The Kerry Limbo

by Dave Schuler on March 31, 2014

Recently I was asked why I have such a low opinion of John Kerry. Jackson Diehl gives an example:

Four months have passed, and, sadly for Kerry and U.S. interests, the verdict is in: delusional. Egypt is under the thumb of an authoritarian general. The Syrian peace talks imploded soon after they began. Kerry is now frantically trying to prevent the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which are hanging by a thread — and all sides agree there will be no deal in April.

It might be argued that none of this is Kerry’s fault. It was Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi who hijacked Egypt’s promised political transition. It was the Assad regime that refused to negotiate its departure . It was Benjamin Netanyahu who kept building Jewish settlements in the West Bank. It was Mahmoud Abbas who refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

All true; and yet all along the way, Kerry — thanks to a profound misreading of the realities on the ground — was enabling the bad guys.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

michael reynolds March 31, 2014 at 11:42 am

Unfortunately, Mr. Diehl is at least equally deluded:

Kerry offered an answer to my first critique of him in an interview with Susan Glasser of Politico: “I would ask” anyone “who was critical of our engagement: What is the alternative?” Well, the alternative is to address the Middle East as it really is. Recognize that Egypt’s generals are reinstalling a dictatorship and that U.S. aid therefore cannot be resumed; refocus on resuscitating and defending Egypt’s real democrats. Admit that the Assad regime won’t quit unless it is defeated on the battlefield and adopt a strategy to bring about that defeat. Concede that a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace isn’t possible now and look for more modest ways to build the groundwork for a future Palestinian state.

Aside from saving us some money and eliminating whatever influence we still have in Egypt, just what will cutting them off accomplish? And where are these ‘real democrats’ we’re supposed to be defending in Egypt? Don’t get me wrong, we can defund Al-Sissi, but let’s not pretend that actually accomplishes anything.

As for Syria, again with the idea of arming Al Qaeda? Really? Has Mr. Diehl paid any attention to what we’re learning about who’s up and who’s down in the Assad-opposing business? Is it in our interests to promote an extremist Salafist state in lieu of the Assad tyranny? Is it really a great idea to have such a state parked next to our friends in Jordan?

And of course the final point: surrender to Likud. As always.

Kerry may be an idiot, but so is Diehl.

... March 31, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Kerry may be an idiot, but so is Diehl.

Yes, but Diehl is just a deputy editorial page editor and editorial writer. Kerry was a Senator, your choice for President in 2004, and is currently Secretary of State. I dare say that Kerry being an idiot is a goddamned sight more important than the intellectual status of Diehl.

steve March 31, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Egypt’s real democrats? What, maybe 20 of them in the whole country? We should go to war with Syria? How do you build a future Palestinian state as long as Netanyahu is committed a one state solution? Kerry is no star, but these criticisms are nonsense.

Kerry should just stay out of the Egyptian mess. We keep giving them money so they will be nice to Israel. We stay out of Syria. We got lucky there, don’t spit in Lady Luck’s face. Let the Israelis and Palestinians kill each other. If and when they get serious we can help when asked. We stop blindly supporting Israel until then.

Steve

... March 31, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Well, the endtimes are upon us. I agreed with almost everything Steve wrote, and the difference is too minor to quibble with.

Andy March 31, 2014 at 8:11 pm

And this is the challenge of foreign policy – our policies may be stupid, wrong and whatever else, but the alternatives are often worse.

jan April 1, 2014 at 12:22 am

I think Diehl was talking more about the messenger of our foreign policy — Kerry. Kerry is becoming a comical figure, a buffoon of sorts. He’s always had an ego the size of the Grand Canyon, only matched in largess by his enormous political ambitions. The unfortunate thing is that he doesn’t have the personality, character traits, instincts, let alone negotiating skills to generate confidence from most foreign leaders. All he does is scurry around hauling bags filled with his own sense of self-importance, looking for a podium where he can then preach his vapid, forgettable assessments of the world.

mike shupp April 1, 2014 at 11:09 pm

Worth remembering that before returning to the pleasures of Egyptian politics, Morsi was a NASA scienstist for several years and later an associate engineering prof at Cal State Northridge. My personal thought is that at the very least, we should have jumped up and down to assure his safety — and that even better, we should have said loudly and clearly that the Moslem Brotherhood was the legitimate, legally elected government of Egypt and that we would accept no one else. And if push had actually come to shove, I would have probably have sent troops — or lots of drones — to fight on the side of the MB.

I concede the MB isn’t to everyone’s taste, but wotthehell, we accepted Adolph Hitler’s government until 1941; we accepted the Communists in the USSR until that government fell, we finally even accepted Communists in China.

Would our position in the Arab world be much worse?

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