John Kerry has pinned his case for killing Syrian civilians on an op ed in the Wall Street Journal, written by "Dr. Elizabeth O'Bagy," a 20-something researcher who turns out to be a propagandist for the Syrian opposition without the sacred Ph.D from Georgetown that got her a job at a propaganda mill masquerading as a think tank.
It's not that anyone should care about the degree. They hand them out like the advertising handbills that get shoved in your face wherever herds of sheep are gathered to bleat at concerts or political rallies or the innumerable commemorative events that have replaced religious holidays and saints days. Today it is 911 Day and a few months we had Saint Martin of Birmingham Jail, and some day it will be Saint Trayvon of Skittles.
Remember the Wizard of Oz, imparting intelligence to the Scarecrow?
"Back where I come from we have universities, seats of great learning—where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts—and with no more brains than you have…But! They have one thing you haven’t got! A diploma!"
A PhD in "international relations" or "marketing" or "film studies" is worth less than nothing: It is the academic equivalent of a kick-me sign.
Still, the boopsie lied, and her lies tricked the great Leg of Lamb at the Journal (Paul Gigot), the Secretary of State, and the Magnificent Obama hisself. It is really wonderful. This is what happens when you take a clown out of the Illinois legislature and dub him the "leader of the free world." Even Hillary Clinton, who slept in the same room with the red telephone, had better credentials.
Democracy in the advanced stage is incapable of finding anything but the dregs for its leaders. Much better to have a gangster who has killed his way to the top, but it is not good, considering our officer corps and what they are teaching at the academies, hoping for a military coup. Perhaps the Egyptians will lend us General Sisi.
I almost feel sorry for Putin. His coup was masterful, as he seized on Kerry's inane response to a question--it was Kerry's first big chance and he flubbed it--and changed the short-term course of history in a few hours. What a man! But how frustrated he must feel in having to fence with Team USA.
It's a bit like poor Basill Rathbone. He would tutor the stars, e.g. Errol Flynn, in fencing, and then have to pretend to be defeated by them in the movie. (By the way, he and Tyrone Power showed a bit of what they could do in Zorro.) Putin's genius is none the less real for having to be displayed against so drab and tawdry a backdrop as this administration affords.
International diplomacy has always been a game of Liars' Poker. As Henry Wotton memorably described it, Legatus est vir bonus peregre missus ad mentiendum rei publicae causa, which he brilliantly Englished as "an honest man sent to lie abroad for his country."
But those were the good old days. Today there are no honest men in any form of politics, and they are not even intelligent enough for a game of liars' poker. Everything they do is by happenstance--more like the children's card-game War, where winning entirely depends on the luck of the draw. The trouble is, Obama and Kerry are playing with an adversary who is not only a poker player but a man.
Thomas Fleming is the former editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of The Politics of Human Nature, Montenegro: The Divided Land, and The Morality of Everyday Life, named Editors' Choice in philosophy by Booklist in 2005. He is the coauthor of The Conservative Movement and the editor of Immigration and the American Identity. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Rockford Institute, he taught classics at the University of Miami of Ohio, served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, and was headmaster at the Archibald Rutledge Academy. He has been published in, among others, The Spectator (London), Independent on Sunday (London), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, Classical Journal, Telos, and Modern Age. He and his wife, Gail, have four children and four grandchildren.