A Tale of Two Kerrys: The Fractured Logic of America’s Left on Libya

“We came, we saw, he died.” This was the gleeful announcement of our previous Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, after hearing that Libya’s longtime strongman Colonel Muammar Gaddafi had been killed in the NATO-supported rebellion then surging throughout that country. This was a rather novel statement. Chief diplomats of leading powers seldom publicly celebrate the killing of foreign heads of state, no matter how repugnant, especially when the U.S. had been maintaining regular diplomatic relations with their government. But we need not have been too surprised by her remark. After all, altering the domestic political composition of the various Arab states had been a core feature of the Obama Administration’s orchestration of Middle East policy.

If the reader will indulge me, let us step back in time to 1986. Two American servicemen and a Turkish woman were killed in a West Berlin nightclub bombing traced to Libyan agents. Acting on intelligence intercepts, President Reagan ordered airstrikes against Gaddafi regime targets in Benghazi and Tripoli. Disappointingly, America’s allies in NATO acknowledged no obligation to respond to attacks that killed citizens of two member states on the soil of a third. France famously denied permission for U.S. warplanes to transit its airspace en route to Libyan targets. And Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, apparently believing there was ample time to reach an understanding with Colonel Gaddafi, criticized the Administration’s actions as disproportionate.

Ironically, the Bush II Administration reached such an understanding with the Libyan regime in the Post-9/11 Era. Gaddafi obviously sensed the direction of the wind when he agreed to dismantle his nuclear weapon development program and share intelligence on Al Qaeda-linked groups with the U.S. Government. The deal made sense for both sides. The flamboyant Gaddafi was never among the Arab world’s more pious leaders and was not particularly respected by the leading figures of Al Qaeda (which had maintained links to anti-Gaddafi elements in Libya). And by partnering with the Libyan intelligence apparatus, composed though it may have been of rather unsavory characters, the Administration excluded them from the business of state-sanctioned terror operations against U.S. targets.

I will be frank in saying that I did not wholeheartedly embrace this deal when it became known. Like many veterans, I regarded the death of my brother servicemen in 1986 as sufficient cause to have Gaddafi killed at a time and place of our choosing. But the deal was made and Gaddafi played his part. Thus, I felt we should stick to the bargain lest future attempts to bribe, coerce or cajole degenerate heads of state be hindered by the failure of the U.S. to live up to its promises. I reconciled myself to Gaddafi’s continued existence, satisfied that with the sword of Damocles hanging over him, we could use the Colonel as a source of leverage in the region. As long as we allowed Gaddafi to exist, as put by the Diplomad, “[h]e was like an old repentant Mafia chieftain who sought to make points with the FBI.” (http://thediplomad.blogspot.com/2013/01/consequences-of-obama-foreign-policy.html) Taking steps I admittedly never would have imagined a few years before, the U.S. established full diplomatic relations with the Gaddafi regime.

Though in perhaps a more subtle and nuanced fashion than his predecessor Secretary Clinton, John Kerry has expressed emphatic approval for our latest campaign in Libya. In the Senate hearing prior to his confirmation as Secretary of State, Kerry was asked by Senator Rand Paul why President Obama was justified in using U.S. force in Libya without Congressional authorization. Kerry replied, “The problem is, it just doesn’t work in some instances when 10,000 people are about to be wiped out by a brutal dictator and need to make a quick judgment about engagement, you can’t rely on a Congress that has proven itself unwilling to move after weeks and months.”

What a fascinating formula for action John Kerry has promulgated! If we accept this as precedent, in the future the Chief Executive can give Congress a chance to act appropriately, then simply overrule that body once it has “proven itself unwilling” to do what he desires. And notice that Kerry makes clear that he is now comfortable with the idea of striking on behalf of “people about to be wiped out,” thereby embracing the concept of preemptive action which so many liberals openly decried in the days leading to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now, in accordance with the Kerry Doctrine, the President can strike who we wants, where he wants and when he wants, without need of Congressional authorization, so long as he thinks something is about to happen to somebody.

By his words and deeds John Kerry has become a visible symbol of the most harmful ideas of the American left. On the domestic front, he has advocated a Presidential war power for any Whitehouse occupant who believes he is better informed than the Congress. I would assume that this would include every single man to have held—and who will ever hold—the office. Kerry’s contradictory stance on our two Libyan interventions shows badly misplaced priorities. With his criticism of Reagan’s retaliatory action and rubber stamp endorsement of Obama’s multilateral adventure, Kerry shows he prioritizes support to projects of the U.N. and “international community” over action taken in direct response to attacks on U.S. personnel.

During intense debates on security matters, I am always amused to find liberals shocked that we dare label their deferential approach to international affairs as “anti-American.”

Throughout his career, John Kerry has done more to cement that label in place than our side ever could.



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