When Senator John Kerry is confirmed as secretary of state later this month, he will encounter a number of complex tests as America’s top diplomat. The first is his challenging inbox, which includes the Afghanistan war, Iranian and North Korean nuclear threats, an increasingly violent Middle East, the lingering euro debt crisis, and China’s challenge to American power in Asia. It may well be the most daunting agenda a secretary of state has faced in a generation.
Kerry will also inherit a bruised State Department reeling from the Benghazi attacks and the tough Accountability Review Board judgment of “systemic failures” in diplomatic security. Facing further cuts in an already depleted State Department budget, Kerry will need to move fast to rebuild morale in the foreign service.