With Senator John Kerry’s departure from the Commonwealth and ascension to the lofty heights of President Obama’s State Department, the former Senior Senator from Massachusetts will now have an opportunity to craft his final legacy. Of particular concern to many observers of international relations should be the prospect of four more years of Obama’s Foreign Policy. A policy which will not only further marginalize America’s influence and standing in the world but prove harmful to our friends and strategic partners. Most critically, it may ultimately endanger U.S. national security.
In the special election scramble to replace John Kerry, the primary focus will undoubtedly be the nation’s economy and fiscal health. This focus is necessary as our nation’s future will be determined by a resolution of structural problems including high unemployment and unsustainable debt, all of which are exacerbated by a dysfunctional Congress and aloof President. Nonetheless, given Kerry’s twenty-eight year tenure in the Senate and on the Foreign Relations Committee, his successor may actually have an opportunity to wield greater influence by virtue of his predecessors expertise.
America’s interaction with the global economy and concerns over strategic security issues are unavoidable. Both political parties have thrown this nation under the bus pursuing their own partisan agendas and this is not only shameful but a national disgrace. One does not have to look further than the issue of sequestration and lack of serious negotiation and debate to demonstrate this to even the most cynical observers.
As frustrating as this may be to voters, a private citizen cannot hope to change this nation’s foreign policy but perhaps may be positioned to help focus and articulate the debate amongst those new candidates currently seeking to fill John Kerry’s seat. Unfortunately, the two sitting members of Congress are part of the problem by virtue of the amount of time they have already spent in Washington. Were the Commonwealth to elect a new face with new ideas, Congress and the nation might actually take notice.
Required, is a new doctrine that will guide our nation’s pursuit of foreign relations. This doctrine must be sufficiently nuanced and flexible to adapt to continuous and multidimensional change not only in the international community but to our own fiscal and economic challenges. America’s strategic goal must be to promote and maintain international stability as a necessary prerequisite for economic growth and development in regions deemed vital. This can only strengthen our allies and partners around the world, allowing them to contribute an increasing amount to their own national defense and regional security requirements. Washington should aggressively promote not only bilateral trade but also increase the economic dynamism within and between key regions.
The end of the Cold War and subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union led to greater instability which Washington has been unable to contain or manage. Fast forward to the current Administration, we have seen a systematic erosion of American influence and security by virtue of a policy of ‘leading from behind’ at a time of profound change. The European Union has begun to decline as the “Arab Spring” facilitated a rise of fundamentalism with serious consequences for the U.S. and Peace Process. On the security front we are witnessing the hasty abandonment of Afghanistan, the spread of al-Qaeda and return to Russian autocracy. As a Pacific Power the US has decided to pivot toward Asia to counter a more aggressive China without properly appreciating the importance of Central Asia to the rising dragon. As North Korea and Iran have brought nuclear proliferation into stark focus, President Obama has begun serious thought to a significant drawdown of our nuclear arsenal. The 2010 New START Treaty favored the Russians and any further cuts without focusing upon tactical nuclear weapons will be irresponsible and dangerous. Washington’s gridlock will inevitably prompt President Obama’s desire for Legacy building abroad and any such undertakings, at the expense of national security, is unacceptable.
Leadership is tough and it is incumbent upon Massachusetts Republicans and Independents alike to get it right. New faces must rise to the occasion and a credible new Senator with a refreshing and unique perspective on the world would be a big step in the right direction.
Keith Lepor is a Boston based international consultant and freelance photojournalist as well as Editor of After the Cold War (University of Texas Press, 1997). He was also a Republican candidate for Congress (MA-9) during the 2010 election cycle.