Human Rights & Democracy

November 10, 2021: Senate Republicans Imperil US Foreign Policy to Spite Biden Administration and Further Political Ambitions

Posted on November 10, 2021 at 12:00 AM

Senate Republicans, encouraged by Senators Ted Cruz (Texas) and John Hawley (Missouri) are damaging US credibility abroad and limiting effective diplomatic input into national security debates at home. They are creating clear dangers to US national security.

Five new US ambassadors were finally confirmed last week: four former Senators or wives of Senators, grudgingly let through the gauntlet for courtesy reasons, and Tom Nides, confirmed to be US Ambassador to Israel November 3, after the Biden Administration’s full-court press and despite Sen. Hawley’s mighty efforts to slow down the process.

This still leaves 89 ambassadorial positions vacant. Nominees for these key jobs are waiting an average of 108 days for confirmation, as opposed to only 56 days for Trump’s candidates, or 27 days for George W. Bush’s slates.

Without ambassadors at their posts abroad, the United States is often unable to reach key governmental leaders in important countries, such as Brazil, Germany, South Africa, Australia, India, or Pakistan. We also lose out on influencing public opinion. Foreign media often prefer to interview diplomats with the title of “Ambassador.” Just one example is the likelihood of local journalists to report Chinese or Russian ambassadors’ takes on the Glasgow Climate Conference rather than US views when the US has no accredited ambassador in the country.

Just as worrying, is the lack of input from foreign posts in national security discussions. Since the US leaves our generals in place following a change of administration but requires all ambassadors to submit letters of resignation, the voices from diplomatic posts on regional issues are less prominent when dozens of key regional officials, including Assistant Secretaries of State and USAID officials, are not confirmed.

Senator Ted Cruz claims to be holding up Department of State nominees over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline sanctions; John Hawley is posturing to demonstrate his “concern over Afghanistan.” But both are clearly more interested in their own potential political future, including presidential ambitions, than the national security of the United States.

The 9/11 Commission suggested that the lack of confirmed State Department officials likely contributed to the intelligence and other lapses that led to that disaster. As noted above, the confirmation of Bush’s State Department candidates moved almost four times faster than the rate for Biden’s appointees. What future disasters may result from the current Republican obstructionism?

— Cynthia Efird, PPC Member 

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