S. with its emphasis on using military force to achieve foreign policy objectives, foreign policy is most often synonymous with “national security.” As a result, the coordination of U.S. foreign policy became the prerogative of the National Security Council, and the role of a foreign policy “quarterback” is assumed by a Cabinet member enjoying the trust of the president. In the Nixon administration, such a person was national Security Advisor and then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. In the Carter administration, this role was played by the National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who completely overshadowed the then Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. During George W. Bush’s first term, an extraordinary influence in foreign affairs was exercised by Vice President Dick Cheney. Neither Secretary of State Colin Powell, nor the National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice could compete with Cheney for the attention of president Bush.The situation in Obama’s foreign policy team is different. To begin with, appointing Clinton as secretary of State has not been Obama’s own decision; this decision was forced on him by others.