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Posts Tagged ‘secretary kerry’

‘Tired of War’

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

What does it mean for a nation to be “tired of war”? Those were the words that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry used the in a major statement on Syria a fortnight ago and they were reiterated this week by President Barack Obama.

“Now, we know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war,” Secretary Kerry said. He added, “Believe me, I am too.” These are odd words to use in front of the international media., especially when you know that not only your allies and friends but all your foes — including your most intransigent ones — will be watching. What does it signal when the world’s sole superpower expresses itself in such terms?

There can be little doubt that the train of thought Secretary Kerry expressed is part of the unfortunate zeitgeist. Everywhere in the West there is a sense that the last decade has been wearying. This may not matter all that much if you happen to be an exhausted Belgian or Swede: terrible for you, no doubt, but unlikely to have any wider consequence. What is concerning is when the only country in the world that really matters begins to feel and express itself in such a way.

Countless historians and analysts of all political inclinations have pointed out that the sole superpower is going through something like the syndrome it went through after the war in Vietnam. There is something in this. But for all the similarities people can point to between post-Vietnam syndrome and post-Iraq/Afghanistan syndrome, the differences cry out to be considered.

Firstly this: that during the war in Vietnam, America lost almost 60,000 of her service personnel. During the decade of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, US troop casualties came to almost a tenth of that figure. What is even more striking is that during the Vietnam war the US army was a conscript army, drawn from across the country, classes and professions, whereas Iraq and Afghanistan were operations carried out solely by a professional, volunteer army.

This is a vast difference. A conscript army by definition affects every community, family and household in a country. Whereas volunteer armies tend to be dominated by people from particular areas, backgrounds and levels of income. So when somebody after the Vietnam conflict said they were “tired of war,” they could easily have been speaking with real experience — as Secretary Kerry, a veteran of the conflict, might have done. Most households were affected in some way.

But when someone today says he is “tired of war,” let alone when a whole society says it is ‘tired of war,” what many — if not most — of these people mean is that they are fed of up reading about it every day. Or fed up with all that war stuff clogging up their television schedules.

A study done in the UK several years ago revealed an all-time low in the number of people in Britain who actually know anybody involved in the armed forces. The figure was almost in single digits. In other words, in vast expanses of the country there is nobody who knows anybody in the armed forces. I strongly suspect that the same findings could today be discovered in the U.S. Vast swathes of people, on the coasts and elsewhere, will be able to get through an average year while having no contact whatsoever with anybody actually serving their nation abroad.

Under such conditions there is something profoundly decadent about any such country, or its leadership, saying seriously that they are “tired” of war. Yet these were exactly the terms in which the U.S. sought to address to the nation over the question of involvement in Syria on the eve of this year’s anniversary of 9/11: President Obama acknowledged that the nation was “sick and tired of war.” He quoted this phrase, and another from someone writing to him who said that the nation was “still recovering from our involvement in Iraq.”

Yet it wasn’t all downbeat. The President tried to rally the nation by saying that “the burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world is a better place because we have borne them.” He then stressed that the nation was not, in fact, going to have to bear them. If he were inclined at any point to do something about Syria, it would be something “small,” as Secretary Kerry also put it. No boots on the ground. No heavier involvement. Yet somehow not “pinpricks” either.

All of which is unlikely to make Assad tremble. But it hardly matters whether Assad trembles. What matters is what the other players in the region and the wider world make of all this. What matters is what Russia, China, and — most pertinently — Iran, will make of it. Iran has managed to keep off the front pages of world attention lately by the happy congruence of two circumstances: the election of a pseudo-moderate president, and the ongoing international dithering about what, if anything, to do about Syria. As it happens, Iran has already dipped its leg into the water of Syria by sending its proxy armies into the country. From their point of view, the reception could hardly have been more pleasing: they have managed to act without consequences.

There are many questions over what to do in Syria, and many questions over what is, or is not, effective to do. That debate should go on. But what should not go on is a period of intense naval-gazing by the Western powers. After all, what better time is there to develop an even more voracious appetite than the very moment when the only people likely to stand up to you are too busily engaged in self-pity to notice your whirring centrifuges?

Kerry, Lavrov: Syria to Give Up the Stash in 1 Week—Maybe

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

Choice Quotes

Kerry: We agreed that Syria must submit, within a week – not in 30 days, but in one week – a comprehensive listing.

Lavrov: Of course, in these approaches agreed on, there is nothing said about the use of force, not about any automatic sanctions we – as I said, all violations should be approved in the Security Council convincingly.

Kerry: I purposefully made the statements that I made in London, and I did indeed say it was impossible and he won’t do it, even as I hoped it would be possible and wanted him to do it. And the language of diplomacy sometimes requires that you put things to the test, and we did.

Lavrov: There were countries who were ready to pay for the war, and I’m sure that there will be such countries, perhaps not the same countries, who will be ready to finance the peaceful solution of the problem.

Secretary Kerry: Well, thank you very much for your patience, not just this morning, but over the last couple of days. We’re very appreciative and particularly grateful to Sergey Lavrov, who stayed extra time from what he had originally planned, hoping we’d finish sooner, and this gave us additional opportunity to be able to work through some of the issues…

…So let me just outline specifically where we are, and the steps that the United States and Russia have agreed to take under this framework.

