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Kerry shouldn’t worry about ‘armchair isolationists’– but ‘armchair warriors’

on 17 Comments

Who is this imposter who has the gall to call himself “John Kerry?” The real John Kerry is an intelligent liberal, indeed something of a hero for having the courage to not only vigorously oppose the Vietnam War—the last U.S. war fought in the name of “credibility”– but to openly charge that the U.S. was committing “war crimes” there. Surely this can’t be the same fellow who is not only leading the charge for the U.S. to plunge into yet another unnecessary and unwise war, but whose rhetoric is increasingly bizarre.

Fear that if we don’t go to war in Syria, we will lose our “credibility?“ Credibility to do what: stupidly intervene in yet another civil war in a country of trivial importance, in which we not only do not have “vital interests” at stake, but in which, if we had, we wouldn’t know which side to support, and in which we have no idea whether our intervention will save innocent lives or put them still further into danger?

If that wasn’t bad enough, now “John Kerry” accuses opponents of an attack on Syria as advocating “armchair isolationism.” What? First of all, to oppose the war in Syria does not make one “isolationist,” or even “anti-war,” as opposed to opposing this specific war. The opposite of “isolationism” usually is defined as “internationalism.” By such reasoning, then, this must mean that “internationalists” favor going to war with everyone.

Moreover, in fact the United States would greatly benefit by a healthy dose of isolationism to at least partly balance what ought to be called “mindless interventionism.” After all, the problem with U.S. foreign policy since the end of WWII, and even more so since the end of the Cold War, has not exactly been a refusal to get into foreign wars.

Finally, the very concept of an “armchair isolationist” is incoherent. Apparently Kerry has confused the term with that of the common one, “armchair warrior.” That is a coherent and, indeed, powerful concept—it refers, of course, to someone who wants other people to go to war while he sits safely at home. Now try making sense of “armchair isolationism.”

This post first appeared on Jerome Slater’s site.

Jerome Slater
About Jerome Slater

Jerome Slater is a professor (emeritus) of political science and now a University Research Scholar at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has taught and written about U.S. foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for nearly 50 years, both for professional journals (such as International Security, Security Studies, and Political Science Quarterly) and for many general periodicals. He writes foreign policy columns for the Sunday Viewpoints section of the Buffalo News. And his website it

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17 Responses

  1. Bandolero
    September 5, 2013, 9:07 am

    Reuters asserts Putins remark that Kerry is a liar:

    Kerry portrait of Syria rebels at odds with intelligence reports

    Kerry is trying to twist intel & facts to make them fit his war policy just as Bush & Blair agreed to do it in Downing Street Memo preceding the war on Iraq.

  2. Krauss
    September 5, 2013, 9:44 am

    John Kerry’s transformation has eerie resemblance to Power’s political prostitution.
    Only the redeeming trait for Power was her view of it as a means towards political survival whereas Kerry appears to be motivated by nothing else than vanity.

    If he had cared about chemical weapons he’d criticized Israel in 2009 when it used heinous tactics, including white phosphorus, against innocent civilians or when Saddam used it against Iran in the 80s, but back then Saddam was an American ally like Israel is now.

    • marc b.
      marc b.
      September 5, 2013, 10:30 am

      if . . . he’d criticized Israel in 2009 when it used heinous tactics, including white phosphorus,

      Kerry was in Damascus in February 2009 dining with Bashar al-Hitler, later praising al-Hitler for being an important ally in the pursuit of a lasting ME peace. I don’t know if the matter of Israeli white phosphorous came up at dinner.

  3. Citizen
    September 5, 2013, 10:52 am

    I think Kerry’s guiding light (beyond his ego) is the Holocaust, and the twin concepts that America is the chosen nation in modern times, the light to the world, and so are the Jewish people.
    He’s very selective when he uses US history to tell us the former, and he, of course, knows enough to make securing Israel not appear to be the driver of the Obama-McCain resolution being cobbled together now in Congress.

  4. Citizen
    September 5, 2013, 10:59 am

    Why is it that congress can look at the classified evidence allegedly showing Assad did the dirty deed, but the American public has to take our regime’s word for it that’s credible and sufficiently definitive? Why can’t the source(s) be revealed? Fool me once, fool me twice…

    I see some GOP guys are now jumping on Obama’s resolution, as amended by McCain, to draw back the sequester budget cuts on the military. They want to add that to the strike resolution.

