Pat Buchanan

Does John Kerry understand the world he inherited? Is he in denial?

Consider. At Davos, Switzerland, Kerry called it a "myth" that America is withdrawing, and "the most bewildering version of this disengagement myth is about a supposed U.S. retreat from the Middle East."

Is he serious? How else does Kerry describe Obama's pullout of all U.S. troops from Iraq, and from Afghanistan by year's end?

Syria is "someone else's civil war," says President Obama. If we do any strikes there, promised Kerry, they will be "unbelievably small," and rest assured there will be "no [U.S.] boots on the ground."

When al-Qaida and its allies seized Ramadi and Fallujah in Anbar province, Kerry rushed to the microphones: "We're not ... contemplating returning. We're not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight. ... this is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis."

Yes it is. But does this sound like the defiant "This will not stand!" of George H. W. Bush, after Saddam's invasion of Kuwait?

Moreover, a Pew poll last fall found that 52 percent of the nation approves of U.S. disengagement, saying America should "mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own."

Staying out of other countries' quarrels and other nations' wars is what Americans want, and Obama is delivering.

Why does John Kerry deny the obvious?

To his credit, the secretary has undertaken three diplomatic initiatives, the success of any one of which could earn him a Nobel.

The Geneva II Conference on Syria, the U.S.-U.N. negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, and the Palestinian-Israeli peace initiative.

Yet Kerry's own undiplomatic conduct may be imperiling two of his initiatives, and naivete and hubris may be blinding him to the coming collapse of the third.

On arrival at Geneva II, Kerry demanded that Iran be disinvited, then launched into a tirade insisting that Assad get out of Damascus:

"There is no way ... that the man who led the brutal response to his own people could regain the legitimacy to govern."

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem was right back in his face: "No one, Mr. Kerry, has the right to provide legitimacy ... except for the Syrian people."

Dismissing Kerry's call for a transitional government without Assad, Moallem implied that not only was Kerry's position irrelevant -- Assad currently holds the whip hand in Syria and is going nowhere -- but irrational from the standpoint of U.S. national interests.

Pat Buchanan

Pat Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative magazine, and the author of many books including State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America .
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