In a lengthy speech today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Secretary of State John Kerry patted himself and President Obama on the back for everything from averting world war with Iran to stopping Ebola.
“I’m going to ask all of you to think back to the most indelible images of last year – the body of a tiny boy lying face-down in the sand, masked figures wielding knives over kneeling prisoners in orange jumpsuits, a teenager clinging desperately to the outside of a packed bus, urban neighborhoods reduced by war to cinders and rubble, the Jordanian pilot burned alive in a cage. I can’t think of a time in my life – and I grew up in the shadow of World War II – where I have seen so much atrocity, live, thrown at us so relentlessly,” Kerry said.
“It’s understandable that some people wonder whether we are now trapped in some irreversible decline, whether we are, in fact, forced to accept a new normal – a new normal that is far less than any of us anticipate or want… but I do not believe that this is where we find ourselves.”
Kerry said the current day and age “is particularly defined by narrow tribalism, by aggressive nationalism, and even by medieval thinking that reminds us of a distant and bloody past.”
“But the fact is change is occurring in our world for the better,” he insisted, noting that “we were on the cusp of confrontation – believe me” with Iran before the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“Believe me, President Obama understood that he would be criticized by some for reaching out to Iran. But he also knew that we were on a collision course, and Iran itself was on a collision course with the international community that in all likelihood, without diplomacy, would have ended in war… And Iran has agreed to never, ever pursue a nuclear weapon, and that is codified in the United Nations Security Council resolution as well as in the agreement itself.”
Kerry lauded the administration’s work on climate change — “I was in Rio 1992, part of the delegation with Al Gore,” he noted — and boasted that “President Obama’s bold decision to normalize diplomatic ties with Cuba reflects, yes, both our national interests, but it also reflects our desire to try to help the citizens of that country live in a more open and prosperous society.”
“At this time last year – I remember this, because we talked about it here – experts were predicting that the Ebola virus was going to kill a million people or more by Christmas of last year. Again, President Obama led an effort at the United Nations to bring people together,” he continued. “He took the risky decision without knowing all of the consequences and all of what was happening, but on the basis of our health care expert advice – we sent several thousand American troops and put them on the ground to build the capacity to be able to respond to this crisis.”
Flashing back to the 2015 Davos forum, where Kerry “suggested that the fight against violent extremism may well be the defining challenge for our generation,” he said today “nothing that has happened since has caused me to change my mind.”
“But I want to emphasize that this confrontation with the forces of terror is not separate from reforming governance or from strengthening our communities in other ways, because doing so, as I’ve tried to describe, is fundamental to eliminating the opportunity for extremism,” he said.
“Some terrorists say that the greatest advantage they have – or as some people say of the terrorists – that the greatest advantage they have is that they have the dedication of fighters who are willing to blow themselves up. But the truth – our advantage is we would never ask anyone to blow themselves up. The terrorists drive people apart; we want people and nations to come together – and they are.”
Kerry said the mission of this generation is “less to make history than to calm history, to create the largest possible oasis of time about which no future war movies will be made, no epic battle diaries kept, no genocide memorials needed.”