August 29, 2008

Kerry to be the next Biden?

You probably noticed that Massachusetts Senator John Kerry had a pretty public role at the convention. This is not only because he was the democratic presidential nominee last time around, it’s also because he’s positioned to be the dem’s next foreign policy authority in Congress.

If the Obama/Biden ticket wins this November, the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee will be up for grabs. While Senator Chris Dodd is next in line in terms of seniority, he will most likely choose not to give up his chairmanship of the Banking Committee (rules prohibit a members to chair more than one committee at a time). Thus, this key post will likely pass to Kerry, the third most senior Democrat on the committee.
The Senator was the keynote speaker at a three hour panel hosted by the New America Foundation on Wednesday, “Can the next president make the Middle East irrelevant?.” Later that day, he spoke at the convention.
The event featured an impressive list of experts- including top Obama foreign policy advisers, scholars, former diplomats and congressmen– and discussed past US failures in the Middle East and what a winning strategy should look like.
The Senator called for a comprehensive approach, criticizing the Bush administration for dealing with each flash point in the region by piecemeal. “There is a difference between tactics and strategy,” said Kerry. “We need to approach [the problems of the Middle East] comprehensively.”
Kerry recounted a meeting he had had with religious leaders from several different countries in the region- including Iran. “Its interesting to see how we can find common ground in the three abrahamic faiths,” said Kerry. What we need, he argued, is not a “war on terror” but a “global counterinsurgency”; the US must do more to support moderate Islamic leaders and delegitimize radical ones.
Kerry’s Iran strategy relied heavily on the power and expediency of sanctions. If real, direct diplomacy with Iran were to fail, said Kerry, we could bleed the nation into submission through an international embargo on petroleum exports.
Yet it remained unclear just how or when we would know that diplomacy had been exhausted. How long would the US and Iran have to engage until we could declare diplomacy a failure? Ten months, ten weeks, or perhaps ten hours- the time the Bush administration spent in direct talks in Baghdad?

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