John Kerry

4 Things You Need to Know About Secretary of State Nominee John Kerry

Don't let his reputation as a peacenik fool you. John Kerry is no anti-interventionist.


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On Dec. 21, President Obama nominated Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. The move was widely expected after Susan Rice, the only other prominent candidate, dropped out of consideration when the Obama administration's response to a terror attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya promised to derail her nomination.

Now serving his fifth term in the Senate, Kerry is best known for his failed 2004 presidential run, and the "swift boat" attacks he suffered during it. While America may never know a President Kerry, his likely confirmation as secretary of state means the man America almost elected in 2004 will have a chance to put some of his ideas into action. So what might we expect from Kerry at State?

no not fresh

1. He's an Interventionist

When Kerry ran for president, Republican operatives tried to paint him as unpatriotic due to his opposition to the Vietnam War (in which he fought). The Swift Boat campaign, coupled with Kerry's speech about the 1991 Gulf War (which he opposed on the grounds that "there is no consensus in America for war") created the impression that Kerry believes in a smaller international footprint. 

He doesn't. Kerry raised no objection to the Senate's unanimous passage of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which made regime change in Iraq official U.S. policy. After 9/11, he voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq. This second vote he would attempt to recast during his presidential campaign—claiming during his candidacy announcement that the vote was meant merely to threaten the use of force; then owning it later in the campaign.

In addition to being for the war in Iraq before he was against it (wording he used to explain voting for, then against supplemental funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), Kerry has also been a proponent of Obama-era interventions. He was one of the first advocates for an intervention in the Libyan civil war in 2011, which received no congressional authorization. The most support Kerry could muster for U.S. military involvement in the Libyan civil war was a "Sense of the Senate" resolution co-sponsored by Arizona Republican John McCain.

NEXT: An Obama Apologist

2. He's a Shameless Obama Booster

important stuff

The Huffington Post described John Kerry as "Obama's good soldier on foreign policy," which is why the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman is now on his way to running the State Department.

In plain English, that means Kerry's been on the front lines of the bureaucratic bungling in Afghanistan, helping to shore up the kleptocratic regime of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. It also means he helped shepherd the U.S. intervention in Libya, and that he's the first person to offer a simplistic version of Obama's foreign policy for public consumption, repeatedly heralding the death of Osama bin Laden (something Paul Wolfowitz speculated may have contributed to Al-Qaeda's determination to present a resurgence). 

NEXT: Vietnam All Over Again?

3. His Vietnam Experience Does Not Inform His Position on Afghanistan

youthful indiscretion?

John Kerry was one of only three major party presidential candidates to have served in the Vietnam war (the others being Al Gore in 2000 and John McCain in 2008). Kerry enlisted in 1966 and was deployed to Vietnam in 1968. After returning in 1970 he joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War, an anti-war organization targeted by President Richard Nixon. "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" Kerry famously asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during testimony in 1971. The question was invoked at the conclusion of the Iraq war in December 2011.

Yet Kerry was not against the Iraq war or the Afghanistan war. Instead, he joined a chorus of liberals in criticizing President Bush for the way the wars were handled.

By the time the 2008 election was in full swing, the process of ending the war in Iraq had begun, and Democrats, led by Obama, had pivoted to Afghanistan, his "good war," even though the news from Afghanistan under Obama, like the news from Afghanistan under Bush, hasn't been good.

And while the 11-year-old war is now at Vietnam length, Vietnam veteran Kerry sees no connection. "In my judgement, Afghanistan is just not Vietnam," Kerry said on Meet the Press in 2010, in support of the tack Obama was then taking on Afghanistan. "We shouldn't have been in Vietnam. It was a surrogate war, it was a cold war. There are any number of reasons it was a gigantic mistake. In Afghanistan, we're there for a purpose. I don't believe the size of the footprint we have doing everything we're doing, as I've said publicly many times, and I don't think the president, in the long run, wants to do that, which is why he has committed to this transition." That transition envisioned the Afghans taking over the Afghanistan war by 2014. Since the election, that date's been all but jettisoned.

NEXT: Is He a Rocky IV Fan?

4. The Russia Problem

kinda like frenemies, or bullies trying to play nice

Like a good surrogate, Kerry went after Mitt Romney on the campaign trail, often focusing on the Republican candidate's perceived weakness on foreign policy.

In his most memorable speech, which the Obama campaign actually turned into a poster, Kerry responded to Romney's claim that Russia is America's "number one geopolitical foe" by saying, "Palin said she could see Russia from Alaska; Mitt Romney talks like he's only seen Russia by watching Rocky IV."

Setting aside that you can actually see Russia from an Alaskan island (and it was Tina Fey, not Palin, who said she could see it from her house), Russia can in fact be considered a "geopolitical foe." The complex relationship between the U.S. and Russia is best illuminated in the international machinations around Syria. The U.S. and its Western allies have been thwarted in their years-long attempt to get the United Nations to take stronger action on Syria. By whom? Russia and China, who have vetoed all efforts. The two even helped found, in 2001, a NATO-like clone of their own, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, meant to counterbalance American hegemony. The Russians, for their part, welcomed Kerry before he was even officially nominated, stating their preference for him over Susan Rice, who as UN ambassador has tangled with Russia over Syria throughout the crisis. Kerry, on the other hand, while doing his part to support the possibility of U.S. intervention in Syria, also visited Syria five times in the two years before the rebellion started, praising Assad and expressing confidence that Syria would move forward toward "a legitimate relationship with the United States" under the dictator's rule.

