John Kerry’s Shakey Debute as a Secretary of State

4 11 2013

A cute picture of Teresa Heinz and her hubby John Kerry

When John Kerry ran for president in 2004, I did not vote for him because his foreign policy stances were not well thought out and his approach was rogue.  I did not vote for Clinton, either, for the similar reasons.  I like decisive individuals, but Kerry seemed too dangerous to elect.  I was not surprised by Obama‘s pick because Kerry was his strong supporter during the Presidental bid and has had ‘international’ ambitions.

Today, he is not doing a too good of a job and while I try not to pass judgement on someone too early in their post, Peter van Buren makes a good case for why John Kerry’s Secretary of State debute has been shakey. John Kerry Is a Terrible Secretary of State

Among many reasons, van Buren sites that:

  • The Secretary Kerry has been stumbling from one crisis to another
  • Kerry visited Asia only once but only ceremonially during APEC meetings.  Asia is a pivot of U.S. diplomatic strategy.  President Obama was supposed to join him, but yikes — government shutdown ensued.
  • In the Middle East, charming and well played diplomacy of Putin and Rouhani, highlight the amteurish quality of Kerry’s performance, while the Saudi Arabia reconsiders relations with the United States claiming inaction in Syria.  One never knows the reasons of the Saudi Arabia but can bet on the oil variable & the U.S.’ attempt to become energy independent.
  • Turkey-Israeli relations, once close, continue to decline
  • American defense industry is on the winning streak.  Turkey’s border war with Iraqi Kurds remains active with both sides utilizing mainly American-made weapons.
  • No effort has been made to draw down a huge Baghdad embassy, despite its world’s largest personnel count — in a country where an American invasion and nine-year occupation resulted in a pro-Iranian government.  Personally, I do not think that this would be a good move strategically for Kerry to do (sorry, Mr. Van Buren!).
  • Diplomats needed!  Or another appology tour!  NSA spying of the world leaders has produced an increasingly hostile relationships with many large BRICS developing nations: Russia (over Snowden), Brazil (over NSA spying), Germany (over NSA spying), India, Mexico, etc. All the while, Julian Assange continues to run WikiLeaks out of the Ecuadoran embassy in London.
  • Kerry has been caught in numerous situations where he mispoke facts (see my previous blog on Syria)
  • and lovingly, Peter van Buren states in its finality: “[Kerry has] displayed a policy-crippling lack of information, remarkably little poise, and strikingly bad word choice, while regularly voicing surprising new positions on old issues. The logical conclusion might be to call for his instant resignation before more damage is done. (God help us, some Democratic voters may actually find themselves secretly wondering whether the country dodged a bullet in 2004 when George W. Bush won his dismal second term in office.)”

I am in agreement with van Buren on one important thing — that U.S. is showing a lack of coherent foreign policy.  This is a symptom.  People who lead one such fuzzy strategy are its mere effect.  Kerry has indeed shown remarkably little poise, and strikingly bad word choice, for our Chief Diplomat, we would expect a lot more.  I bet that President Obama is noticing that Kerry is overwhelmingly stumbling?

What do you think?

Peter Van Buren is a former Foreign Service officer at the Department of State. He is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.  After his book publication, his security clearance was taken away by the State Department, and he was assigned menial work

His commentary has been featured in the Guardian, HuffingtonPost.com, Mother Jones, the New York Times, and Salon.com, among other publications. He is currently collaborating with Academy Award–nominated documentary filmmaker James Spione on a film about federal whistleblowers. He lives in Falls Church, Virginia.








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