SO at last it's official - Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State, one of the three most important appointments in any American administration. In a year that didn't have Barack Obama around Mrs Clinton might easily have been President-elect by now so the US will be represented in the world by one of its most capable politicians. This is very necessary: the damage that George W Bush's policies have done to America's standing in the word is incalculable and as Secretary of State Condoleezza RIce has not had the diplomatic weight to minimise it.

Of almost equal interest to Hillary Clinton's appointment is that of Susan E RIce to be the US Ambassador to the United Nations. An African American like her namesake, she has been Barack Obama's foreign policy adviser for some years and also has a close association with the prestigious Brookings Institute. She is known as a strong advocate of tougher UN action, if necessary with military force, in cases where conventional UN involvement has not worked - Darfur being an example she quotes. This approach will prove controversial but there are certainly places where it might be necessary and beneficial. Ms Rice has been given Cabinet status in her new role -a welcome indication of the importance that Barack Obama gives to the UN. Typically, the former Bush-appointed UN ambassador John Bolton immediately commented that Cabinet status was a mistake - because it overstated the role of the UN in America's foreign policy!


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