In his Senate confirmation hearings to be the next Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry declared US foreign policy “is not defined by drones and deployments alone,” as he tried to emphasize humanitarian assistance and development projects instead of American militarism.
“President Obama and everyone here knows that American foreign policy is not defined by drones and deployments alone,” Kerry said.
“American foreign policy is also defined by food security and energy security, humanitarian assistance, the fight against disease and the push for development, as much as it is by any single counter terrorism initiative,” he added.
While its true that drones and military deployments are not the only policies that define US foreign policy, they are the central tools of how the US implements its national security strategies abroad.
“Since November 2002, there have been 400 more documented US targeted killings in the non-battlefield settings of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and the Philippines,” writes Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“Targeted killings have exacted a considerable toll, far beyond what anyone imagined in the immediate post-9/11 era,” Zenko adds. “Although the publicly available numbers vary among research organizations, an estimated 3,400 people have been killed” in a new kind of war that “shows no signs of ending.”
President Obama has been exploiting a loophole afforded to him by this new military technology. On the one hand, he gets to present himself as less interventionist, less militarist than his predecessor George W. Bush, who never shied away from conventional ground invasions and troop buildups. But Obama has been just as interventionist and similarly indifferent to legal restrictions on the use of force, especially with drones.
As far as troop deployments, Kerry certainly knows how fundamental they are to US foreign policy.
This past June, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which Kerry was chair at the time, released a report describing how Washington needs to maintain key military bases and troop presence throughout the Middle East, which is vital because the region is “home to more than half of the world’s oil reserves and over a third of its natural gas.”
“The United States should preserve the model of ‘lily pad’ bases throughout the Gulf,” read the study, “which permits the rapid escalation of military force,” enabling “the United States to quickly deploy its superior conventional force should conflict arise.”
President Obama himself has overseen a considerably troops surge in Afghanistan and the broader Middle East region, and has also escalated the US military presence throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
With the drone war rapidly increasing under Obama and US troops stationed in more than 130 countries around the world, Kerry was being merely rhetorical in his rather symbolic confirmation hearing.