John Kerry: Flying Everywhere, Getting Nowhere
By Michael Widlanski
Forget the headlines: John Kerry has been jetting everywhere and getting nowhere.
Kerry thinks putting the PLO in a room with Israelis will solve the “Palestinian-Israeli Conflict,” which he thinks is the most important issue facing the world.
“The core issue of instability in this region and in many other parts of the world is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” said Kerry.
Rarely have time, words and jet fuel been so wasted.
First Reason: The PLO does not want peace with Israel, only a piece of Israel, and then another piece of Israel. Palestinians had several chances for a Palestinian state—in 1947, in 1949, in 1967 in 1981, in 2000, in 2006—but always overreached, trying to dismember Israel rather than build Palestine.
Late PLO leader Yasser Arafat said he did not want to be “mayor of the West Bank,” and he did not like fixing sewer lines, but preferred to build concrete bunkers.
Second Reason: The PLO and the Palestinians have nothing to do with problems facing the world. Kerry and Obama think otherwise.
Kerry got off the plane and apparently concluded: a. Syria’s war—the Palestinians; b. Iran’s bomb—the Israelis; c. Egypt’s unrest—the Zionists; d. problems with North Korea — the Israelis; e. trade crisis with China—the Palestinians; and so on.
Before assuming Kerry bumped his head, like Hillary Clinton, we must recall that Obama sent Kerry abroad and also thinks “Palestine” is the center of the universe.
This need not mean that all foreign policy travel is a waste of tax dollars, because travel is often really good for the soul—and for policy.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page, ” declared Augustine, centuries ago, and his words are even truer today.
We must see the world, taste other cultures, hear different tongues in order to grow. When we stay in the same place all the time our thoughts get as stiff as our muscles.
Mark Twain, the great writer-traveler, was a boat-hand on the Mississippi River, and he found that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Twain warned against “vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
But, as Obama and Kerry have shown, travel is no guarantee of success.
Travel will not help world leaders who do not broaden themselves before going abroad, who do not really study history, culture or languages. Barack Obama is often called bright and worldly, but his policies and statements show he lives in his own Obama-centric world.
Obama thought Russian despot Vladimir Putin was his buddy. He pledged to be even more “flexible” with Putin if he (Obama) got re-elected, and he felt Chinese leaders would cooperate on economic and political matters. Sino-Russian support of terror, tyranny and Edward Snowden show how wrong Obama was.
Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made colossal errors, claiming a “re-start” in ties with Russia, but they could not even get the word “re-start” right in the big signs they placed in front of cameras at a Russian-US summit.
Westerners who grew close to Communist Russia and China were once called “fellow travelers.” For Obama-Clinton-Kerry, a better term is “frequent fumblers.”
After four years in office and much travel abroad, Obama has a foreign policy built on Obama’s initial gut feeling, not lessons learned from experience or travel. Mark Twain would call this “prejudice,” or “vegetating” because when Obama travels or sends Clinton or Kerry, he keeps his mind closed, effectively staying at home.
That explains why Obama-Clinton ignored warnings that Arab-Islamic terror might strike again on 9-11. The idea did not fit with their world view. They ignored reports from their Arabic-speaking ambassador in Libya, Chris Stevens, who told them repeatedly that Al-Qaeda was targeting Americans in Libya.
That is why Obama-Clinton felt Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was a better bet for America than President Hosni Mubarak. Obama’s gut, not empirical data, is why Obama says the Guantanamo base in Cuba caused terror rather than the truth: terror caused the need for the Guantanamo base to house terrorists.
That is why Obama believes hostility to the US among Arab extremists or by the regimes of Russia and China is tied mostly to imaginary offenses or insults inflicted by America. That is flat-out wrong. Real travel and real study could have mitigated the error, but the real cure is real inquiry and an open mind.
The dean of US foreign policy in the post-war era was George Kennan, who knew Russian and German well. Kennan felt many US officials did not recognize Soviet and Nazi goals early enough, fooled by myths circulated by those regimes.
Kennan felt US officials needed to take the time and effort to penetrate the cultures of the societies who were the main rivals to America in the world. That is still true.
To make good foreign policy one has to do more than travel by plane. One has to be able to travel with one’s mind.