Foreign Policy Blogs

Secretary Kerry Needs to Bring His “A” Game

Source: Google photos

Source: Google photos

“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible”

— Vince Lombardi

Will Secretary of State Kerry prove to be a master of the foreign relations game by overcoming the seemingly impossible? Or will he have a hard time finding his footing on the slippery geopolitical pitch and achieve little in the next four years?

Will President Obama’s foreign relations quarterback “go long” on Iran’s nuclear program and enter into direct talks with the regime? Or will this star player fumble and choose to stay clear of Iran as well as other crucial national and international security challenges?

These are the questions foreign relations observers are asking as Kerry suits up and takes the field.

How well Kerry plays the 21st century “Great Game”  might very well determine if Obama becomes a bona-fide war time president, or the overseer of a period of geopolitical conflict resolution and peacemaking.

As the foreign affairs quarterback for the most respected and feared team in the international league, Kerry has the clout needed and is well positioned to make tough plays that could pay-out huge dividends for team U.S.A.

In addition, as the former head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a panel he led for four years, Kerry possesses an intimate knowledge of global geopolitics and should be able to exploit opportunities as they arise and to engineer a few opportunities himself.

A Vietnam veteran who saw the horrors of war first hand, Kerry will likely continue to advise the president to stay clear of hard power plays and to opt for multilateral and collective plays on all global security challenges.

In the first quarter of this four-year game, Secretary of State Kerry should choose to take calculated risks and make tough plays. He must know that to win this game he must “lead from the back” to foster the kind of regional and international teamwork needed to resolve the most vexing international security challenges.

Lastly, let’s hope that Kerry does not share his predecessor’s predilection for international human rights crusading and “feel good” diplomacy – a noble form of statecraft, but a form that delivers few dividends for America’s national and economic security portfolio. No, filling “Hillary’s heels” should not be his goal if he hopes to gain some serious yardage.

Only time will tell how Kerry will perform,  but I am hopeful that he and the other key players on America’s foreign relations travel team are already drawing up bold but sensible plays to add to a skinny conflict resolution playbook.  I for one will be in the stands cheering on team U.S.A., hoping that Kerry and the talented team  he leads will score a bunch of  touchdowns. He should know that home town team supporters, as well as hundreds of millions of fans around the world will have their fingers crossed.

Don’t be a chicken, Secretary Kerry — go for it!



Oliver Barrett

Oliver Leighton-Barrett is a multi-lingual researcher and a decorated retired military officer specializing in the inter-play between fragile states and national security matters. A former U.S. Marine, and Naval aviator, Oliver is a veteran of several notable U.S. military operations, to include: Operation Restore Hope (Somalia); and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan and Philippines). His functional areas of focus include: U.S. Diplomacy; U.S. Defense; and Climate Change. His geographic areas of focus include: Latin America and the Caribbean and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).