A symbolic home-truth accompanied the recent burglary at a swanky five-million-dollar home in Georgetown, Maryland. Nothing valuable seems to have been taken but the very fact that the breached property was that of US Secretary of State John Kerry indicated flawed security – to say the least – in a system that has of late been eavesdropping on the entire world and its cousin.
This includes untold numbers of allied foreign leaders like Germany’s Angela Merkel. It would be no surprise if a whole host of Israeli higher-ups were also high on the list of those whose privacy was violated. But unlike the Germans, Israelis are leery of emitting as much as a murmur of protest against their Big Brother in Washington.
So it was a little ironic that while the most sophisticated gadgetry on earth is used to spy on friends in the name of the fight against international outlaws, the most elementary security arrangements aren’t exactly impressive in the fight against local outlaws.
Something here is extremely incongruous.
This is where the underlying incongruity takes on its broader symbolic aspect. The Georgetown housebreaker gained illicit access into Kerry’s garage, where he messed about with a vehicle belonging – again quite symbolically – to one of Kerry’s guards. This happened – drat the embarrassing coincidence – precisely at the very time that Kerry himself devoted long tedious hours at Villa Taverna in Rome to the task of convincing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to let down Israel’s existential guard – no less.
These efforts were geared to getting Israel to accept that Kerry and his boss Barack Obama know best when they assert that this is the best point at which to reduce the pressure on Iran – i.e. let down everyone’s guard (primarily of course Israel’s, as it is Israel which Iran vows to wipe off the map).
The most compelling argument Kerry had to put forth to Netanyahu was that since the ayatollah regime’s new front man mouths off less blusterously than his vituperative predecessor, Tehran deserves a universal benefit of doubt – all for the sake of global security. That security, Kerry tells us, can be best achieved by making nice – especially to the most aggressive and menacing of bullies. Who wants the fuss of actually having to take them on?
In fairness, though, that isn’t a new approach for Kerry. He has a history of being awfully agreeable to quite a bunch of big-time bad guys and that history offers us baffled onlookers an objective gauge for his grasp of security, peace and assorted derivative catchwords.
For example, before he was appointed to the post of Obama’s top diplomat, Kerry was a frequent flier to Damascus where he hobnobbed amicably with its despot Bashar Assad. Indeed Kerry heaped praises aplenty on self same Assad before Assad’s own excesses forced Kerry to liken him to Hitler.
Should we have trusted Kerry’s judgment in his previous role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? Could he, in that august position, not know what sort of a tyranny Assad headed? It’s hard to imagine that the senior senator from Massachusetts was unaware that Assad inherited his hegemony from a ruthless father, who already in 1982 had gassed to death as many as 40,000 of his own citizens – all residents of the city of Hama.
The odious nature of the Assad dynasty should have been apparent to even a dilettante diplomat, but did it prevent Kerry from prodding Israel throughout to cede the Golan Heights to the Damascus dictatorship (regardless of the risks the region’s lone democracy would thereby incur)? It most absolutely did not.
“President Barack Obama's administration considers Syria a key player in Washington's efforts to revive the stalled Middle East peace process,” Senator Kerry declared in Damascus just a few years ago.
“Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region,” Kerry confidently opined in a speech that followed one of his many congenial chat-sessions with Assad. ‘Both the United States and Syria have a very deep interest... in having a very frank exchange on any differences and agreements that we have about the possibilities of peace in this region.”
Kerry kept serially traveling to visit with Assad until February 2011, when even Obama could take it no longer and, according to reliable and persistent reports, nixed yet another Kerry excursion to Syria.
Nevertheless, a bit later Kerry spoke at a Washington think tank where he expressed warm sentiments for Assad: “President Assad has been very generous with me in terms of the discussions we have had. And when I last went to – the last several trips to Syria – I asked President Assad to do certain things to build the relationship with the United States and sort of show the good faith that would help us to move the peace process forward."
Should Israel have regarded Kerry’s optimism as unerring analysis then? About as much as it should trust his contentions now.
He didn’t get it when he cultivated a chummy relationship with Assad and he doesn’t get it when he castigates him according to the trendy dictates of current political correctness.
