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Published on: February 24, 2013
The Second Coming of Warren Christopher?

Today the new Secretary of State, John Kerry, began his maiden voyage as dean of American diplomacy. He is headed to nine countries; specifically, to London, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Ankara, Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. According to the State Department and sources quoting Secretary Kerry’s entourage, and according to […]

Today the new Secretary of State, John Kerry, began his maiden voyage as dean of American diplomacy. He is headed to nine countries; specifically, to London, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Ankara, Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. According to the State Department and sources quoting Secretary Kerry’s entourage, and according to Kerry himself at a February 20 speech delivered at the University of Virginia, the main purpose of the trip is to consult with our European allies and Middle Eastern friends about the current ongoing tumult once mindlessly labeled the Arab Spring.

It is by no means unusual for the first trip abroad of an American Secretary of State to be to Europe. Presidents may appropriately go to Canada or Mexico on their first journey outside the country, but since the time when Secretaries began traveling extensively—after World War II, really—most have gone first to Europe, almost invariably starting in London. Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton did not do this; her first official trip was to Asia—and that was before the temporarily famous (or infamous, depending on one’s tastes) ”pivot” to Asia. But she is the exception.

The reasons for the Europe focus are easy to list, since there are really only two that matter. First, Europe is where the heart of America’s most important Cold War alliance was, and long before that Europe has been at the very core of American strategic concern. Despite the end of the Cold War, legacy relationships between the United States and Europe remain strong, as do our extensive economic ties. They remain so strong because, second, Europeans are the forebears of America’s 17th- and 18th-century founding population and Europe is the source of America’s foundational political principles and cultural expressions. All of Europe in its considerable diversity is not created equal in this regard, of course; Britain and France clearly stand above all others, albeit differently, in that regard.

If those two reasons explain the past behavior of travelling American Secretaries of State, do they also explain present behavior? America’s population as a whole is today less traceable back to Europe than ever. Its dominant Protestant origins, indelibly linked with Britain and its history back at least to Henry VIII, stand diluted as never before. Beyond culture there is a changing strategic landscape. Having pivoted to Asia, and having sharply reduced the post-World War II American military–strategic footprint in Europe, many observers take it for granted that those Obama Administration decisions ratify Europe’s lack of strategic importance to the United States.

Indeed, prominent ex-policymakers and academics—some of them European—have in growing numbers and confidence dismissed the strategic significance of Europe. They point to a group of countries that punches well below its weight in global affairs on account of its protracted failure to invest in defense capabilities, and that stands in what seems to be an endless political muddle amid a careening economic swoon. The European Union’s internal problems, which are epiphenomenal of key decisions made (or avoided) in Berlin, Paris, London, Rome and Madrid, are more political than economic, but they nonetheless contribute much to the current pall of economic uncertainty and the broadly psychological distress it brings in train.

If all that is the case, then why is Secretary Kerry heading off first to Europe? If we have pivoted to Asia, why not go to Tokyo, Seoul, Manila, Jakarta and New Delhi first? Does he think the Europeans understand what is going on in the Middle East better than we do—assuming anyone does—and even if he does, what help can he expect from them? These are allies that could not even “do” Libya without us. These are allies that do not help their own; the French fight in Mali serves the basic interests of all of Europe, but none of France’s European partners have come forth to help them in a significant way (never mind for the time being whether French war aims and capacities even come near to matching).

And as brave as the French are in the Sahel, they are hardly brave. Against our pleadings and protests, the French government insists on refusing to label Hizballah a terrorist organization, despite the recent verdict of the Bulgarian government and new incriminating facts come to light from a trial in Cyprus. Notwithstanding the blather we hear from the French and the Germans about Hizballah having social welfare functions and political legitimacy in Lebanon, French reluctance is in truth based on cowardice. The French government wants to avoid turning French soldiers operating within the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon into more prominent targets than they already are. But the underlying fear is broader: By branding Hizballah a terrorist organization, the government worries that French interests worldwide will be attacked in response. This is perversely inverted reasoning. Hizballah can smell weakness from a distance. Supine behavior in Paris is far more likely to attract attacks than to deter them. From Europeans like these Secretary Kerry expects to get wisdom and assistance in dealing with the Middle East?

