It’s hard to recall a scoop that exposed the bankruptcy of post-Vietnam diplomacy in a more devastating fashion than Anne Barnard’s dispatch in the New York Times giving a glimpse of Secretary of State Kerry complaining about his country – to the Syrians. His beef with America? That we won’t support his call for a war in Syria. “Over and over again,” writes Ms. Barnard, Mr. Kerry “complained to a small group of Syrian civilians that his diplomacy had not been backed by a serious threat of military force.”
What’s so powerful about her story is that she bases it on audio recordings, obtained by the Times, that enable us not only to read Mr. Kerry’s petulance. We can also hear Mr. Kerry whinge about how no one will follow the man who the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth long ago convinced Americans was unfit for command. “I think,” Mr. Kerry complained at one point, “you’re looking at three people, four people in the administration who have all argued for use of force, and I lost the argument.”
How in the world could that be? It’s not, after all, that Americans have refused to send our GIs overseas to make the world safe for Democracy. We’ve been doing this since Woodrow Wilson made his famous vow – or even before, if one wants to feature San Juan Hill and Mexico. It may be that Mr. Kerry – or, in Secretary Clinton, his predecessor – will insist the blame lies with the dreaded neo-conservatives. But it wasn’t they who retreated from Iraq and Afghanistan and the rest of the war against Islamic terrorism.
No, the architects of that retreat were President Obama, the Democratic Party, and Secretary of State Clinton. But none share such a particular portion of the blame as attaches to Mr. Kerry, who, like Mrs. Clinton, voted for the Iraq expedition but, by the time he ran for president at 2004, was already beating a retreat. He even boasted of voting against resupplying our troops after having voted for it. His 2004 campaign set the stage for Mr. Obama to run for president on the idea that Iraq was the wrong war.
We comprehend that we risk testing patience of our noble readers with our frequent editorials in respect of Mr. Kerry. This, though, goes back to his entry into public life, when, after leaving active duty in the Navy, he went to Paris to meet with our Vietnamese communist enemies in the war he’d just quit. Then he returned to America to support their talking points, culminating in his testimony against our GIs before a Senate hearing chaired by the anti-Israel agitator J. William Fulbright, who set Mr. Kerry on the road to office.
The irony of all this is that we have long favored an American intervention in Syria, going back to the 1983 bombing of our Marine barracks at Beirut. It would be wrong to suggest that we opposed Mr. Reagan’s withdrawal of our peacekeeping forces in Lebanon. It would not be wrong to say we’d have preferred to have answered the challenge of those who wanted Damascus or Beirut to become the Hanoi of the Middle East. The tragedy for our time is that John Kerry is just unfit to rally our nation in that cause.