Nevertheless, the interventionist fervor which Obama, Clinton, Rice, and Kerry all share will continue to fuel an adversarial relationship with countries like Russia and China, which have no interest in acceding to the goals of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, no matter how dressed those goals might be in the language of accomodation. Not acknowledging geopolitical foes won't make them disappear when the fundamentals of U.S. interventionism breed them, irrespective of any rhetoric.

NEXT: Indonesia to Build Drone Squadron

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  1. “”””created the impression that Kerry believes in a smaller international footprint.
    He doesn’t.””‘

    I remember during his presidential campaign that Kerry attacked Bush for reducing the number of US troops in Europe. If Kerry won’t even go along with pulling toops out of Europe, he probably won’t want to pull them out of anywhere.

  2. Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes.

  3. Terrific, moving from an opportunist do-nothing to a dishonorable scumbag. Whee.

    1. ^^^This^^^
      Despite being an officer, you are perceptive. 🙂

  4. This will really piss Noam Chomsky off.

  5. If I ever meet John Kerry, I will ask him, “What’s wrong? Why the long face?”

    1. I need to ask him to write a book. “How to marry rich woman for fun and profit”.

    2. “What’s wrong? Why the long face?”

      ‘Cuz horse’s asses often have horse’s faces? Or is that a donkey’s face?

  6. Thinking back to the dreadful election of 2004 it is just bewildering how Americans fucked that one up royally. We were in the grip of Bush uber-super patriotism and the Dems ran a terrible candidate who voted for the Iraq disaster instead of the anti-war, deficit hawk, pro-gun Howard Dean.

  7. “swift boat attacks” my ass

    I spent more time in sick bay for industrial accidents than Kerry did for three Purple Hearts. PH earned, my ass. Kerry’s seniors let the sorry ass have PHs for his self reported injuries as a means to get rid of him before he could get any of his men killed.

    Kerry’s primary benefit to Obama is that he, along with Joe Biden, are some of the few men that when compared to Obama make Obama look good.

    1. Kerry was awarded a Bronze Star as well.

      The Swift Boat Liars did their job – deflecting the attention away from the duo of draft-dodgers on the GOP ticket.

      But in the end justice was served. The legacy of the Bushpigs is forever cemented in the bottom of the toilet of US Presidencies where it belongs. A Kerry presidency would have obscured that.

      1. Wow. And you accuse me of having tunnel vision, Shriek. Missed your dose of lithium again, didn’t you? NEEDZ MOAR CHRISTFAG!

        1. Careful, Doc. Don’t get stupid all over you.

        2. Yeah, I am still laughing about Soros fighting communism in the Ukraine was really all about single-payer.

          You’re in Beck looney land now.

          1. I never claimed “it was all about single-payer”, you disingenuous shitbag. I’m not sure which is more strained: your credulity or your assgina when you stewed the loo.

      2. Bronze Star – for what? Chasing down and shooting dead some Vietnamese who had already thrown away his weapon and fled?

      3. … deflecting the attention away from the duo of draft-dodgers on the GOP ticket.

        If serving in the Reserves (as Bush did) is “dodging the draft,” then so too is joining the Navy to keep from being drafted into the Army after all one’s draft deferments have run out. Kerry was every bit as much a draft dodger as anyone else – he just wasn’t as successful at it as BJ Clinton.

    2. The Swift Boat Liars did their job – deflecting the attention away from the duo of draft-dodgers on the GOP ticket.

      Are you implying that draft-dodging is wrong?

    3. “Kerry’s primary benefit to Obama is that he, along with Joe Biden, are some of the few men that when compared to Obama make Obama look good”

      Great point. This ^^ seems to be a pattern for most of Obama’s appointments, at least the ones that are more likely to fall under the national spotlight.

  8. I’ll tell you one thing, he’s not winning my heart and mind.

  9. …and there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the – of – of – of – historical customs, religious customs, whether you like it or not. Iraqis should be doing that.

    John Kerry thinks that Iraqis should be terrorizing their own kids and children and women?

    1. I wonder how he feels about American soldiers swat teams going into the homes of Americans in the dead of night, terrorizing people etc.?

  10. New Kerry quote:

    I was for denying more security in Benghazi before I was against removing Chris Stevens from harms way.

  11. Secretary of State Thurston Howell III.

    Should be a rousing success.

    1. Is that pronounced Thurston Howell the Turd?

  12. And lest we forget Mr. Kerry’s lies…err testimony during the Winter Soldier hearings, when he described having personally seen atrocities committed by fellow Americans.
    I have no doubt his actions in Vietnam earned him the medals he was awarded. It is his actions after the war that I find reprehensible.

  13. …and just when I thought we had, for the most part, gotten rid of Lurch…

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