Thursday, 31 January 2013

U.S.: '' Foreign Policy'': John Kerry and new challenges

John Kerry takes over as Secretary of State, succeeding Hillary Clinton in the position. At 69, it’s a job he’s had his eyes on for some time, and President Obama rewarded his patience and his support. ''Diplomacy'' is one of the languages that John Kerry understands and speaks best.

He was born into a wealthy family, and went to elite schools in New England and in Europe. He signed up for navy duty in Vietnam when he was 24, and was wounded in action. He came home with medals and joined the anti-war movement.

As a Senator, John Kerry has travelled the globe, bolstering his foreign policy and diplomatic expertise. Israel, Gaza, Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan… were among the hotspots he visited. Invariably favouring peaceful solutions, he hopes to make a mark in his new post by advancing the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, where Obama and Clinton have not.

Ten years after the U.S's precipitated war in Iraq, diplomacy is back in fashion in Washington. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has restored much of the confidence the State Department lost in the Bush era. Her successor, Sen. John Kerry, is likely to continue the healing process. It is obvious that as president, Barack Obama retains tight control over crucial foreign policy decisions, but it is equally obvious that he is a believer in the power of persuasion in international affairs.

It might seem to be ''an easy ride'' for John Kerry on paper, as many believe that John Kerry's life was an audience for this job, but the diplomatic renaissance in the U.S. seems to be coinciding with a worrying decline in interest in diplomacy among other powers. This might complicate further John Kerry's task as U.S's top diplomat.

John Kerry is known as a man of compromise. John Kerry does not need an introduction to the world’s political and military leaders; and will begin Day One fully conversant not only with the intricacies of U.S. foreign policy, but able to act on a multitude of international stages. John Kerry “a realist” will deal with unrest in Egypt, civil war in Syria, the threat of al-Qaida-linked groups in Africa and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In fact, John Kerry worked with Obama’s administration as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As a White House emissary, Kerry has tamped down diplomatic fires for Obama. He also has stepped ahead of the administration on a handful of crises.

Hillary Clinton’s assiduous courting of Southeast Asian nations has markedly improved cooperation in the region, although this delicate process has alienated China. Kerry presumably hopes to pull off similar coups. A durable regional settlement in Central and South Asia to guarantee Afghanistan’s future is one possible, albeit hard, goal. A mechanism for managing conflicts in the Middle East is arguably even more urgent -- and harder.

Moscow and Beijing have taken advantage of a year of uncertainty in U.S. politics to flex their muscles. Leaders from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needed to shore up their domestic positions with shows of strength. A mix of economic troubles and rising popular nationalism has pushed governments worldwide to embrace hawkish postures.

At Senatorial level, Kerry has pushed for reducing the number of nuclear weapons, shepherding a U.S.-Russia treaty through the Senate in December 2010, and has cast climate change as a national security threat, joining forces with Republicans on legislation that faced too many obstacles to win congressional passage.

He has led delegations to Syria and met a few times with President Bashar Assad, now a pariah in U.S. eyes after months of civil war and bloodshed as the government looks to put down a people’s rebellion. Figuring out an end-game for the Middle East country would demand all of Kerry’s skills.

On Syria dossier, for instance, Russia has persistently rebuffed American efforts to find a diplomatic modus vivendi over Syria. A very careful diplomatic approach is required to find ''common sense- diplomacy'' between U.S and its allies and Russia-China, as Israel is apparently taking the initiative of attacking Syria. The Syrian's conflict could blossom to another ''afghanistan'' if the diplomatic language is not spoken fluently.

As China and Japan have escalated their shadow-boxing over disputed islands in Western Pacific, they will certainly occupy a proportionally good part of John Kerry's diplomatic plate.

The U.S. is also vexed by Israel’s growing rejection of diplomacy as a means to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Kerry’s first priorities as secretary of state will surely include persuading Israel and Japan to avoid unnecessary brinksmanship with their respective regional rivals. If he has time, he may reflect on why so many standoffs escalated simultaneously in 2012.

John Kerry is taking over Hillary Clinton as U.S's top diplomat when diplomacy is losing is luster elsewhere. Across Europe, foreign ministries typically play second fiddle to finance ministries. In the U.K., Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition government has instructed the Foreign Office to focus on promoting British trade abroad. British diplomats, having had to play the role of latter-day colonial administrators in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade, worry that they are now becoming traveling salesmen. In Germany, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is a lame duck, blamed for mishandling the Libyan war.

Diplomats and foreign ministers exist to guide and manage the inevitable conflicts, whether economic, political or military, that develop between countries. In a period of shifting global power politics, such conflicts are both especially likely and difficult to resolve. This makes a network of capable foreign ministries that can calculate, mitigate and resolve clashes of all types more important than ever.

Nationalism is changing the essence of diplomacy worldwide. Compromise becomes a forlon and wishful thinking to many. Serious diplomatic investment is required to tackle modern political conflicts. John Kerry will have to search hard for the willing partners to achieve a realistic goal that might de-escalating some of the tensions that have surfaced over the past year, building a bridge for future conflicts.

Kerry has everything in place to forge a new era at the State Department and leave a long-lasting imprint in American foreign policy. But history will reveal his legacy as the U.S secretary of State.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Photo-Credit: Wikipédia. John Kerry:U.S's Secretary of State