*****

Withal, Secretary Kerry is doing the right thing all the same, and for two reasons. First, to my way of thinking, for what it’s worth, dismissals of Europe’s strategic significance are exaggerated. Despite the frailties of Europe’s capabilities in military terms, everything is relative in this regard. Where else in the world can we find partners that combine both overall (not just military) capability and enough political commonality to foster effective and sustained coordination? One can point to certain countries here and there outside of Europe that make the grade, but nowhere on this planet is there a cluster of them comparable to U.S. allies in Europe. Yes, they are weak, often irresolute, divided among themselves and are thus in no few respects a pain in the ass to work with—as the illustration concerning Hizballah attests. But they are still the best we have, and they tend to come as a set. A country like Poland, which has been a stalwart ally (at least before we alienated its leadership and popular opinion alike in recent years), is far more likely to help us in a pinch in the context of the broader U.S.-European alliance framework.

Second, thanks to the drawdown in U.S. military forces there, and the rhetoric surrounding the Asian pivot, a lot of Europeans think we don’t love them anymore. We have to show the flag. We have to make nice. We have to hold hands. We have to smile a lot, and whisper when it seems engagingly appropriate. We probably have to give a speech or two. That’s how this stuff works; the care and feeding of old allies is a day job.

Wherefrom do I know this? Because when Condoleezza Rice became Secretary of State early in 2005, she did more or less the same thing. Her first trip was also to Europe and the Middle East combined, and in a moment I will discuss how those circumstances differed from the ones at hand today. But right after the Europe trip she went to Asia, a place where, at the time, our allies wondered if we even knew they existed. I remember sitting with the Secretary and about a dozen or so others in the John Jay conference room, just outside the Secretary’s suite on the Seventh Floor of the State Department building, to discuss plans for that trip. I was there because I was her speechwriter for the major address she planned to deliver at Sophia University in Tokyo; just by sitting in and keeping my mouth shut I was supposed to get some guidance for how to write the speech—in lieu of actually being able to ask the Secretary directly. I remember this meeting being rather heavily logistical in nature: Would the Secretary want to meet celebrities at airports for that populist photo-op advantage? Would she play the piano this time, as she declined to do in Europe?—and so forth and so on. After about 45 minutes of this sort of thing, one recently arrived aide (whose name I will not mention) asked a simple but probing set of three questions: Why are we going on this trip? What do we want to accomplish? What’s our business there?

Now, as it happened, there actually was some business to conduct, but it was not the sort of thing properly discussed at large in a trip meeting like this, and it was not at all the sort of thing to be mooted directly in a speech. (Some of it had to do with communicating to the Indians and the Pakistanis our concern about a prospective energy pipeline deal with Iran; some of it had to do with communicating some facts to the Chinese government about recent North Korean behavior, which is probably why General Ray Odierno, the Secretary’s military adviser at the time, was on the trip; but I’ll say no more about that “business” here.) The answer in the room that day, after an appropriate stunned silence, was that we were going to Asia to refute the impression that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had pushed that entire continent completely off our radar screens. We were going to show the flag. You can imagine, perhaps, how much speechwriting guidance I got from that….

In short, as with Secretary Rice’s trip to Asia in March 2005, a lot of what Secretary Kerry’s first trip is about is symbolism. And there’s nothing wrong with that. So if he returns from Europe and the Middle East without having accomplished any actual business, it won’t really matter. State Department mattress mice by the hundreds will create a thick briefing book filled with background on a whole range of issues, from the idea of a Transatlantic free-trade zone to the Hizballah issue all the way to the continuing scar of Gitmo. There will be plenty to study on joint and parallel U.S. and European program efforts to promote reform in the Middle East over the past two decades, a legacy of at least three previous Secretaries of State. Secretary Kerry and his senior staff will not lack for stuff to study and talk about. But this is really a gardening phase, get-to-know-you symbolic trip rather than a serious business one.

It’s also a test drive in a way. Every Secretary has to learn how to use his 24/7-capable Executive Secretariat, which includes an amazing group of professionals who take his office onto Air Force II and around the world with stunning alacrity from one five-star hotel to another, coordinating travel, security and all the multinational liaison that goes with it. These folks do their jobs with consummate skill; it’s the new Secretary who has a learning curve to draw.

