Chicago -- If Sen. Hillary Clinton is unveiled Monday as the next Secretary of State, will she be allowed to speak or take questions? So far, the nominees of a properly cautious President-elect Barack Obama have stood behind him, statue-like, and then exited after he's answered a few queries.
Though I might wager $1 (not more!) that Clinton does get to say something, albeit briefly, here's a quick wish list of questions for her, whether she does or not. Ditto for Defense Secretary Robert Gates if, as expected, he's there, too:
---What should be our role in the world, especially given the unavoidable shifts in economic power toward China, India and others in the East?
---Senator Clinton, you and Sen. Obama famously dueled during the primary season over when to get out of Iraq. What is your position?
---Both John Kerry and George Bush stated during the 2004 campaign that the biggest threat to the security of the United States was "weapons of mass destruction." To what extent do you agree with those assessments, and how would you deal with the WMD issue in the future?
---Between just the two of us, how did you get your husband to agree to such apparently full financial disclosures and curtailment of his oratorical mega-buckraking? Oops, that's not relevant here. Seriously, our expenditure on the military is about 4 percent of Gross Domestic Product. Given the economic challenge we face, is this level of expenditure sustainable? If so, why and how?
---To what extent do you feel that the current military capacities of the U.S. are adequate and appropriate for dealing with the foreign policy threats that might be facing us over the next few years?
--- How does one force Iran to ditch its uranium enrichment, certainly before it reaches the threshold of having enough to build a nuclear weapon? Economic sanctions seem to have failed totally and it's now up to 3,800 cetrifuges. Tough talk and economic sanctions have worked.
---To what extent is the establishment of a separate Palestinian state in our interests?
---When we look around the world at violent groups, in places as varied as Colombia and Sri Lanka, we see a common theme: the hijacking of young people by the ideologues and others at the top of these organizations to fill the ranks. What should we do to try to divert young people from joining these groups? And what would you do to get young people to leave these groups?
----The negative view with which many governments and individuals overseas see the U.S. after the past eight years is linked partly to how we've dealt with the so-called "multilateral system," including the United Nations. Our respect and confidence in such organizations has been limited. What should be our approach to the UN over the next four years, and why?
---- Let's put aside lofty rhetoric about our aspirations for Afghanistan. What should be the specific objectives of, and criteria for judging, our involvement in Afghanistan over the next four years?
---The horror in Mumbai last week got us back to at least some temporary, serious discussion of terrorism. Do you feel that the so-called "war on terror" is a policy that the U.S. should pursue in its present form? Are there aspects that you would change as U.S. policy; either in terms of strategy (specific objectives) or operations (use of torture, among others)?
--- Some surveys have suggested that most Pakistanis do not see the Taliban and Al Qaeda as major threats. First, do you think the stability of Pakistan is threatened by these violent extremists? Second, how should we try to convince the Pakistanis themselves that they face an existential threat?
---Many smart people conclude that there are various factors that are making the global community more vulnerable. They include climate change, water scarcity, leakage of uranium storage sites, and rising food prices, among others. As a major humanitarian player, how should be respond to such threats?
---Finally, this sounds too weird and flip but it's true: we've got more active personnel in military bands than in the Foreign Service. That says something about something. Madame Secretary-to-be, what are you and Mr. Gates going to do to change such an equation?