To be fair to Kerry, Obama isn’t much wiser either. They both just don’t get it. Both focus on Assad and on his ostensible in-house political opposition, whereas meanwhile Syria has definitively ceased to exist as a so-called national unit.
Its border with Iraq had for all intents and purposes been blurred into oblivion, as terror groups from the neighboring synthetic Arab states shed blood in each other’s purported territory.
Syria is irreversibly torn into separate combative latifundia. Assad controls a fortified Alawite mini-dominion near Damascus and a sister Alawite stronghold at Latakiya. The Druse have their own reserve in the south and the Kurds run a semi-liberated holding in the north.
The two most powerful and significant estates, however – one in the north and the other in the south – are governed by some of Islam’s most uncompromising Sunni jihadists. These are in effect Salafist emirates of the sort which predated Arab nationalism. The northern enclave in particular features the worst of radical sharia law, along the strictest Taliban patterns.
Mujahedeen flock there from all corners of Islam – including its western implants – and they aren’t necessarily or exclusively Arab. To them, the American-sponsored “peace conference” in Geneva is ludicrously irrelevant. Nothing against this backdrop can seem more far-fetched than the attempt by clueless foreigners to promote a deal between Assad and some high-minded insurgents the West conjures up.
The Syrian rebel coalition is about as real as the Palestinian Authority and Assad is about as central to the scenario as Mahmoud Abbas.
To be sure, Assad still wages his fight for survival and Kerry not long ago even praised his cooperation in eradicating his own chemical arsenal: “it's a credit to the Assad regime, frankly. It's a good beginning and we welcome a good beginning.” But that doesn’t make Assad trustworthy. In fact, no weaponry has been destroyed to date.
Another fact is that Assad is no longer even a pivotal protagonist in the drama in which he undeservedly at this phase gets star-billing. Assad’s multifarious enemies battle it out ferociously with each other and inflict horrendous internecine blows, which are often superfluously ascribed to Assad.
In this utter chaos, there simply is no mistake which Obama, Kerry and crew have failed to make.
Their cutting-edge intelligence technology may work on Smartphone addicts like Merkel. Yet it decidedly offers no comprehension of an Arab/Muslim sphere that is fast regressing into the Middle Ages. Conflict-weary Americans never featured in that no-holds-barred reality.
Just as the Obama/Kerry duo is frighteningly – if not willfully – naïve on Syria, so the two are regarding Iran. If anything, Iran by far dwarves Syria due to the nukes in production while the peace-makers from Washington try to smooth-talk their way out of adversity. Things are further complicated by the fact that whereas Assad chatters comfortably in the western idiom, the Iranians do not – their deliberately deceptive charm offensive notwithstanding.
This isn’t just ominous news for Israel (as Netanyahu concluded in Rome). The Saudis have made no secret of their displeasure over the softening of Obama’s tactic vis-à-vis Tehran. The Jordanians and certain Lebanese components are shivering as they witness his bumbling failure to understand regional basics.
Both countries are host to huge Syrian refugee populations, which doubtless include plenty of subversive infiltrators. The seeds of future conflicts are already sown now, while Obama and Kerry posture superciliously.
And as they seek to twist Netanyahu’s arms to create another artificial Arab state for the Ramallah figurehead, it would serve us well to envision what things would be like had such a state already existed. Islamist fanatics from the world over would be streaming southward from Syria to the new Palestine, all armed to the teeth, and hell-bent on “liberating” the lands still left under the jurisdiction of hair-raisingly slender, vulnerable and enfeebled little Israel.
This is the security Kerry guarantees us. He could learn to live with the unprecedentedly escalated dangers to our continued self-preservation. We probably wouldn’t live for long.
Odds are that Kerry isn’t intentionally inimical. He just doesn’t get it. So – before he sets out imperiously to help Obama dominate the world – perhaps the Secretary of State just ought to busy himself with securing his own house first and leave our security to us.
It’s the moral thing to do and Kerry stresses at every opportunity how incontrovertibly moral he is. He needs, therefore, to come clean and admit once and for all that he doesn’t know best, indeed that he doesn’t know the Middle East minimally. The blunders he forces on us with a patronizing smile and reassuring prattle could kill us.
Debunking the Bull, Sarah Honig’s book, was recently published by Gefen