Addressing the cool kids at Rolling Stone during his ill-fated presidential campaign, John Kerry attempted to explain his vote for the Iraq War.
“I mean, when I voted for the war, I voted for what I thought was best for the country,” Kerry said. Then after taking a swipe at a Democratic presidential candidate who disrupted his coronation by actually opposing the war, he added, “Did I expect George Bush to f–k it up as badly as he did? I don’t think anybody did.”
Fast forward more than a decade. John Kerry is now secretary of state. And things are certainly f–ked up, perhaps more than anybody expected.
Kerry’s attempts at Middle East diplomacy have been almost universally panned, even by left-wing Israeli newspapers like Haaretz. “Kerry isn’t anti-Israeli; on the contrary, he’s a true friend to Israel,” states one of the more charitable Israeli accounts of Kerry’s Gaza maneuvers. “But his conduct in recent days over the Gaza cease-fire raises serious doubts over his judgment and perception of regional events.”
There are less charitable takes on Kerry’s peacemaking abilities. The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharof described “an extraordinary phone call taking place between a senior Palestinian Authority official and an Israeli counterpart, during which the two mocked the senior diplomat’s naivete and his failure to understand the regional reality.”
Ari Shavit, the author of the Haaretz piece, concluded, “The man of peace from Massachusetts intercepted with his own hands the reasonable cease-fire that was within reach, and pushed both the Palestinians and Israelis toward an escalation that most of them did not want.”
An Associated Press diplomatic correspondent tweeted, “Looks like phase one of new US Mideast peace strategy to piss everyone off so much they stop fighting each other & turn on Kerry is working.”
Kerry has finally beaten Bush: he has proved that he is a uniter, not a divider.
The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians certainly isn’t Kerry’s fault; greater diplomatic minds than he have tried to bring peace to the Holy Land to no avail. Not even Metternich would be able to untangle this Gordian Knot.
Israel itself faces no good options. It can either permit a virulently anti-Israel terrorist organization to keep flinging rockets and building tunnels or continue to inflict civilian casualties that will inevitably deepen the anti-Israel sentiment on which Hamas relies.
But if a physician’s first obligation is to do no harm, Dr. Kerry should stop making house calls. The secretary of state is widely viewed as undermining a deal favored by Egypt, Israel, Fatah, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in favor of one preferred by Qatar and Turkey.
“Officials from Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, to name a few interested parties, watched with astonishment over the weekend as Kerry engaged in Paris with Khalid al-Attiyah and Ahmet Davutoglu, the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey,” Newsweek reported. “Some European foreign ministers also attended the Paris summit, but the guest list noticeably didn’t include any other Middle Eastern representatives.”
The proposal by Qatar and Turkey, not surprisingly, was perceived to embolden Hamas rather than empower other Palestinian political forces. According to the Jerusalem Post, Fatah fumed, “Those who want Qatar or Turkey to represent them should leave and go live there.”
You can make the case that at least some of the anti-Kerry pile-on is motivated by, perhaps even cover for, the intractable differences at the heart of the dispute. (Hamas wasn’t going to rush to accept the Egypt deal.) And while Kerry’s heckuva job Bibi hot mic moment may have been dumb and counterproductive, Ronald Reagan had a more embarrassing gaffe before major diplomatic breakthroughs with the Soviet Union en route to winning the Cold War.
Somehow it is difficult to muster the same optimism about Kerry, however. He is a man in love with the sound of his own voice in an administration filled with such people, even by Washington standards. The results so far can only bring to mind Woody Allen’s quip that masturbation is sex with someone you love.
Neither Barack Obama nor George W. Bush will ever have their faces etched upon Mount Rushmore. Kerry’s singular accomplishment to this point has been to make it conceivable that their elections were not the most disastrous possible outcomes.
If we survive his tenure as secretary of state, future generations may conclude: Thank God John Kerry was never president.
W. James Antle III is the editor of The Daily Caller News Foundation and author of the book Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? Follow him on Twitter.