  5. dbroncos
    September 5, 2013, 10:59 am

    Well said, Mr. Slater. Obama’s sudden and bizarre insistance that we make war on Syria is indeed about credibility and most everyone is scrambling to figure out why he thinks this is an imperative American priority.

    Meanwhile…Americans are still in the dark about Obamacare, which has been so poorly explained that nobody really knows what it means. It goes into effect next month with the idea that everyone needs to purchase health care coverge by 1/1/14 or be subject to IRS penalties. For whatever it’s worth, Obamacare is Obama’s signature legislation with serious and looming implications for tens of millions of Americans. His lagacy is decidedly connected to its success so you’d think that he would be doing his best to explain/promote it. But no, he’s talking about Syria. WTF!

    Americans are not only “war weary”, they’re also sick and tired of reps who are more concerned with fixing the problems of other countries by force than they are with fixing our own. So, yes, we “armchair isolationists” are staring gape mouthed at an incompotence that beggars belief.

  6. American
    September 5, 2013, 11:09 am

    You are seeing the real John Kerry.
    In the same way his Vietnam protest gave him something to ‘hang his hat on’, Syria is giving him another platform.

    A starring ‘morality role’ on the world stage for a supreme egotist.

  7. Chu
    September 5, 2013, 12:20 pm

    Kerry is an establishment guy. Remember when Howard Dean was in the lead and the media began rooting for Kerry, as the war hero. He lost the election because he was dull, and second because he said he would fight a better and tougher war that GWB. We were going to get a better war president? The Bush team then said don’t switch horses mid-stream and gave us 4 more years of a clown in command. He was good in debates, but characteristically wooden and no leadership strength. Perhaps he’s out for redemption.

  8. Les
    September 5, 2013, 12:43 pm

    Genius that he is, Kerry testified that firing missiles into Syria would not be an act of war — which would mean Russian missiles fired against Washington DC would not be an act of war.

    Are there any adults at the State Department?

  9. Chu
    September 5, 2013, 12:49 pm

    Vladimir Putin on John Kerry today: “He lies openly, and he knows that he lies,” the Russian president charged, with impeccable timing — he is set to host Obama and other world leaders in St. Petersburg on Thursday.

    And what about Hagel? This was the apparatchik the lobby was so concerned about.

  10. DICKERSON3870
    September 5, 2013, 1:45 pm

    RE: “Moreover, in fact the United States would greatly benefit by a healthy dose of isolationism to at least partly balance what ought to be called ‘mindless interventionism’.” ~ Slater


    ● FROM Prevent an Attack on Syria Now
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    If you reside outside the United States, you can still sign this petition by clicking HERE.

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    Send a letter to your members of Congress calling for peace not war on Syria! We plea with President Obama and Congress to seek an immediate ceasefire, begin regional peace talks and provide humanitarian aid to the over 2 million refugees fleeing the violence.
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    ● FROM Say “No!” to US strikes on Syria!

    • DICKERSON3870
      September 5, 2013, 5:25 pm

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  11. W.Jones
    September 5, 2013, 2:01 pm

    It sounds like you came a long way from your support for superpowers’ so-called humanitarian invasions on behalf of foreign “rebels” like in Libya. Congratulations.

    All the best.

  12. irmep
    September 5, 2013, 2:48 pm

    mmm, in this case I think “bathtub admirals” is more appropriate.

  13. American
    September 5, 2013, 3:06 pm

    One of the most important aspects that has been pointed out about the yay and nay positions being taken by politicans is that ‘elite’ leadership among them is the yay side, the nay side is coming from those Reps whose districts are regular America, outside the elite hubs of influence, and their voters are so against it their re elections would be threatened by voting for Syria involvement.

    • seafoid
      September 5, 2013, 4:00 pm

      That is so interesting. Maybe the Iraq war was actually a pyrrhic victory for the bots in terms of their leverage over American public opinion.

      Israel is the only OECD country that resorts to war every time it has a diplomatic problem. The bots have their own war culture

      but it isn’t shared by any other country in the OECD.
      Everyone (bar the haredim and the Palestinians ) in Israel is drafted and Israelis are moulded to buy the militaristic values of their leaders. They always approve of war. But Americans are different and with a failed economy ( middle class shrinking, stagnant median wages since 1975) and 2 failed wars it must be hard to sell another pointless war to the people who will supply the ones who die.

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