Addressing the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, former Secretary of State John Kerry offered a rather rose-tinted history of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
His speech had a simple theme: Where all the world was bright under President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, all is now brutal and dark under President Trump. But this wasn’t an address fit for reality. Take Kerry’s rather astonishing claim that the Obama administration had “eliminated” the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
This will be news to Israel and the Sunni Arab monarchies of the Middle East. After all, the 2015 Iran nuclear accord did nothing to end Iran’s research of ballistic missiles, the key delivery platform for nuclear weapons. Nor did the deal have an open-ended timetable necessary to temper Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s nihilistic ambitions for the long term. Instead, it offered security only for 15 years into the future. And we now know that the Iranians used the time and investment rewards of Obama’s nuclear accord to advance their nuclear weaponization program. As the Biden campaign moves to return the United States to the nuclear accord, we should contemplate for a moment what that return would mean. Because it would mean salvation for Khamenei’s imploding economy and budget-stretched Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran would once again find sanctions relief and billions of dollars to reinvest in its malevolent theological agenda. And its nemesis, Saudi Arabia, as was recently reported by the Wall Street Journal, would find new impetus to develop its own nuclear weapons program. Not exactly a recipe for stability and peace.
Of course, Kerry couldn’t resist but regurgitate the predictable rhetoric that Trump writes “love letters” to dictators while betraying American friends. This silliness misses the nuance in foreign policy. While it’s true that Trump has some rather odd instincts toward certain foreign leaders, it’s also true that America’s allies should be judged on what they do for our alliance rather than what they say. The striking dichotomy between the vacuous rhetoric of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the fastidious friendship of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stands out as an example here. As does the contrast between what various NATO allies contribute to our common defense.
Nor, as he attacked Trump for his Putin affections, did Kerry show any humility over the Obama administration’s record of appeasement toward China and Russia. This bears noting, in that while it’s true American allies sometimes view Trump as a president to be “laughed at,” China and Russia most certainly laughed at the relentless appeasement they earned from team Obama-Biden. On that point, it was always likely that China would prefer a Biden victory over a Trump reelection, and the National Counterintelligence Center confirmed as much earlier this month.
Foreign policy and national security are exigent issues that demand far more attention than they currently receive. Still, the former secretary of state did no service for reality with his trip through the historical looking glass on Tuesday.