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Rubin Reports

During his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State-designate John Kerry was only given a tough time by one questioner, Senator Rand Paul. The exchange between them is interesting not just because of the specific topic, but also because of what it shows about basic foreign policy philosophy — and ignorance — on Kerry’s part.

It is a genuine problem. The leader of a “friendly” nation has been exposed for making anti-Semitic remarks. The United States wants to continue aid to avoid instability in that country that would contribute to even further radicalization, and to use U.S. leverage to produce the best possible outcome.

Unfortunately, Kerry subscribes — as is so fashionable today in the Obama administration and academia — to what I’ll call the “abusive relationship approach” to foreign policy.

If another country supports you and is good for your interests, you take that country’s good will for granted and mistreat it. If another regime — say, Turkey, Pakistan, Venezuela, Egypt, and, at times in the recent past, Syria and Iran — walks all over you, then you chase after it all the more passionately and shower it with presents.

(For my background critique of the administration’s response to the Morsi statements, see here.)

In the hands of a good realpolitik statesman, this balance would be managed well. For example: former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger would have kept the Egyptian government off-balance and made it understand that Washington was doing it a favor by providing aid. In other words, leverage would be used.

But in Kerry’s hands, leverage is tossed away. He is so afraid of using power or being tough that he throws away leverage, believing there can be no risk of problems. The recipient must not be intimidated or pressed to change, but instead shown that America is its friend — not the imperialist bully that people like Kerry and President Barack Obama see when they look back at U.S. history.

Precisely the same problem was displayed notably in two other recent cases (though readers can probably add more):

– When the Palestinian Authority approached the UN seeking membership and recognition as a state, the Bush administration made it clear to the UN and allies that there would be a strong price to pay in U.S. support and donations. The PA backed down.

With Obama opposing the same thing but not playing any trump cards, America’s “friends” almost unanimously voted against Washington’s position, and it suffered a serious loss whose costs (including the permanent destruction of the “peace process”) have not yet been counted.

– When it was suggested to Kerry that U.S. aid to Pakistan be held up until it released a political prisoner, a doctor who helped America locate Osama bin Laden and who is now in prison and reportedly has been tortured, Kerry refused.

America must be the one humiliated; the feelings of other countries cannot be hurt.

Here’s the exchange with Rand Paul:

Rand Paul: “Do you think it’s wise to send [Egypt] F-16s and Abrams tanks?”

Kerry: “I think those [anti-Semitic] comments are reprehensible, and those comments set back the possibilities of working toward issues of mutual interest. They are degrading comments, unacceptable by anybody’s standard, and I think they have to appropriately be apologized for …”

Kerry, of course, isn’t answering the question. He is detaching the remarks from Muslim Brotherhood ideology and from U.S. policy. This is meaningless rhetoric on his part. It does, however, raise the intriguing problem of what Kerry would do, since President Morsi isn’t going to apologize. That would have been a good question. Of course, he would do nothing.

Rand Paul [cutting Kerry off]: “If we keep sending them weapons, it’s not gonna change their behavior.”

Here is the essential question, and the one that Kerry doesn’t want to answer. What reason is there to believe that the U.S. supply of arms would change the Brotherhood government’s policies? Rather than moderate its policy, wouldn’t these arms merely enable the regime to follow a more radical position? Against whom would these arms be used?

Kerry: “Let me finish. President Morsi has issued two statements to clarify those comments, and we had a group of senators who met with him just the other day who spent a good part of their conversation in a relatively heated discussion with him about it … ”

Yes, Morsi issued two statements but they were not to take back his prior words but only to double down on them, since he asserted that the statements had been taken out of context by the Zionist-controlled media. The man isn’t misspeaking. He’s just saying what he believes.

Kerry and Obama refuse to recognize that he believes these things.

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