Kerry on Obama foreign policy: Charting and thinking vs. leading and winning

 

John Kerry’s going to give the Big Democratic National Security Speech tonight. He’s also doing his Big Audition for SecState in a second Obama administration.

There’s the expected leaks about the speech: “reckless,” “troops home,” “killed bin Laden.”

And here’s what Kerry himself had to say in the pages of Foreign Policy, with some helpful annotations:

  • “…it is the Democratic Party that almost all alone occupies that once bipartisan space in national security policy.”

Senator Kerry, being bipartisan with oneself is not bipartisanship.

  • “Our stalled effort in Afghanistan and our unnecessary and expensive effort in Iraq were coupled with a new and bellicose attitude toward friends and foes alike — the old versus the new Europe; Mission Accomplished; bring it on; and you’re either with us or against us. These were the slogans of an unfocused and at times reckless foreign policy.”

Every president says stupid things, and George Bush said many. But “mission accomplished” was an error of overconfidence in American power, not an apology for it. Contrast that with Barack Obama’s apologia for being America.

  • “The death of bin Laden should be celebrated instead of devolving into a debate over who deserves the credit.”

It is Barack Obama who made the debate about bin Laden into a question of credit, going so far as to run an ad suggesting Mitt Romney wouldn’t have done the same.

  • “Ours is a model for leadership in national security that thinks before it acts, allowing us to respond constructively to the dramatic changes in the Middle East.”

Acts how? To do what? It’s fine to think before you act, if thinking doesn’t take two years and acting isn’t made up of doing nothing.

  • “The president is committed to preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state.”

And the evidence of that is… collapsed talks with Iran? A failure to admit failure? Or the fact that in three years under Obama, Iran has made more progress toward a weapon than in the previous three decades?

  • “There has been much carping and complaining about Russia and China by the president’s critics. This bellicose rhetoric is all too familiar and tiresome. These nations play a role globally. China in particular is an integral part of the global economy. We have interests, and they have interests. Where there is common ground — like New START and Iran sanctions — we can work together. Where we can’t agree, as is the case with Syria, we pursue our own, independent course.”

What course is that? “Independence course” is yet another euphemism for doing nothin’.

On Tuesday, I wrote up a short list of how four years of Barack Obama have left the United States weaker and more vulnerable than we have been in many years. But let’s review the bidding:

  • Hating Republicans isn’t foreign policy.
  • Apologizing doesn’t mean restoring America’s leadership.
  • Demanding personal credit for killing bin Laden is no less tacky than claiming “mission accomplished.”
  • Thinking before you act is only relevant if you actually think, and um, act.
  • Promising to stop an Iranian nuke is worthless if you don’t have a plan to stop it.
  • Charting an independent course is a lot like thinking before you act. You need a course and you need to act, otherwise you’re pretty much just charting and thinking.  Not leading.

It’s time for a president who actually wants America to lead.

 

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About the Author

 

Danielle
Pletka

  • As a long-time Senate Committee on Foreign Relation senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia, Danielle Pletka was the point person on Middle East, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan issues. As the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka writes on national security matters with a focus on Iran and weapons proliferation, the Middle East, Syria, Israel and the Arab Spring. She also studies and writes about South Asia: Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.


    Pletka is the co-editor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the co-author of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011) and “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (AEI Press, 2012). Her most recent study, “America vs. Iran: The competition for the future of the Middle East,” was published in January 2014.


     


    Follow Danielle Pletka on Twitter.


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    Email: dpletka@aei.org
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