Since he’s a local, I think it’s important to consider the work of our former Senator and Secretary of State. He was responsible, in part, for the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement, both massive feats of diplomacy. Trump is trying his best to dismantle his work, and while that’s certainly counterproductive (and stupid, and self-spiting, etc.), it’s not a complete erasure of Kerry’s work. Much of the world remains in the Paris deal, and it has given us a baseline of credibility for states, localities, and corporations to aim for. It must be noted that it is, was, nowhere near enough to stave off environmental catastrophe — it seems we are locked in for that, but to what extent remains to be seen. You push forward, you get pushed back.
Similarly, the Iran deal was not all things to all people. It was intended to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and by all accounts, it has done exactly that. It freed up a lot of money that Iran may well use to bad ends, but if you don’t want Israel to get nuked (say), you choose what set of problems you want to have.
As I’m fond of saying these days, these deals are necessary-but-not-sufficient.
I have not forgotten, nor will forget, his egregious vote for the Iraq War. But the work that Kerry has done since his sadly unsuccessful run for President has been prodigious, if not glamorous. Diplomacy is not satisfying to would-be warlords who imagine that a smashing military victory is within reach, given the “most powerful military in human history.” This is a winner’s curse, as we have found out at great length and almost unbelievable expense — a lesson that unfortunately we seem to need to re-learn every ten years or so. Obama, to his credit, was usually skeptical of military intervention; even he regards the bombing of Libya — and its lack of follow-up — as his greatest mistake.
Diplomacy is rarely sexy; it requires unsatisfying compromise with unlovely people, and choosing which set of problems you’re willing to endure. By definition, it is muddling through. And it is very much preferable to war, the tearing apart and burning of human bodies en masse. Every night a child spends in his own bed, instead of in a refugee camp, or starved; or shot at; or blown up; or burned to death; is a blessing. Every day — like our lovely day today — that we spend in a climate of relative normalcy is a blessing.
As Secretary of State, John Kerry has bent the curve of history towards peace. Consider the man.