Indeed, contra to Miller’s notion that we need a secretary of state from a different party, what America really need is a secretary of state with a different worldview. Of course, none of this means that a foreign policy debate that takes place outside the carefully circumscribed 45-yard lines will lead to different and better policies. But unless that debate takes place — how will we ever know?
One of Cohen’s examples of a Secretary of State with a different worldview is William Jennings Bryan. Bryan famously opposed Wilson’s response to the sinking of the Lusitania. As a result, he resigned from his office, and whatever benefit the Wilson administration had received from Bryan’s presence in the Cabinet was lost almost two years prior to the declaration of war in 1917. Bryan’s instincts in that instance were correct, but it didn’t matter. It is tempting to think that Bryan’s continued presence inside the administration might have altered Wilson’s later position on entry into the war, but had he remained in office it is more likely that Bryan would simply have been implicated in the slow, disastrous slide towards American participation in WWI. The other example Cohen mentions is Carter’s Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. Vance resigned in protest because of the attempted hostage rescue mission in Iran that ended in failure. One can sympathize with both individuals and still realize that their protests were in vain.
It is significant that both of the examples Cohen cites are the two 20th century Secretaries of State known for resigning in protest over administration decisions. While they may have been the right thing to do, the resignations changed nothing with respect to policy. Unfortunately, what the experiences of Bryan and Vance suggest is that it does no one any good–least of all the supporters of the “different worldview”–to have a Secretary of State with a different worldview from that of the President. In the end, the President’s view is bound to prevail. That is why it is necessary that the President have a different worldview from that of the bipartisan consensus. If that isn’t politically feasible, the consensus view is so deeply entrenched that appointing a dissident Secretary of State isn’t likely to make any difference.