*****

Precisely because this trip is largely symbolic, I have a problem with the itinerary. Actually, I have two problems—and avoiding Israel is not one of them. The Israelis have just barely put together a governing coalition after their January 22 election, and they are not in a position to properly receive an American delegation. These days, too, if an American Secretary of State goes to Israel, he also has to visit Ramallah to talk to the Palestinian Authority. And if he does that that he is immediately asking to be swamped by the highly emotional, very telegenic and almost completely futile exertions of the so-called peace process. That’s enough to swallow an entire trip whole. Believe me, that’s best avoided, whatever the reasons.

No, it’s okay that Kerry is not going to Israel. It’s not okay, in my view it, that he’s not going anywhere in Central/Eastern Europe—to the “new” Europe, and the newest members of NATO. The first Obama Administration made a hash of relations with Poland, and this would be a good opportunity to start repairing them. But if Secretary Kerry thinks that too many Secretaries of State have gone to Warsaw and not enough to Prague, then that would’ve been a suitable destination, too. To leave out Central/Eastern Europe altogether is a mistake. Within a few years of the end of the Cold War too many American observers of international affairs checked the box for this part of the world, as if the entire region was in the bag, so safe for democracy and inextricably pro-American that nothing really could go wrong there. For years now we have been taking this entire part of the world for granted, and that’s just not a good idea, as recent fairly ugly developments in Hungary testify.

Part of the first problem, perhaps, is that he is also going neither to Brussels nor to Dublin, the capital of the current rotating president of the European Union. If we really mean what we say when we claim that we support more mature forms of European integration, then why not symbolize that support on this trip?

The second problem is that Kerry is going to Qatar but not to Jordan. The Qataris are big time troublemakers. By going there he more or less gives them undeserved equal status with the Emiratis, who are genuinely useful and sincere allies. But the sin of commission with respect to Qatar pales compared to the sin of omission with respect to Jordan. There is no end to the failure of American statesmen who are not expert in the Middle East to underestimate the importance of this little country. Jordan is a critical buffer in both a north-south and an east-west fashion; that’s the reason Winston Churchill created it after World War I. Jordan’s very existence keeps Israel and Iraq apart, and it keeps both Egypt and Saudi Arabia at a healthy physical remove from the Fertile Crescent. If the country falls apart or its moderate government collapses into the hands of salafi hotheads, there will be lots and lots of trouble both near and far. And Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy is itself in more trouble today than it has been since the middle 1950s.

Maybe King Abdallah II doesn’t want the Secretary of State in Amman. Maybe he and his senior aides think a visit would be counterproductively inflammatory at this point. If that’s the case, and we have been so informed, then not going to Jordan isn’t a mistake. But if we are the ones who are spurning a welcome, then we are indeed making an error. If the Jordanians will host us, it’s a propitious time to buck up the Hashemites, and to come bearing some palpable help for the enormous burden of dealing with Syrian refugees the kingdom faces today.

*****

With the new Secretary’s trip about to begin, I can’t help being reminded where I was eight years ago. I accompanied Secretary Rice on Air Force II as she set off for Europe and the Middle East on her first trip abroad as Secretary. Whereas Secretary Kerry is going to nine countries, that trip involved eleven, plus a refueling stop. That trip took us from London to Berlin to Warsaw to Ankara to Jerusalem and Ramallah to Rome to Paris—the site of the Secretary’s maiden speech at Science Po on February 8, 2005—to Brussels to Luxembourg (which then held the rotating EU presidency) and then to Shannon, Ireland for refueling before heading back across the Atlantic to Andrews Air Force Base. That’s a total of 22 takeoffs and landings, if I’ve counted correctly, in less than two weeks. That’s enough to make a person feel like a kind of galactic yo-yo.

Obviously, there are differences as well as similarities between the business—even the symbolic business—to be conducted now as opposed to then. That trip back in 2005 preceded a presidential trip to Europe. Maybe the trip this coming week will also do so, but there is yet no indication of that. That trip back then was a “clear the decks”, “clear the air”, “let’s put the past behind us” sort of trip. This trip is not entirely clean of bad feeling; several European governments are none too thrilled with the whole Afghanistan caper we dragged them into. But this is nothing like the bad Transatlantic air produced by the Iraq War. The “old” Europeans, to recall Donald Rumsfeld’s unfortunate terminology, did not like the American President in 2005, but by and large the “new” Europeans did. Today, the “old” Europeans like the American President, but by and large the “new” Europeans do not like him nearly as much. Why, and what does it matter?

