Experienced as John Kerry is with diplomacy, negotiating foreign policy in regions volatile to the United States will not be an easy task. How will Kerry confront the crisises of the moment?
Stephen Kinzer is a journalist and a professor of international relations at Boston University. His article "John Kerry and the restraint of American power in U.S. foreign policy," published recently in The Guardian, suggests that the new secretary of state will have limited influence in key areas of foreign policy, such as Iran and the ever-expanding drone war.
Kinzer contends that while Kerry's predecessor Hillary Clinton logged thousands of travel miles and became one of the most famous women in the world during her tenure, she really didn't have much to do with the making of American foreign policy: "Foreign policy is being made in the White House by the president and some of his close advisers. Some of those big decisions are probably made with the secretary of state not even in the room.”
In light of the circumstances, Kinzer argues that Kerry's most important contribution would be to persuade Americans that a more restrained foreign policy is in the nation's best interest. "Our approach to the world over the last 60 years has been deeply engaging and relentlessly aggressive —we're involved everywhere. The question is: Can we sustain that?"
Deciding that we couldn't sustain that sort of foreign policy would involve some tough decisions. Kinzer says: "That policy really hasn't served us well over these years. It hasn't gotten us to a good place in the world. Are we ready to move into a mindset in which we can tell ourselves: 'There is a terrible thing happening someplace in the world, but we can’t do anything about it. That’s not our business.'?"