International Relations Scholars: Kerry Least Effective Secretary of State in Half a Century

Nobody puts the SoS in Secretary of State quite like John Kerry, who has overseen the rout of American influence and prestige in every corner of the globe, managing the neat trick of making Hillary Clinton look relatively consequential, or at least harmless. Kerry has finally been given the recognition he deserves by foreign policy scholars, who named him the least effective SecState of the past 50 years.

Al Kamen does not sound very happy about these results over at the Washington Post. He seems equally peeved by the survey’s choice of most effective Secretary of State:

Secretary of State John Kerry, working diligently on some extraordinarily difficult foreign policy issues — China, neo-Soviet Russia, Islamic State, Iran, etc — isn’t getting even a tiny bit of credit these days from the tweedy, elbow-patched, wing-chair crowd.

Foreign Policy magazine this week announced the results of its 2014  Ivory Tower survey of 1,615 international relations scholars from 1,375 U.S. colleges.

One question they were asked was: “Who was the most effective U.S. secretary of state of the past 50 years?

The winner? Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry A. Kissinger, who was secretary for four years during the Nixon and Ford administrations. Since the Vietnam thing didn’t turn out so well, the scholars must have been grading him on openings to China and the Soviet Union?

Kissinger got 32.21 percent of the vote, which is extraordinary in such a large field.

“Don’t Know” came in a relatively distinct second, with 18.32 percent.

Is there any chance we could get Don’t Know to take over as Secretary of State immediately? What else is Don’t Know doing these days, besides making the odd guest appearance in “Family Circus” cartoons?

Kamen defies the wisdom of these tweedy solons by picking James Baker, their Number Three choice, as the true Most Effective Secretary of State. Rounding out the top five are Medeleine Albright (who waltzed North Korea into the nuclear club) and Hillary Clinton (who did absolutely nothing except rack up frequent-flyer miles, lie about Benghazi, make a laughingstock of the United States with her “Russian reset button” tomfoolery, and proclaim Bashar Assad to be a reformer.) Hmm, maybe Kamen is right to shower this list with snark. Perhaps the scent of tweed, elbow patch glue, and wing-chair leather overwhelmed the respondents and made them light-headed.

The survey respondents were tough on the often-lauded Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice too, ranking them tenth and eleventh, just ahead of Lawrence Eagleburger and St. John of the Magic Hat. And, as Kamen recalls, Eagleburger was only Secretary of State for six weeks!

Kamen ends on an optimistic note: “Well, Kerry’s only at Foggy Bottom for a couple years, so he’s got plenty of time to boost his standing. Nowhere to go but up with this scholarly crowd.” I would not be too sure about that. This is John Kerry dispensing Barack Obama foreign policy we’re talking about. Kerry was last heard squeaking that “we can’t close our eyes” to Russian tanks and fighters streaming across the border into Ukraine, even though his Administration has been doing exactly that for quite some time. Having cleaned off the bar with Kerry’s face during the Syrian chemical-weapons saloon brawl, one suspects Vladimir Putin isn’t too worried about squaring off against him again.


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