There are many reasons, but the main one is that the “new” Europeans do not chafe from strong American leadership. To the contrary:  They wanted to be part of Europe, but the Transatlantic link mightily reinforced their post-Communist trajectory. They are not wildly fond of the Obama Administration’s passive “lead from behind” body language. That leaves them in the company of a bunch of Germans, Frenchman, Brits, Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese and Greeks, among others, who cannot seem to make any purposeful common decisions and actually stick with them. And that’s why this maiden trip by a Secretary of State to Europe should remind us not so much of Condoleezza Rice’s journey, but of Warren Christopher’s.

Secretary Christopher sallied forth to Europe for the first time in office in May 1993 during one of many odious stages of what I call the Wars of Yugoslav Succession. In that same month the then Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Peter Tarnoff, set off a tempest when he told the press that the United States, after the Cold War, would pare down the definition of its vital strategic interests in the world. Tempest or no, he was indeed speaking accurately for the Administration, whose President had determined to be a domestic policy, not a national security, President.

When Christopher arrived in Europe, our allies, whatever the history of their complaints about our overbearing nature, expected, as before, American leadership. It would not be too much to say, I think, that at that moment they desperately sought it. And what did Christopher, in essence, say to them? Something along the lines of, well, what you guys think we should do? The Europeans were appalled. They wanted leadership, but they got highly uncharacteristic, and utterly unhelpful, modesty instead. Fecklessness, some would (and did) say. It is therefore not entirely without interest that Secretary Kerry has characterized his forthcoming trip as a “fact-finding” journey, one in which he intends to be a good listener.

Yet what else can the new Secretary do? Everything about President Obama at the start of the second term suggests an unusually passive American role in the world. Everything suggests that, like Bill Clinton in 1993, he wants his second term to be a domestic policy and not a national security presidency. A diplomatic duck-and-cover drill looks to be in prospect for every crisis that comes down the road during the next four years—at least until the cumulative damage of that passivity prompts the White House to do something, somewhere. Every Secretary of State knows, or ought to know, that the policy of the United States is the policy of the President, because he is the one who got elected, and all of his cabinet members serve at his pleasure. A wise Secretary, whatever his personal inclinations and analysis, can never let too much blue sky show between himself and the President who elevated him to high office.

I doubt this will be a problem for John Kerry (or for Chuck Hagel, assuming he actually becomes Secretary of Defense), a man who seems as reluctant to want to actually do anything as Barack Obama. That is probably the watchword to keep foremost in mind for this trip: It may be the Secretary who travels, but it is the President’s brief he ultimately carries.

show comments
  • WigWag

    Considering that Adam Garfinkle served for a time in the Bush Administration perhaps he might tell us how the State Department reacted to John Kerry’s non-stop efforts to undercut Bush’s attempt to isolate Assad.

    After Obama’s election, Kerry became Obama’s point man in trying to kiss up to the Syrian dictator. Presumably this role was assigned to the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee because Secretary of State Clinton was too sophisticated to undertake such a ridiculous mission. Kerry met with Assad five times between 2009 and 2011 and the pow-wows included an opportunity for an intimate dining experience between Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz and Bashar Assad and his charming, graceful and fashionable wife, Asma.

    Bush, for all his many failures, recognized that Assad was arming terrorists in Iraq, supporting Hezbollah’s terrorist activities against Israel and stirring up trouble throughout the Middle East with his friends, the Iranians. Of course, the Syrians were co-conspirators in the brutal assassination of Rafiq Hariri. After the assassination, Bush pulled the American ambassador from Damascus. The newly elected Obama couldn’t wait to return the Ambassador although Senate Republicans slowed this up for a while by delaying confirmation proceedings.

    Senator Kerry couldn’t find it within himself to be troubled about any of this. His comments shortly after one of his many meetings with Assad summed up his feelings quite succinctly,

    ”Unlike the Bush administration that believed you could simply tell people what to do and walk away and wait for them to do it, we believe you have to engage in a discussion,”

    Lobbing a cheap shot at the Bush Administration seemed to be a far higher priority for the then Senator from Massachusetts than calling out Assad for his brutality.

