Kerry’s Rookie Mistake?
Is the Obama Administration grooming John Kerry to be the next U.S. Secretary of State?
November 5, 2009
Don't look for Machiavellian, or even Clintonian, subtlety in the machinations of the Obama White House. The Obama team's determination to groom Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts as the next U.S. Secretary of State is already palpable, even though current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has held power for less than a year.
Kerry, currently chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, has always wanted to be Secretary of State far more than he wanted to be president. During the transition, he pushed quietly but very hard for the job before President Barack Obama gave it to Senator Clinton of New York instead.
But for a man who regards himself as one of the Senate's most experienced figures on foreign policy, he committed a big mistake in Kabul when, during his tense talks with Afghan president Hamid Karzai, he didn’t secure the resignation of the head of the Afghan Election Commission.
Former Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah pulled out of the projected run-off Sunday, clearing the way for Karzai to start his second term. But the fiasco of the widespread faking of votes in the first and now only round of voting had already been exposed to the Afghan people and the wider world.
Kerry was widely (over-) praised for his apparent success in "persuading" Karzai to accept a run-off vote against Abdullah. But he never called for the resignation of the Election Commission chief, who orchestrated his body's collusion with the Karzai government.
That omission does not necessarily signal the kind of Secretary of State Kerry would be: In the Senate, Kerry amassed an admirable record over the years in probing relentlessly and deeply into key areas of interest. Let us hope he reverts to that familiar pattern of asking the truly vital questions when he engages in admittedly difficult missions.
But it still looks like a rookie oversight that had to be covered up by Secretary of State Clinton's statement that Abdullah’s withdrawal doesn’t imply any illegitimacy of the election outcome.
But now, Karzai looks like he pulled one over U.S. eyes by getting Abdullah to withdraw, and thereby escaping the second-round election campaign he always opposed tooth and nail.
As a result, after Kerry's "diplomatic achievement," the U.S. government still finds itself completely stuck with an illegitimate president as its partner in Kabul.
Or maybe we are underestimating President Obama and Senator Kerry: Maybe that was the outcome they wanted all along — in order to give them the pretext the president will need NOT to approve any big increase in U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan.