Secretary of State John Kerry is getting bashed from all sides these days — Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the U.S. media, the Israeli media, Egypt and even ex-advisers. As chaotic as the Obama administration’s foreign policy may be — actually, because it is so chaotic — Kerry should consider resigning.
We face multiple threats, ranging from the rise of the Islamic State to the bloodbath in Syria to Russian aggression to the Iran talks, which seem to be going Iran’s way. On the merits, Kerry has shown himself to be unfit, and as a practical matter he is now a handicap to the president.
As a substantive matter, he spent endless time and capital on the “peace process,” which virtually everyone else could see was going nowhere. He has shown with his Hamas truce that he not only doesn’t understand Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East, but also doesn’t understand the significance of Hamas’s defeat in the greater regional conflict between Iran and its neighbors. He doesn’t know when he’s out of sync with allies and is a poor judge of our foes’ intentions. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has pointed out that Kerry failed in Russia negotiations, Syria negotiations and “peace talks” between Israel and the Palestinians. Even worse, Kerry doesn’t know or accept that he has failed. A secretary of state this out of touch with reality can’t perform his job.
Even if you take a more charitable view of Kerry’s judgment, he has lost the trust of Congress. (So how can he sell an Iran deal, if he makes one?) He has lost the trust of Israel and Egypt. (So how can he sell them on an Iran deal or an end to the Gaza war?) Iran — which has played him on the interim deal to get sanctions relief for no irreversible changes plus a sunset clause to one day allow it to maintain an unfettered nuclear weapons program — and Russia have learned to essentially ignore him.
A secretary of state can be effective only insofar as he or she can speak for the president and his policies. Kerry can no longer do that nor relay in any credible fashion back to the administration and the American people the prospects for success in any significant negotiation. His departure, moreover, would give the United States an excuse to reset relations with allies and the White House’s relationship with Congress. Sometimes it is helpful to “wipe the slate clean” with a new figure who carries none of the baggage of past failures.
This is one instance where Republicans have a patriotic duty to help the president do the right thing — replace Kerry. There are certainly preferable Democrats who could be confirmed swiftly and with overwhelming bipartisan support. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), former CIA director and defense secretary Leon Panetta or former California congressman Howard Berman all come to mind. Nonpartisan figures such as Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, who are known for successes and not debacles, would also be good picks. Republicans should forgo confirmation delays and confirm a highly qualified pick such as one of these.
It’s bad enough to have a president with little foreign policy sense or credibility, but such a president, when coupled with a discredited secretary of state, brings U.S. foreign policy to a grinding halt. In the 2 1/2 years we have left of this administration, we can do better than the Obama/Hillary Clinton/Kerry brain trust, which has landed us in the soup. It’s time for someone who knows what he is doing.