    In 2010, as the Obama Administration was in the process of destroying any dialog whatsoever between the Israelis and Palestinians, Kerry assured us that the key to regional peace was dialog with the enlightened Assad regime. He said,

    ”Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region.”

    He went on to say,

    ”Both the United States and Syria have a very deep interest…in having a very frank exchange on any differences [and] agreements that we have about the possibilities of peace in the region…”

    Kerry was also a vigorous advocate for the Israelis returning the Golan Heights to the Assad regime. I wonder what the ramifications for Israeli security would be right now had they heeded Kerry’s foolish advice.

    Kerry’s enthusiasm for Assad seemed to go well beyond his conviction that the Syrian dictator was a positive force for change; Kerry genuinely seemed to have affection for Assad. He said,

    “…President Assad has been very generous with me in terms of the discussions we have had…Syria will move; Syria will change, as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West and economic opportunity that comes with it and the participation that comes with it.”

    Of course, his belief that Assad was a man of peace and his advocacy of Israel returning the Golan to Syria isn’t the only evidence of the idiocy of the new Secretary of State. It seems that Kerry also mistook Egypt for Poland, East Germany or Czechoslovakia. He could hardly contain his enthusiasm over the wonderful revolution that began in Tahir Square. From the word go, the credulous Kerry was convinced that everything would just go swimmingly. Kerry marveled,

    “The people of Egypt liberated themselves in eighteen days without a single IED or suicide bomb…”

    It is remarkable to behold the quality of the people that Obama has decided should run the Departments of State and Defense. During his confirmation hearings Hagel demonstrated that he is, at best, a dullard.

    Warren Christopher may have been laconic; John Kerry is a dunce.

    • Adam Garfinkle

      You have changed the subject from a broad assessment of a new Secretary of State’s travel itinerary to the specific matter of John Kerry’s understanding of Syria. Ordinarily I would not take the bait of such a bait-and-switch comment, but in this case the subject is too interesting to resist.

      Alas, your premise is wrong, twice.

      However foolish John Kerry has been about Syria, he is merely one of many. His views are best described as those invoking linkage between anything and everything having to do with Israel and all the rest of the problems of the region (and sometimes beyond). Kerry is a member of the Baker-Scowcroft-Djerijian school, which thinks that by offering the Syrian regime the Golan Heights via pressure on Israel, Syria can be made to cease its highly destabilizing behavior on other fronts. Thus the peace process, so-called, ends up being the be-all and end-all of consideration concerning Syria. As I have written many times over the years, this is a lurid (and highly Jewcentric) fantasy. The idea, for example, that the way to get the Syrians to stop abetting the killing of American soldiers in Iraq was to pressure Israel to offer them a deal over Golan, never made any sense. It still doesn’t. So if John Kerry is a dunce, as you call him, he is one of a great many. He is really nothing special in this regard.

      The other premise that is wrong is your contention that that Kerry was dead set on foiling George W. Bush’s wise policy of isolating Syria. There was no such policy. I cannot speak to Kerry’s role during the Obama administration, but I can speak about the Bush period.

      Despite the fact that the Syrian regime was doing all sorts of retrograde and nasty things, including, as I say, actively abetting the transfer through Syria to Iraq of salafi fanatics with their hearts set on killing American soldiers, the Bush Administration never got it together to do much of anything about it. Not long after 9/11, Deputy Secretary of State Rich Armitage was sent to Damascus to read Assad the riot act. Without going into detail, I don’t think this trip made much of an impression because the list of priorities, in my view, did not sit well with reality. But over and over again, month after month, year after year, not really until the fall of 2008, we balked. We exacted no price of consequence for Syrian behavior. President Bush was engaging, once again, in what Richard Perle once referred to as his “maddeningly episodic” decision style. He just let Syria, as well as Iran at the time, slip and slide.

      Now why was this? I have been asking myself this question for years, since I made ultimately futile efforts at the time to understand and to change this passivity. It was a combination of things, as usual.

      First, compared to the other actors Syria seemed sort of minor. Its potential for troublemaking was generally underestimated. As a result, there really was no Syria policy. Syria became an adjunct consideration of other policies, whether that concerning Iraq or Israel or Lebanon or Iran – – whatever the flavor of the day was.

