Leaked audio of Secretary of State John Kerry reveals he argued for the use of force in Syria and is frustrated that the U.S. can’t do more there. From CNN:
Kerry’s comments came at a meeting that took place at the Dutch Mission to the United Nations on the sidelines the UN General Assembly, where Kerry was going from session to session in a frenzied effort to resuscitate a ceasefire that seemed poised to collapse.
“I think you’re looking at three people, four people in the administration. I lost the argument. I’ve argued for the use of force. I’m the guy who stood up and announced that we’re going to attack Assad for the use of weapons,” Kerry is heard telling the Syrian attendees, referring to internal deliberations within the administration of President Barack Obama that followed Assad’s use of chemical weapons in 2013.
Kerry also faulted Congress for failing to support such a retaliatory strike, saying, “The bottom line is that Congress refused even to vote to allow that.”
Kerry may be blaming Congress but his real argument is with Barack Obama. It was Obama who originally drew the red line over the use of chemical weapons in Syria and it was Obama who backed away from it later on, deciding at the last minute to engage in diplomacy with Russia.
Given the mess in Libya, and before that Iraq, it’s easy to write of U.S. intervention abroad as a costly mistake that never turns out well. We spend billions and lose American lives for what? In the end taking out one dictator (Saddam or Qaddafi) only seems to make room for something worse. In Iraq we got ISIS. In Libya we got the Ansar al Sharia goons who killed our people at Benghazi.
That’s fair enough but it must be said that the alternative, non-intervention, also hasn’t worked out very well. Assad’s regime has killed several hundred thousand people in the past five years and seems to be trying to kill a few hundred thousand more in Aleppo right now. Some of those people were militants but many are not. The U.S. is standing by while the regime creates a massive humanitarian disaster.
Assad’s bombing of his own people has also set off one of the largest refugee crises in recent memory. Millions of people have fled the fighting and resettled in Europe (notably in Germany). ISIS has taken advantage of that refugee flow to send fighters who have been responsible for terror attacks in France, Belgium and Germany already. And there’s almost no doubt in anyone’s mind they would love to send people here as well.
Even if you believe none of that is the United States’ problem to solve, our failure to act has other consequences. For one, it has clearly emboldened our number one geopolitical foe, Russia. The United States, in the form of Sec. Kerry, is left stamping its feet impotently as Russia and Syria commit war crimes. Russia apparently bombed a UN relief convoy last month and Syria was accused of dropping chemical weapons once again. There is a story of another hospital being bombed today.
Our perceived weakness in the face of these acts will be noticed. We already have seen Russia and Iran harassing our ships in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere. North Korea is letting us know they are working hard on longer range nuclear missiles. Non-intervention only works until your enemies get right up to your front door. Weakness always invites challenge. At some point down the line we may come to regret the choices we are making now.
Here’s a CNN clip featuring audio of some of John Kerry’s statements from the leaked tape: