Secretary of State Rudolph Giuliani

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

 

One of the more focal positions in a President-elect’s Cabinet is that of Secretary of State.  As the nation’s top diplomat, the Secretary of State primarily concentrates on matters of foreign policy.  His, or her,  job is to advise the President on these issues, supervise the massive Department of State and its widespread foreign service force throughout the globe.  On a regular basis, there is some significant world event that the State Secretary has to deal with, and regularly the top diplomat is involved in high-level negotiations between the United States and other countries.  Most recently, current Secretary of State John Kerry and his counterparts reached the Iran Nuclear Agreement in which the West would allow a state sponsor of terrorism to produce uranium at a lower rate than previous, and one that would give relief to Western sanctions imposed on them.

With the elections over, President-elect Donald J. Trump has the arduous duty of forming a transition team that would be ready to operate from the very first day that Trump is inaugurated.  As we now know, Trump has only chosen two positions within his cabinet thus far, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist/Senior Counselor Steve Bannon, who has been a controversial selection.  While there are short lists from several other Cabinet positions, like Secretary of Defense, Treasury and Attorney General, the top diplomat role is all but made official yet.  Sources close to the Trump campaign have stated that the top diplomat position would ultimately be made official, with former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani as the beneficiary.  News of Giuliani being on the short list for State Secretary has set off a firestorm within the media and foreign policy elite.  How does a man who is a career attorney and prosecutor, with little to no foreign policy or diplomatic experience make it this close to attaining this coveted position?

In 2017, Secretary of State Rudy Giuliani will inherit a plenitude of world dilemmas.  The Trump administration led by Giuliani would have to formulate a new policy towards Syria.  This policy would have to understand the intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin in his Middle East interfering.  On top of this geopolitical concern, Secretary Giuliani would need to prudently manage the intricate factions of allies, rebel groups, and government forces, which is no small responsibility.  Even further importantly, the scourge of the Islamic State still plagues the region, and they seem only to be swelling and have no intention of waning anytime soon.  All of these issues compounded with the juggling of Western and Eastern views on what to do with current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will only make Giuliani’s work yet further challenging.

Then there’s the problem of North Korea, and it’s absence of adherence to any nonproliferation agreements.  How will the newly minted administration deal with any new provocations by the Hermit Kingdom?  Will Trump ultimately invite North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to the Washington like he claimed he would on the campaign trail?  What part would Giuliani represent in these meetings, if any?  How will Trump and Giuliani convince the People’s Republic of China to extricate their firm grip on the Hermit Kingdom, when the Chinese have legitimate concerns about a migrant crisis arising from any friction?  Trump lacks a discernible strategy on what to do with North Korea, and several Asian allies are troubled.  One of the first few leaders that Trump had conversed with following his victory last week were the leaders of South Korea and Japan, which are nations that Trump said, on the campaign trail, would need to protect themselves or pay up.  North Korea will continue to be a menace to foreign policy officials, and will regularly throw a monkey wrench into any ventures that the administration will be operating on in the future.

Terrorism is the most vital subject of our century.  As we live in the Post-911 period, the menace of terrorism is metastasizing with no end in sight.  It’s safe to expect that groups like ISIS will test the new administration once they are in control.  There will more than likely be some terror offensive in the West, conceivably in the United States itself, and ISIS will be watching to see what response would ensue from a Trump presidency.  Secretary Giuliani will represent a focal part in the soft power aspect of the struggle against terrorism, and based on his views of foreign policy, we could see some prolific policies.  In his Foreign Affairs article from 2007, Giuliani characterized a stunted academic based outlook on international relations.  He does not subscribe to one distinct school of thought in international relations and concludes that the country is better off with leaders who are more practical and blend certain theories to see what works.  In the article, he asserts that there should be an aggregate of realism and liberalism appropriated to combat terrorism.  For those that may not be versed in international relations, what this essentially implies is that the United States should proceed based on its interests( a primary tenet of realism) but likewise advance the need for reinforcing international institutions, like the UN or NATO, to promote democracy( a primary tenet of liberalism).  Giuliani also lambasts the policy of defensive reaction to terrorism, and advises a more vigorous offensive strategy, indicating we should take the battle to them and not allow for them to take it to us.  However, unless Giuliani’s view of foreign policy has changed, and we do not know that because of his lack of experience in the field, then he has some disparities with Trump.  President-elect Trump has advocated a more isolationist approach to foreign policy, one he calls “America First.”  Where Giuliani believes in the need to bolster international institutions and uphold American ideals worldwide, Trump believes that the United States is too enmeshed in certain alliances and that the costs outweigh the benefits.  It remains to be seen what a Trump foreign policy will look like, and what Giuliani’s responsibility will necessitate.

Rudy Giuliani will also play a significant position in trade.  On the campaign trail, Donald J. Trump consistently harped on the issue of the two prominent trade deals that the United States have reached in the past.  This is one of the several issues where Trump split from traditional Republicanism, the point of free trade.  Trump had said many times that arrangements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed by President Bill Clinton, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) signed by President Barrack Obama, had been ripping off the American people and that he would either revoke the deals or renegotiate them.  The leaders of Mexico and Canada had organized an emergency meeting to address the future of NAFTA following Trump’s election victory, and a revanchist China is presumed to start taking advantage of Trump’s descent of the TPP to increase their sphere of influence in the Asia-Pacific region.  Giuliani will have an astonishingly complex task of coordinating these events in such a fast paced atmosphere.  It remains to be seen if Trump will deliver on his rhetoric throughout the campaign trail, but he must tread lightly and be sober minded about beginning to undermine any free trade deal because they are more than merely economic compromises.  These agreements are also in some ways security deals, and if the United States’s hegemony continues to exhaust, then a balance of power struggle will succeed and ultimately some form of dispute.

We’re at a crossroads in international relations, with one President’s missteps in foreign policy with that of an incoming President’s deficit of substantial experience in the field could pose significant perils to the world.  It’s no mystery that President-elect Trump is inheriting a world on fire, with not enough firefighters or water in the world to put it out.  This is why cabinet choices are crucial, as they reveal what path the incoming administration is prepared to take to confront these quandaries head on.  The one good quality, at least for me, is that Trump has a proclivity to inundate himself with the experts in every single realm of business.  Certainly, business is not at all anything like foreign policy, but the basis is comparable.  In business, for you to succeed you must make the right moves in evolving conditions.  No CEO in the World takes on problems on his or her own; they surround themselves with specialists in the many areas of business, and Trump has been no different.  Whether Giuliani is an expert in foreign policy or not is a potent question, particularly in part of his shortage of expertise in the field.  But the preceding two administrations have had loads of experts advising the President, and yet, we’ve seen nothing but indiscretion after indiscretion.  Perhaps it is time we see candidates for Cabinet positions that may possess alternative notions on how to execute those functions.  Whether Giuliani is the candidate we need remains to be seen, but I have hope in him.  If he can carry out his duties as Secretary of State the way he did as Mayor of New York City, we’ll see excellent things coming out of Foggy Bottom.

 

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