On Friday, February 1st, former Senator John Kerry was confirmed as US Secretary of State, replacing outgoing Secretary Hilary Clinton. Kerry will likely continue his predecessor’s policy toward Latin America while overseeing a global increase in the usage of drones, special operations, spies and cyber security.
During his 29 years on the Senate and serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry’s record on Latin America has been mixed. As a January article from Just the Facts notes, Kerry was a vocal opponent of the Reagan administration’s policies in Central America in the 1980s and has often raised objections to US policy toward Cuba, but he also strongly supported Plan Colombia, a hallmark program of the deadly US War on Drugs in Latin America.
While some may read the nomination of the Vietnam veteran and outspoken war critic as a gesture towards demilitarization of US foreign policy, the US preference for intervention over diplomacy still reigns. Over the last decades, the US government has shifted the technologies and philosophies of warfare toward a so-called “light footprint” strategy. Shadowy tactics like drone strikes and surveillance, Special Forces operations, extraordinary rendition and an increase in cyber warfare have become favored over the large-scale formal troop deployments of the past.
In other significant cabinet changes, Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor John Brennan has been nominated to head the CIA, and his confirmation hearings begin today. Critics have nicknamed Brennan, the first administration official to publicly confirm and defend the murder of US citizens abroad by targeted drone strikes, Obama’s “Assassination Czar.” Former Republican Senator and Vietnam veteran Chuck Hagel has also been nominated as Secretary of Defense; his confirmation hearings have been pushed back to the end of the month.
With the planned scaling back of military involvement in Afghanistan, the US will be shifting its attention and resources to other regions. Latin American, which has seen the rise of governments willing to challenge US hegemony over the past decade, is likely to become a new focus point for increased intervention.