Foreign policy is a tricky domain for any national leader. Running the gauntlet of high-stakes negotiations, alliances, and mortal enemies with the end result having either disastrous or wildly beneficial results is unavoidable but essential. That work is made all the more difficult when subverted by competing politicians who want the leadership to fail, regardless of benefit to the parties involved. Sometimes, that subversion can even squelch peace talks and efforts to make the world a safer place.
Recently, it was reported that according to information supposedly sourced from a close associate of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, that John Kerry held a private and secretive meeting with an associate of the Palestinian regime with a purpose of stalling talks with Israel. Would any American political leader in their right mind not want the relationship between Palestine and Israel to improve – especially if both sides were talking? Not if your goal is to make a current administration look bad and to make your hopeful bid to the White House look better. According to the claimed source, Kerry asked that word get to Abbas that he hold on tight and refuse to accept any deals as long as Donald Trump remains President of the United States. He purportedly told the aid to explain that Trump is under certain impending impeachment and that he will not make it in the White House another year.
Kerry has already strongly alluded to a bid for the White House in 2020, and told the emissary that even if Trump does make it through a full term he would be a more helpful ally to the Palestinians as President in 2020. If this information is true, then he has no interest in encouraging peace and stability in the world, and he doesn’t care about his own country’s best interests. His only interest is in himself and making himself and his political party look good and defaming an opponent purely for political gain. Not only is it trite, but it’s dangerous and has tremendous costs in political capital for the United States and in stability for the parties involved.
It is possible that the reports are not true. Aghas, the associate, has not publicly commented and neither has Kerry. However, this would by no means be the first time such subversion has happened, and it’s all too common amongst politicians in high-stakes games to think more about power and winning political battles than to seek out what is best for everyone. Acting as a catalyst for world policy is not a good thing. Intentionally trying to control the world’s foreign policy should be outside the purview of government, but acting as an arbiter isn’t all that bad. I don’t see an enormous problem in being a referee during peace talks, with the idea in mind that the US should really have no opinion favoring one side or the other and simply pressed both sides for peace.
In 1968, Vietnam was embroiled in a brutal civil war that had been ramping up for many years. Unfortunately for Vietnam, the US was on its four-year path to a presidential election. The Democratic vice president, Hubert Humphry, was running against Republican Richard Nixon. It turns out that the Watergate scandal wasn’t the only thing Nixon lied about. For his entire life, he denied that he had been involved with any sort of manipulations in potential peace between North and South Vietnam. However, notes by Nixon’s closest aid, H.R. Haldeman, were discovered in 2016. These notes solidify what has long been suspected: that Nixon intentionally torpedoed peace talks in Vietnam in order to gain better footing in the election.
Lyndon Johnson had convinced the North and South to come together for peace talks in an effort to end the conflict. The Nixon campaign received word from Henry Kissinger that peace talks were being brokered and that if bombing on the North would stop, the communists would allow talks to move forward for an end to the war. Nixon used a channel he had established to the South’s regime to circulate to them that Johnson’s brokering was just a cheap political trick and to hold out and avoid engaging with the North or risk losing ground.
Nixon’s trick worked. There was no end to the war as Nixon won the election and entered office, and hundreds of thousands of lives later, the war ended only as the North defeated the South in 1975. Maybe the war wouldn’t have ended anyway, but we will never know for sure. Was it worth all those lives lost and the enormous costs of another 7 years of war for Nixon to use as leverage for winning the White House? The treachery involved in this mess far exceeds the impact of Watergate.
Perhaps John Kerry is of the same ilk as Nixon when it comes to foreign policy interference. Perhaps he is no less of a power-hungry ‘who cares about anyone else?’ sort of politician willing to win at any cost.
I hope the reports turn out to be completely false. Nixon’s karma seemed to have partially caught up with him, but not in a way that compensates for so many lives lost. If Kerry is involved in this sort of undermining, then the American people need to give him the blowback he well deserves. The potential for instability and millions of lives at steak isn’t to be taken as lightly as political fodder. This would be subversion on a grand scale.
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