National Security & Defense

John Kerry’s Fitting Ending

(Reuters photo: Suzanne Plunkett)
Trashing Israel on the way out the door is the perfect capstone to an ignoble career.

John Kerry ends his long career in politics the same way he began it: disgracefully.

Kerry debuted on the national stage in 1971 by telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the American public that U.S. servicemen in Vietnam “raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, [blew] up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan.”

It was a stunningly thinly sourced, hotly disputed, and broad accusation, echoing the propaganda of America’s enemies around the world. Perhaps only in the Democratic party of the 1970s could this be the perfect audition for a political career. He would speak for many on the hard left on the day when he declared, “There is no threat. The Communists are not about to take over our McDonald’s hamburger stands.”

Over four decades, Kerry established himself as one of the Democratic party’s loudest, if not wisest, voices in foreign affairs. In 1991, he voted against authorizing military force to expel Iraq from Kuwait, predicting that future historians “will ask why there was such a rush to so much death and destruction when it did not have to happen.” Twelve years later, he voted for the Iraq War, then turned around and tried to run as an antiwar presidential candidate. In September 2003, Kerry sounded as if he supported wartime funding bills — “I don’t think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to whatever follows as a result of simply cutting and running” — but as the Democratic presidential primaries heated up, he decided to vote “no.” That led to his infamous quote, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”

In 1997, he wrote a book titled The New Warwhich touched briefly on terrorism but predicted that the preeminent threat that would face America in the coming years was#…#international crime syndicates. In that book, he saluted “Yasser Arafat’s transformation from outlaw to statesman.” Three times before 9/11, he voted against allowing terrorists to face the death penalty. In his 2004 presidential campaign, Kerry asserted that U.S. interventions had to pass a “global test” for legitimacy.

RELATED: Kerry to Israel: A State Cannot Be Both Jewish and Democratic

He loved to reach out to the world’s rogues. In 1985, he traveled to Nicaragua to meet and praise the country’s Communist strongman, Daniel Ortega, and to accuse the Reagan administration of funding terrorism.

He praised the Clinton administration’s 1994 agreement to send aid to North Korea. Pyongyang’s violation of the agreement, a secret uranium-enrichment program, was discovered in 2002. Starting in 2009, he visited Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad several times, and in 2011 he said Assad was “very generous with me in terms of the discussions we have had. . . . My judgment is that Syria will move; Syria will change, as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West.” 

Against this ignoble record, one wonders why Kerry never seemed to get tired of giving dictators, terrorists, thugs, and brutal regimes the benefit of the doubt and having it blow up in his face.

EDITORIAL: Obama’s Shameful Parting Shot at Israel

In some ways, Kerry in 2013 was a perfect choice for Obama’s second secretary of state. For the better part of three decades on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry had spoken as if statecraft and international diplomacy were relatively easy tasks, and only the bunch of idiots in the current administration — Republican or Democrat — could mess it up like this. Finally, Kerry would get the chance to show everybody how it’s done.

We see the results today: Syria is a charnel house. The Middle East has had plenty of bloody wars before, but only this one overwhelmed the countries of Europe with seemingly endless waves of desperate refugees. The preeminent form of Islamic fundamentalism used to be al-Qaeda, a bunch of extremists hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan. Now bloodthirsty Islamists run an actual state in the middle of the Arab world. Four years after the Benghazi attack, only one perpetrator has been brought to justice.

Russia is emboldened, taking over Crimea, biting into Ukraine, and launching not-so-subtle cyber-warfare against the United States. The Iranians, too, are emboldened, despite the much-touted agreement on their nuclear program. China and North Korea keep rattling their sabers. Venezuela is collapsing. The Taliban continues to control swaths of Afghanistan after 15 years of war.

Confronted with this litany of disaster, Kerry would probably point to four years of endless summits, meetings, joint statements, and — whether he’s honest enough to use these words or not —​ photo opportunities. Just as Hillary Clinton’s millions of miles traveled were supposed to represent some great accomplishment, Kerry will blur the distinction between activity and results.

Kerry never seemed to get tired of giving brutal regimes the benefit of the doubt and having it blow up in his face.

American foreign policy has been reduced to Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power’s asking whether Vladimir Putin’s Russia or the Ayatollah’s Iran have any shame. No, of course they don’t, and anyone who’s been paying any attention knows they don’t. The Iranians used children to clear minefields during the Iran–Iraq war. The Russians contaminated two British Airways jetliners with radioactive material in their successful plot to kill former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. What kind of administration would rely on the Russian and Iranian regimes’ sense of shame to protect civilians in Syria?

Thus, it’s fitting that John Kerry’s last major act as secretary of state is a speech that offers up hot nonsense, a bitterly hostile address that called Israel’s government “the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme elements.” (Mind you, the opposing side in this conflict elected Hamas, an actual terrorist group, to govern the Gaza Strip.)

#related#Kerry and the administration assented to a statement declaring that the Western Wall and Temple Mount are illegally occupied, then shamefully insisted “this administration has been Israel’s greatest friend and supporter.” After signing on to the Iran deal, Kerry claimed that “no American administration has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama’s.” (Why do Israelis disagree so vehemently?) Kerry warned that Israel had to recognize a Palestinian state or effectively wither under endless terror attacks: “If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic —​ it cannot be both —​ and it won’t ever really be at peace.” He even seemed to suggest that those who support Israel’s current policies are un-American, asking, “How does the U.S. continue to defend that and still live up to our own democratic ideals?”

The cement hardens on the Obama-Kerry foreign-policy legacy: They were toothless and hapless against ISIS, Bashar al-Assad, North Korea, Iran, Russia, China, and the world’s worst and most ruthless regimes. But as for Bibi Netanyahu, they came down on him like a ton of bricks.