Commentary Magazine


Kerry Is the New Joe Biden

Jackson Diehl does his best (so we don’t have to try) to decipher the double-talk on Afghanistan from the pseudo-secretary of state John Kerry. (Hillary Clinton is most likely occupied with agricultural projects in India or making up the “more things to give away to Putin” list.) He explains, as best anyone can:

Fresh from Afghanistan, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman delivered a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations on Monday that caused The Post to report that he “opposes sending more troops to Afghanistan” and the Los Angeles Times to conclude that “he would support a decision by President Obama to send some additional troops.” Was Kerry for the troop increase before he was against it — all in the same speech? Not exactly. Instead the Massachusetts Democrat’s complicated position sounded like an attempt to fudge the difference between supporters and opponents of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s request for 40,000 reinforcements.

The bad news is that Kerry is Obama’s new best adviser. What this boils down to is chiseling on the troops by dragging the process out so as to “diffuse the political problem of asking Congress to fund 40,000 more troops — at about $40 billion — all at once.” Because, with a trillion dollars needed for a health-care bill the voters don’t want, we plainly don’t have $40B to win a critical war, right? And Obama can’t be expected to persuade Congress to do what is needed to win the war, so “diffusing” — denying his general the troops he says he needs — is the way to go.

Diehl spots the problem here:

The problem with Kerry’s thinking is that it sidesteps one of the central points made by McChrystal: The Taliban is currently winning the war, and unless its momentum is reversed in the next year, it may prove impossible to implement the larger strategy. As Kerry himself acknowledged, many Afghans are choosing sides in the war based on which side they believe has the upper hand, and right now they are betting on the Taliban. Sending troops in dribs and drabs won’t change that reality — and it may condemn the soldiers already there to fighting and dying without the chance of winning.

“Condemn” is precisely the right term.