John Kerry has been wrong about so many things for so long that when he says something like “We are not frozen in a nightmare,” it’s nearly impossible ignore the warning “Winter is coming!” that reverberates through our pop culture-saturated frontal lobes.
This is a man who famously voted for Iraq before he voted against it; who called the option to intervene in Libya an “extraordinary opportunity that is staring us in the face” (intervention there has left both al-Qaeda and ISIS staring us in the face); who threatened armed confrontation with Russia over its annexation of Crimea before backing away sheepishly; who responded to a terror attack by lecturing Israel that the nation can’t “just keep condemning the other side.”
But I digress. Kerry said those icicley words and many more at the Aspen Ideas Festival recently. The secretary of State assured the ritzy crowd that “Where we are engaged with a clear strategy, using our power thoughtfully, we are making progress, most places.” To the multitude of “Cassandras around” he said, “I don’t believe the world ahead is only defined by turmoil and strife.”
There’s a lot to unpack there, aside from the fact that in Greek tragedy, Cassandra was undeniably right although doomed to be ignored. Progress as defined by whom? Why didn’t our great and clear strategy see ISIS coming? And are these real men saying the world ahead is “only defined by turmoil and strife” or are they made of straw?
We’re All Over the Place!
The write-up for The Atlantic, which co-sponsored the gabfest along with the Aspen Ideas Institute, described Kerry’s vision for America as “globalist, engaged and deeply interventionist.” We should also add “ruinous and practically immune to evidence and experience.”
“The United States of America is more engaged in more places with greater impact today than at any time in American history and that is simply documentable and undeniable,” bragged Kerry, who has burnt a record quantity of jet fuel as secretary of State.
“In Aspen, that was an applause line,” explained the magazine’s staff writer Conor Friedersdorf. He wasn’t so sure it would draw attaboys elsewhere, however. While he found Kerry’s words “in harmony with the foreign policy vision articulated by Hillary Clinton,” the scribe found it “hard to imagine a Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump crowd applauding a proponent of waging wars and other aggressive geopolitical interventions across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and beyond.”
That’s probably right, but too political a way of framing the issue. There’s a large and growing, not just bipartisan but truly nonpartisan, consensus that America has engaged in too many wars and interventions since the September 11 attacks, and has had little to show for it other than debt, death, and grief.
Most Americans from all political walks have realized that what we have been doing hasn’t been working. The people who help steer our foreign policy, unfortunately, haven’t come around to that view just yet.
Under John Kerry, We’re Literally Fighting Ourselves
At Aspen, Kerry did his best to dash any hopes the Obama administration had learned from this overreach. He did admit that when foreign policy issues “lend themselves to black and white, simple lines [and] you draw it, you’re often wrong,” but then he engaged in exactly such line drawing practically in the next breath. Speaking of America’s clear strategy in Syria, he warned, “You can never have peace when Assad is still there.”
The American government’s efforts to undermine Syrian strongman Bashar Assad have been counterproductive to the peace of nations, not to mention deeply embarrassing. Our search for elusive moderate Muslim allies led to plenty of munitions falling into the hands of ISIS. Our persistence helped fuel the refugee crisis currently threatening to tear Europe apart. Different agencies of our government have backed different horses in the region, Department of Defense-backed Kurds and State Department-supported Arabs who mostly warred directly with one another rather than fight Assad and ISIS.
That’s right, our own proxy armies went to war with each other, on Kerry’s watch, and yet his State Department continues to press for more intervention in Syria and in so many other places. That is simply documentable and undeniable. It’s a chilly, nightmarish legacy to pass on to the next administration.