The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

Rumint: Tony Lake to lead UNICEF?

The White House is pushing for Clinton-era National Security Advisor and Obama campaign advisor Tony Lake to be named the next head of UNICEF, a source working closely on U.N. issues tells The Cable. The potential naming of Lake, the 70-year-old professor and former diplomat, to lead the agency could increase calls by European countries ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

The White House is pushing for Clinton-era National Security Advisor and Obama campaign advisor Tony Lake to be named the next head of UNICEF, a source working closely on U.N. issues tells The Cable.

The potential naming of Lake, the 70-year-old professor and former diplomat, to lead the agency could increase calls by European countries for a change in the custom of having an American at the helm, the source said. Others say that Lake's long experience and well-known reputation would make him a good fit for the job.

The White House is pushing for Clinton-era National Security Advisor and Obama campaign advisor Tony Lake to be named the next head of UNICEF, a source working closely on U.N. issues tells The Cable.

The potential naming of Lake, the 70-year-old professor and former diplomat, to lead the agency could increase calls by European countries for a change in the custom of having an American at the helm, the source said. Others say that Lake’s long experience and well-known reputation would make him a good fit for the job.

Spokesmen for the White House and the U.S. delegation at the U.N. would neither confirm nor deny that they are suggesting Lake for the job.

A UNICEF spokesman would only say, "The selection of a UNICEF executive director is made by the secretary general in consultation with the executive board."

That executive board meets Tuesday in what will be the last series of consultations before the term of current Executive Director Ann Venemen expires in April, so it would be logical that consultations over the next leader of the agency would commence, a U.N. source said.

Venemen, a former U.S. secretary of Agriculture, was appointed head of UNICEF in 2005 but wrote a letter Dec. 23 stating she would not see a second term.

The custom is that the U.S. recommendation for the post would be accepted and the head of UNICEF is traditionally an American. But such customs may be changing since the ascension of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. For example, the U.N. Department of Management is no longer American-led.

"It’s not codified anywhere that the U.S. has any special role in running UNICEF, although that’s the practice," the U.N. source said.

Lake has a long and storied career in foreign policy and development, dating back to his time as an assistant to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., during the Vietnam War. More recently, he has spent nine years on the board of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and also has worked on children’s welfare with the Marshall Legacy Institute, which tries to elevate the condition of children in war torn countries.

He was a senior foreign-policy advisor to the Obama campaign last year but wasn’t nominated for any administration position. The Clinton administration withdrew Lake’s name for CIA director amid controversy stemming from his failure to divest in energy stocks in 1993 and his failure to inform Congress that President Clinton condoned Iran’s arm sales to Bosnia in 1994.

Lake’s appointment to lead UNICEF is far from certain. The secretary general could ask the administration for a menu of names or could appoint someone else entirely.

"The secretary general consults widely among member states before reaching a decision of this kind on appointments of this nature," said his spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Lake could not be reached for comment.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.