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At Confirmation Hearing, Kerry Pledges U.S. Foreign Policy 'Not Defined By Drones'

U.S. President Barack Obama (left) announces the nomination of Senator John Kerry on December 21.
Senator John Kerry, President Barack Obama's nominee to be the next U.S. secretary of state, has pledged to advance a foreign policy "not defined by drones and deployments alone," if confirmed.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the 69-year-old Democrat said, "We cannot allow the extraordinary good we do to save and change lives to be eclipsed entirely by the role we have had to play since September 11, a role that was thrust upon us."

But Kerry warned that the country's fiscal woes threaten both its ability to lead and his own credibility as a diplomat advocating order abroad.

"While it’s often said that we can’t be strong at home if we’re not strong in the world, in these days of fiscal crisis, we can’t be strong in the world unless we are strong at home," Kerry said. "And the first priority of business which will affect my credibility as a diplomat and our credibility as a nation, as working to help other countries create order, the first priority will be that America at last puts its own fiscal house in order."

Hearing A Formality

The January 24 hearing was regarded as a formality for Kerry, who has served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for nearly 30 years and chaired it for the last four.

Kerry enjoys broad bipartisan respect and his nomination is expected to receive swift Senate approval.

But Kerry also faced a slew of questions on foreign policy challenges in nearly all corners of the globe that he will take on if confirmed.

Kerry described Iran's sensitive nuclear work as among the "immediate, dangerous challenges" that Washington now faces.

Kerry said he was hopeful the United States and other nations could make progress on the diplomatic front but said Washington would "do what we must" to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

"Given our extraordinary interest in nonproliferation, we must resolve the questions surrounding Iran's nuclear program. President [Barack Obama] has made it definitive: We will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Kerry said. "And I repeat here today: Our policy is not containment. It is prevention. And the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance."

During the hearing, several Republican senators accused the Obama administration of passivity during the recent upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa.

Kerry defended a "thoughtful" approach but he added, "I believe we can do a better job, frankly, of galvanizing people around the values and ideas that we have organized ourselves around."

On Russia, the senator acknowledged that relations "have slid backwards in recent years" but expressed hope that tensions could be overcome.

Kerry, who has occasionally served as a de facto envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan during the Obama administration, said the conduct of next year's presidential election in Afghanistan would be "critical" to the success of the transition there.

He also said Washington must achieve better cooperation with Islamabad to stem the flow of IEDs into Afghanistan.

Kerry also pledged to uphold women's rights around the world and address the challenges posed by climate change.