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The driving force behind the folly of bombing Syria is Secretary of State John Kerry. I’m told Chuck Hegel has strong reservations, as do the Pentagon’s top generals. But Kerry has no reservations at all, and has convinced the President to stake much of his second-term presidency on it.

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Why? It’s possible, of course, that Kerry honestly believes that a punitive military strike against Assad is necessary, and that the benefits of such a strike would outweigh the potential costs. But I suspect something else is going on.

Kerry is an intelligent man, but he has a fatal flaw. He craves the limelight. He wants to be in the center of the action and attention. Over the years I heard again and again from his Senate colleagues that Kerry grandstanded and wanted all the credit, said things that would get him on the evening news, pushed too fast and too far in order to make his mark.

Recently, he seemed to be making progress getting the Israelis and Palestinians back to the table, but perhaps he sensed that the incipient talks would drag on forever, and needed a new cause.

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Forty years ago John Kerry called for an end to the Vietnam War but in his public pronouncements this past week he has sounded eerily like Robert McNamara in that tragic time – urging that America show “resolve,” that our “credibility” is at stake, that our “enemies are watching,” that we mustn’t “back down.”

These were not then, and they are not now, reasoned arguments; they are exhortations. Kerry is on the warpath. The President is ultimately responsible, of course, but I fear he is listening mainly to the loudest voice in the room. And that loud voice is channeling loud voices from America's past -- voices that have led us seriously awry.

robert reich

Robert Reich
Robert Reich's Blog

Sunday, 8 September 2013