John Kerry has been announced as President Obama’s selection for Secretary of State.
Forget the horror of his 1971 antics at anti-war protests and charges of war crimes against his fellow soldiers in a Congressional hearing. Forget the fact that he ran for Congress the very next year; no connection there folks, nothing to see here: just coincidence. Forget the illogical likelihood of coming up with five medals in four months on the ground in Vietnam, one rumored to be a splinter. We’ll just give him a pass on that.
The application of Foreign Policy chops by Senator Kerry is illuminating. As an architect of the President Obama’s aid package to Pakistan the Senator, in his wisdom, attached conditions that could lead to the aid disappearing if the Pakistani’s do not behave. The conditions; don’t fight with India, don’t proliferate nuclear weapons and don’t support radical Islamists. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately the Pakistani Military as well as a significant percentage of the body politic found the conditions comprehensively insulting, at odds with their self interest, and said so categorically and publically.
Kerry apparently missed a briefing. Pakistan considers India an existential threat, based in large measure on the conditions that created Pakistan, including rounding up Muslims and driving them over the Indian boarder into what became Pakistan. The decades old conflict over Kashmir also has a bit to do with that. Prior to the creation of Pakistan Muslims were fourth-class citizens in India; fresh in the Pakistani memory.
The Senator seemed to disregard the fact that Pakistan is a Muslim country and radicalism a relative condition in their view. The definition of what an Islamist is in Pakistan is different from ours. Oh we know what the Senator meant, but the realities on the ground in Pakistan are complex well beyond the scope of a politically naïve scolding attached to an aid package. Had the Senator attended the briefing he may have discovered that the only stable institution in Pakistan is ….. wait for it……the Military. Pissing them off is generally not the best way to go about positive engagement, especially when, in that moment, our fate in Afghanistan very much depended on the Pakistanis and what we can do to support their definition of self interest related to radical elements.
The Senator has been consistent on issues related to the military, military intervention and military funding. At various times throughout the 1990’s he consistently voted for or introduced legislation to slash or freeze defense spending. The Senator has at various time supported severe reductions in Armed Forces staffing, weapons systems, submarines, tactical fighter wings, the B2 bomber, high-tech munitions and of course missile defense.
Among the programs the Senator, at various times, opposed included the F16 fighter, M1 Abrams tank, Patriot Missiles, Apache Helicopters, Tomahawk cruise missiles and the Aegis Air Defense system; all current mainstays of our military capabilities used to incredible effect in recent conflicts. Oh, one more thing, in 1993 he argued for the forced retirement of 60,000 service members.
In 2002 the Senator voted for the war with Iraq before he voted against it, the vote against related to funding! In another of the Senator’s mind numbing speeches on the Senate Floor, October 9th 2002, the idea of being both for and against the war was clearly foreshadowed as was his view of the personal political necessities. There again, the degree to which his yes vote carried conditions was nearly incomprehensible. Had the Senator had his way with defense spending in the past it is clear that we would not have maintained the capabilities to fight such a war.
The Senator voted against authorizing President Bush 41 to banish Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, S.J. Res.2, January 12th 1991.
The Senator, despite voting against the first Gulf War, applied the “Global Acceptability” test. He rejected that test in 1991, but embraced it in 2002.
While specifically opposing the authorization to engage in regime change in Iraq
(Aforementioned speech, October 9th 2002) the Senator had this to say in a speech to the Democratic Leadership Council on July 29th 2002. “I agree completely with this administration’s goal of a regime change in Iraq”.
October 10th 2002, MSNBC’s Hardball, “I believe the record of Saddam Hussein’s ruthless breach of international values and standards of behavior is cause enough for the world community to hold him accountable by use of force if necessary.”
A month later, November 10th 2002, Boston Globe, “a failure of diplomacy of a massive order has occurred by the Bush administration and has left the country on the brink of war with Iraq”.
January 6th, 2004 in response to a question from Chris Matthews, Hardball; (sic) “Are you one of the anti war candidates”. Response from the Senator, “I am – yes, in the sense that I don’t believe the president took us to war as he should have”.
“I’m an Internationalist; I’d like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations”. The Harvard Crimson 1970.
In other words, Senator Kerry is perfect for this administration. No moral center, no consistent positions and no comprehension that the ability to fight and win conflicts is the State Department’s best negotiating tool.