…without ambition, firefighting becomes the default position, as was evident during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. She either didn’t seek or wasn’t given the lead on the Middle East, China, Russia, and nonproliferation portfolios. It’s perfectly acceptable for the White House to hold on to every one of them, but what’s the point of doing so in order to pursue modest initiatives?
There is an opportunity to grab the reins, writes Krepon. As Secretary of State John Kerry actively pursues Middle East peace talks, the U.S. should also aggressively seek closer ties with China and, most importantly, communicate with Iran.
The most glaring absence of ambition at present appears to be in the run-up to nuclear negotiations with a newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. A window of opportunity for significant deal making may well be narrow, but it is now open. This window will shut quickly if the Obama administration approaches the renewal of talks with an abundance of timidity, as if the next move depends on how Tehran reacts to its last cautious gambit.