John Kerry. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
When I’m wrong, I’m wrong—and I’ll admit it. I was wrong about John Kerry, President Obama’s secretary of state. I really did think that he’d instinctively put diplomacy above war, but he’s failed the first real test, in Syria, and he’s failed it badly. I overestimated him.
The first hint of Kerry’s bellicose approach to Syria was in a June 14 New York Times article, and I missed the reference to the State Department, in an article devoted to Obama’s decision to supply the rebels with arms. In it, the Times said—without naming Kerry—that “State Department officials” were pressing Obama to bomb Syria:
Some senior State Department officials have been pushing for a more aggressive military response, including airstrikes to hit the primary landing strips in Syria that the Assad government uses to launch the chemical weapons attacks, ferry troops around the country and receive shipments of arms from Iran. But White House officials remain wary.
Then we learn, in a piece by Jeffrey Goldberg for Bloomberg, that Kerry was virtually pounding the table for war in that June 12 meeting:
Flash-forward to this past Wednesday. At a principals meeting in the White House situation room, Secretary of State John Kerry began arguing, vociferously, for immediate U.S. airstrikes against airfields under the control of Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime—specifically, those fields it has used to launch chemical weapons raids against rebel forces.
It was at this point that the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the usually mild-mannered Army General Martin Dempsey, spoke up, loudly. According to several sources, Dempsey threw a series of brushback pitches at Kerry, demanding to know just exactly what the post-strike plan would be and pointing out that the State Department didn’t fully grasp the complexity of such an operation.
If that story is true, it ought to be grounds to fire Kerry.
The Washington Post is reporting that “other nations,” presumably the rebels’ chief backers in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have taken Obama’s decision to arm the rebels by stepping up the supply of heavy weapons to the anti-Assad forces:
Syrian rebels said Friday that newly arrived shipments of heavy weaponry could swing the momentum on the battlefield in their favor, after a shift in U.S. policy opened the door for others to send them arms.