First, the scope: We have reached a shared assessment of the amount and type of chemical weapons possessed by the Assad regime, and we are committed to the rapid assumption of control by the international community of those weapons.

Second, specific timelines: The United States and Russia are committed to the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons in the soonest and safest manner. We agreed that Syria must submit, within a week – not in 30 days, but in one week – a comprehensive listing. And additional details will be addressed regarding that in the coming days.

Third, the unprecedented use of Chemical Weapons Convention procedures is an important component of this framework. We have committed to use extraordinary procedures under the Chemical Weapons Convention for the expeditious destruction and stringent verification of Syrian chemical weapons.

Fourth, verification and monitoring: In the interest of accountability, the United States and Russia have agreed that the Syrians must provide the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons and supporting personnel with an immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites in Syria.

Fifth, destruction: We have agreed to destroy all chemical weapons, including the possibility of removing weapons for destruction outside of Syria. We have also reached a side agreement on methodology.

Fifth, finally, consequences – sixth, excuse me: Our agreement today strengthens the OPCW – the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons Executive Council decision to use the Chemical Weapons Convention extraordinary procedures in order to ensure full implementation. It also provides for UN administrative and logistical support to the OPCW for inspections and destruction. In the event of noncompliance, we have committed to impose measures under Chapter 7 within the UN Security Council.

Ultimately, perhaps more so than anywhere in the world, actions will matter more than words. In the case of the Assad regime, President Reagan’s old adage about “Trust but verify” – “Doveryai no proveryai,” I think, is the saying – that is in need of an update. And we have committed here to a standard that says, “Verify and verify.”

But I also want to be clear about the endgame here. If we can join together and make this framework a success and eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, we would not only save lives, but we would reduce the threat to the region, and reinforce an international standard, an international norm. We could also lay the groundwork for further cooperation that is essential to end the bloodshed that has consumed Syria for more than two years…

Foreign Minister Lavrov: (Via interpreter) …I just want to state that it’s a decision based on a consensus and a compromise and professionalism. And we have achieved an aim that we had in front of us, in front of our presidents when they talked on the 5th of September, on Friday, in the margins of the G-20 in St. Petersburg, and that later was announced, just not long ago, on the 8th of September, in – on Monday, and the aim is to resolve the solution to put under international control the arsenals of chemical weapons in Syria.

US: Negotiations Resume Wednesday, ‘Outpost’ Construction Illegitimate

Friday, August 9th, 2013

In Thursday’s State department’s daily press briefing, Spokesperson Jen Psaki announced that the peace negotiations (lovingly nicknamed MEPP) between the Israelis and Palestinians will resume on August 14 in Jerusalem, to be followed by a meeting in Jericho.

In response to a question about the Israeli government’s decision to build between 800 and 1,000 more housing units on the wrong side of the “green line,” Psaki answered: “Our position on settlements has not changed. We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity and oppose any efforts to legitimize settlement outposts.”

But she was quick to add that Secretary of State John Kerry still “believes both of the negotiating teams are at the table in good faith and are committed to working together to make progress.” Meaning, she thinks the announcement was little more than some muscle flexing in Jerusalem, in preparation for the next bout with the Palestinians, nothing that couldn’t be shut down in a phone call. Indeed, she added, “We are speaking to the Government of Israel and making our concerns known.”

According to Psaki, Ambassador Martin Indyk, who’s been not-achieving peace in the Middle East since late last century, and Deputy Special Envoy Frank Lowenstein, also known as a Kerry staffer, “will travel to the region to help facilitate negotiations.”

But lest you raise your hopes in vain, according to Psaki, Kerry does not expect to make any announcements in the aftermath of this round of talks.

As The Jewish Press reported earlier, Secretary Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice held roundtable discussions with Jewish American and Arab American community leaders last night, and there’s one coming this Friday morning, at the White House. These meetings are expected to serve as “an opportunity to update community leaders on the resumption of direct final status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, as well as to hear directly from these community leaders about their perspectives.”

Indyk and Lowenstein also attend these two meetings.

Before the first meeting, Psaki stated the Secretary is “looking forward to these discussions with leaders who have been deeply involved in these issues for many, many years, and who share our goal of achieving a final status agreement with two states living side by side in peace and security.”

Or, as our reporter Lori Lowenthal Marcus put it: “Kerry Briefs Jewish ‘Leaders’ (Cheerleaders?) on MidEast Talks.”

To remind you, the first release of Palestinian prisoners with Jewish blood on their hands is scheduled for Tuesday, on the eve of the talks in Jerusalem.

As to the construction in outposts, about which the U.S. is so upset – it began with an announcement by Minister Naftali Bennett earlier this week, about renewing construction in East Jerusalem, a legally annexed area under Israeli sovereignty. But, of course, none of it is happening any time soon. As we told you over these screens, Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home is the one coalition member which is not part of the peace negotiations “team.” By team, of course, they mean anyone but Bennett and Uri Ariel. So, the honorable minister’s ability to turn his promises about construction into actual construction is very similar to your and my ability in the same area.

So he might as well promise a million new uinit. Sounds better and has the same results.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/us-negotiations-resume-wednesday-outpost-construction-illegitimate/2013/08/09/

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