On the Right Side of History?
Sculptors, put down your chisels. Painters, stow your brushes. We don’t need any artists to do the official State Portrait of Secretary of State John F. Kerry.
He has created a work of art far beyond your poor power to add or detract. Just look at this magnificent portrait! Isn’t he the image of a modern Statesman? Tall, fashionably slim, elegantly attired, with his fine thatch of gray hair perfectly coiffed, he sits in tranquil dignity in his tufted chair. He is framed by a marble mantelpiece and flanked by a small figure of an illustrious, but not immediately recognizable, predecessor.
Who might that forerunner be? Hamilton Fish? Elihu Washburn? Since this photograph seems to have been taken in our London Embassy, the alabaster figure may be that of Charles Francis Adams. That skilled diplomat’s great achievement at the Court of Saint James during our American Civil War was to stave off British intervention on the side of the South. Charles Francis was the son and grandson of U.S. Presidents, so he had something of a head start in the international version of The Game of Thrones.
But who knows who the figure is? That nineteenth-century eminence had nothing on our Honorable John Kerry. After all, if that nineteenth-century diplomat had been on the Right Side of History, we’d all know instantly who he is. And that’s what it means to be on the Right Side of History. You’re famous and rich and you’re going to be known for great achievements -- as soon as you achieve them.
Or, maybe even before you achieve them. In Sec. Kerry’s powerful pose, he doesn’t actually need to do anything famous or great. He’s already mastered the perfect pose. You might even say he’s a perfect poseur. (That’s a little French lingo for you students of the language of diplomacy.)
Secretary Kerry has at the moment turned his attention to Afghanistan. Look out, Afghans! If he does for you what he has done for Libya, Syria, the Ukrainians, your destruction is nigh.
Secretary Kerry is in good company, however, on the Right Side of History. Just consider who wins Nobel Peace Prizes. President Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” The president hadn’t actually done anything yet, but he was certainly on the Right Side of History. So that was enough, apparently, to cop a Nobel Peace Prize.
Secretary Kerry’s pose telegraphs to the world that he is awaiting his own star turn. He’s ready for Oslo, where the Prize for Peace is formally bestowed. Who can blame Sec. Kerry for wondering why he has been passed over for so long? After all, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and Barack Obama didn’t have to achieve anything substantial to be transformed --drumroll, please -- into Nobel Laureates.
John Kerry has done at least as much for world peace as, say, Yasser Arafat did. The late boss of the PLO advanced peace by wearing a sidearm into the UN General Assembly, the first gangster in that great hall actually to look the part. He was the inventor of airline piracy for terror purposes. But he agreed to stop his stone-throwing youths, for awhile at least. “Time Out” for terrorists qualifies one for a Nobel.
Or, let’s take Mohammed el-Baradei. He’s the 2005 recipient of the NPP. This Egyptian diplomat was supposed to monitor Iran’s nuclear weapons program. He said that Israel is the Number One threat to world peace. Mo, it seems, was unable to stop even one of Iran’s 10,000 centrifuges from spinning, but he has a nice medallion of 18-karat Swedish Green Gold and $1.3 million to go with his framed citation from the Nobel Prizers.
One nice thing about the stately State Portrait of our Distinguished Right Sider Secretary is that he is not wearing his favorite pink tie. He’s accoutered in a Mediterranean blue number. (It’s a matter of history that no one in a pink tie has ever made peace in the Middle East, or anywhere else, for that matter.)
In all, Sec. Kerry’s 2014 costume is a vast improvement over LT John Kerry. As a youngster, he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971 to denounce his fellow American soldiers. He charged them with behaving worse in Vietnam than Genghis Khan. Then, he was decked out in non-regulation uniform, non-regulation long hair, non-regulation belt, and non-regulation combat ribbons. The medals he had thrown over the White House fence in protest. He called his buddies war criminals, but Democrats in 2004 thought this record would give him a leg up on the Veterans vote for president. How is that?
Well, young John Kerry was obviously on the Right Side of History. Conservatives said if we pulled out precipitately from South Vietnam, the entire region would fall under Communist tyranny. Millions would lose their liberty. Thousands would lose their lives.
So, we took John Kerry’s advice, pulled out, and every nation in Southeast Asia fell under Communist tyranny, millions lost their liberty, thousands lost their lives. But it was nobody we know. And nobody, fortunately, who has a vote on the Nobel Peace Prize committee.
So John Kerry, our very own Knight of the Woeful Countenance, is still ensconced in the Seat of Power. And still most eligible for his own Peace Prize. Being on the Right Side of History is a pretty nice gig, after all.