Senator John Kerry, nominated by President Barack Obama to head the State Department, said Thursday that necessary military actions must not overshadow US diplomatic and humanitarian efforts in the world, DPA reported.
"President Obama and every one of us here knows that American foreign policy is not defined by drones and deployments alone," Kerry said. "We cannot allow the extraordinary good that we do to save and change lives to be eclipsed entirely by the role that we have had to play since September 11th, a role that was thrust upon us."
Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential nominee, is seeking to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is stepping down.
Kerry is expected to be easily confirmed by the 100-member Senate following a committee vote, but no actions were scheduled.
"I share with the president the conviction that it is equally imperative that we assert a new role in a world of increasing failed and failing states," he said.
Kerry has been active in policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, strongly engaged on Sudan and South Sudan, and helped push the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia through the Senate in December 2010.
"People all over the world are looking to the United States for leadership. We are known as the indispensable nation for good reason. No nation has more opportunity to advance the cause of democracy. No nation is as committed to the cause of human rights as we are," Kerry said.
He told senators that US authority in the world is undermined by Congress' "gridlock and dysfunction" of recent years and by Washington's failure to tackle a 1-trillion-dollar annual budget deficit that could spark economic crisis and endanger both defence spending and social programmes.
"To protect our nation and make good on our promises, as well as to live up to our ideals and meet the crisis of this moment, it is urgent that we show people in the rest of the world that we can get our business done in an effective and timely way," Kerry said.
Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and fellow Vietnam War veteran, praised Kerry's "extraordinary diplomatic skills." In the early 1990s, the two helped resolve issues over missing US soldiers and eventually led the process to reopen diplomatic relations with Vietnam.
"Working toward that end with John and witnessing almost daily his exemplary statesmanship is one of the highest privileges I've had here," McCain said.
Kerry said that the US faces "a number of immediate, dangerous challenges" in the Middle East and south-central Asia.
"We must resolve the questions surrounding Iran's nuclear programme," he said. "The president has made it definitive; we will do what we must do to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. 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."
A protester briefly interrupted Kerry, before she was removed by police while shouting about her "friends in the Middle East" being killed.
Kerry called for discussion in Congress about the "commitment" of less than 1 per cent of federal spending toward the foreign affairs budget.
"Global leadership is a strategic imperative for America," he said. "It is not a favor that we do for other countries. It amplifies our voice. It extends our reach. It is the key to jobs, the fulcrum of our influence. And it matters - it really matters - to the daily lives of Americans."