      Second, there was, even in the Bush administration, this fantasy about Golan and linkage. When the State Department gets a bad idea in his head, it tends to stay there. And this bad idea infects Republican Administrations as as well as others. When this idea infected the Baker-Hamilton report on Iraq some years ago, the true ecumenical character of this foolishness was on display.

      Third, whenever the Syrians did something especially egregious, and opened the door for some of us to argue for a more muscular policy, the result was always the same: Some military guy would say, in effect, “Look, we already have two wars on our hands; why do you want to start a third one?”

      The policy was set by default on relative passivity, and the military supported that passivity for parochial reasons. So it took, or it would have taken, and active decision by someone – – the president, say – – to change it. And that active decision never happened.

      Now above I mentioned something that happened in the fall of 2008. Without going into detail, I am referring to a US cross-border operation that killed the guy who ran the operation to infiltrate jihadis through Syria into Iraq. Some years earlier there had been a few minor close-pursuit forays across the border, but nothing that ever frightened the Syrians enough into stopping what they were doing. It should be noted that this fall 2008 operation was a harbinger of the future in that it was an intel-op, not a DOD activity.

      I don’t know where you got this idea that George W. Bush was some kind of intrepid hero trying to advance a muscular policy against Syria. It’s just not true.

      One final comment. The fantasy that somehow everything in the Middle East revolves in one way or another around Israel has a deep source, in my view. Without going into detail in a mere comment, it comes down to the seeming reality that Americans cannot be bothered to distinguish among different tribes and sects and languages and political cleavages in the Middle East. Middle Easterners are just one huge amorphous mass of exotic swarthy types, and if you think like that, then any effort you make to navigate in the region has got to have as its main intellectual anchor some external point – – be it the Soviet Union during Cold War times, or Israel in most other times. The idea that Middle Easterners have complex, contentious, changing and significant political differences among themselves has just never seemed to register in Washington. And again, there is nothing especially Democratic or Republican about this. So if you’re looking for a partisan angle here, forget it: it doesn’t exist.

      • WigWag

        “One final comment. The fantasy that somehow everything in the Middle East revolves in one way or another around Israel has a deep source, in my view…” (Adam Garfinkle)

        Yes it does have a deep source and the source may be more nefarious than you care to believe. As evidence I offer James Baker’s famous comment,

        “f**k the Jews; they don’t vote for us anyway.”

        Fortunately the sentiments of Baker and Scowcroft and their intellectual brethren have largely been expunged from the Republican Party. That Irving Kiristol, his allies and his progeny were so successful in exiling Baker, Scowcroft and their fellow travelers from the GOP is really a wonder to behold.

        Of course the f**k the Jews crowd has resurfaced with the assistance of the current Democratic President. His new Secretary of Defense (whose nomination you defended in a post a few weeks back) is a Baker disciple. Unlike his hero, Hagel has been more circumspect. His desire to f**k the Jews has been expressed in a less forceful manner although not so subtly that most people of good will can’t pick up on his intent.

        Acolytes of Baker-Scowcroft-Djerijian are pretty much all Democrats now. The Neoconservative wing of the Republican Party who vanquished them so thoroughly were right to oppose Hagel so vigorously. How else could they have proven that the odious views of that crowd were no longer welcome amongst mainstream Republicans.

        It’s too bad that the Republicans directed all their fire at Hagel and didn’t shoot the few arrows in their quiver at
        Kerry. Hagel and Kerry have all the intellectual fire power of a gnat. They can be counted on to make one bad decision after another.

  • WigWag

    One other thing; you may be right that the Bush Administration never got it’s act together to foil the bad behavior of the Syrian regime in Iraq and elsewhere, but if nothing else it got the symbolism right. The Bush Administration was reluctant to engage the Syrian dictator and after Hariri was assassinated Bush pulled the U.S. Ambassador. Kerry and later Obama ridiculed the Bush Administration for doing this and they insisted that the only way to make progress was to engage the Syrians.

    What have we gotten for all of Kerry’s pow wows and intimate dining opportunities with Assad? Tens of thousands of dead Syrians.

    Bush may not have done enough but at least he got the optics right. Kerry and Obama got everything wrong. As a reward for making one mistake after another, the dimwitted Kerry was elevated from his perch as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee to Secretary of State. George Bush was widely ridiculed for being stupid. It seems to me that the former President is an intellectual giant compared to Bashar Assad’s favorite dining companion.

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