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FP: The Kerry Doctrine

Author: Douglas G. Brinkley
December 11, 2013

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"This boldness is at the heart of the Kerry Doctrine, which involves tackling the issues most likely to make a historic difference -- that is, the world's most festering problems -- and doing so with direct, don't-sweat-the-small-stuff diplomacy. It rests on leveraging long-term, substantive relationships with fellow politicians around the world in order to employ diplomatic intervention as the first choice, not the last resort."

The world of high-stakes international diplomacy can be rough and tumble, but it's more often than not a procession of suits and summits, protocol sessions and photo ops. And in this genteel old boys' club, John Kerry is a pro. The Yale-educated son of a foreign-service officer, he served in the U.S. Navy, became a veterans' advocate, spent 28 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- including four as chairman -- and, of course, ran for president. Perhaps that's why it surprised no one when President Barack Obama picked him to become the 68th secretary of state this February.

Unlike his hyperkinetic celebrity predecessor, Hillary Clinton, who many believed was using Foggy Bottom as a launching pad for another presidential run, Kerry looks more like a diplomat in the old model. A patrician figure -- and the first white man to hold the position since Warren Christopher -- he clearly relishes the secretaryship and has made clear that he has no aspirations to further office. But if anyone had expected Kerry to settle quietly into his sunset post, his first year has been nothing less than shocking. Brazen even.

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