Martin Bashir | January 30, 2013
>>> john kerry gave his last speech in the senate today joking his colleagues sent him packing by confirming his nomination to secretary of state. there is no time for on the job training here. the u.s. is concerned about civil unrest in egypt and escalating revolution in syria . where today israeli planes attacked near damascus. in his farewell address , he reflected on the training for his new role.
>> what i've seen and heard and learned in traveling across our country as a senator from massachusetts has prepared me more for my travels to other countries than any travel to any foreign capital .
>> michael o'hahnlan. thank you for being here. let's start with kerry's thesis which is one hillary clinton basically invoked when she started the role. that a lot of domestic politics and a lot of travel and fights can prepare you. do you think that's the case given the agenda that's on here for the second term?
>> to some extent, for sure. it could remind a secretary of state that the country doesn't want any big new foreign military campaigns for one thing. and that's got to be a powerful message in the mind of anybody who's contemplating whether we need to use force to deal with iran's nuclear program or forced to deal with the civil war in syria . so it's very sobering to know where the country is at. and you combine that with a trillion dollar deficit, and you've got constraints on foreign american policy. but also opportunities.
>> let me draw you out on syria . the israeli attack along the border just today. where does an incoming secretary of state come in with the hot conflicts that have a fair amount of confusion about them.
>> on syria , i think that what we're seeing is the slow motion failure of our previous policy. not that i've been a critic of it myself. i'm not saying it's easy to find the right policy, but we were hoping the opposition would get strong enough to overthrow assad promptly without any help. however, we could be settling into a long stalemate. i doubt the israeli air strike is going to change that much. so we have to consider now are we going to allow this stalemate just to, you know, move onward. are we going to work hard on the russia angle to get russia to agree to some plan with us? or are we going to do what we need to do to strengthen the opposition and do combined strikes? all these things need to be reassessed. because the previous policy i'm getting close to saying has failed. and it was a reasonable thing to try, a reasonable thing to hope for. but the opposition has not been strong enough to win this one on its own. i'm not sure an indefinite stalemate is in our interest.
>> you talk about failed stalemates. a lot of people point to guantanamo as a failed stalemate for this administration as well as the last. it's prufed to be an intractable problem . detention issues are not easily resolved. something that flew below the radar this week as i'm sure you noticed, is that the state department is simply closing the office that was in charge of diplomacy related to shutting guantanamo . they've now shut that office and reassigned who was in charge of it. that is one of the classic -- john kerry now has to go around the world and basically explain and defend to our allies in meetings why it seems that in the second term closing gitmo is taking a lower priority. how does he do that?
>> well, you're right. it's a big diplomatic problem. it's an unpopular american policy. however, i think we've frankly handled the policy okay. i know president obama did continue to manage the process of having most of the detainees released or otherwise dealt with. as you know the number there today is a very modest fraction of the total that was there in the first place. i think we need to play up that fact more. and also play up that we have created certain kinds of due process . it's not normal american civil law , but due process to reassess the state of each detainee. i think that should go a long way towards satisfying any fair minded view. that's not going to satisfy people around the world. so as you point out, it's a diplomatic challenge. it's damage control. but i'm not sure we can do much better than that.
>> do you think then though it's for the president to hand off even a reduced number. but a reduced number of detainees that's been there to the next president?
>> i actually do. i think in the grand scheme of this war on terror where thousands of tens of thousands of people's lives are at risk all time. we're trying to help afghanistan with 30 million people avoid falling into a civil war as we leave. we're trying to help syria with 22 million people end a civil war that the fate of 50 or 60 detainees at guantanamo while it's important and we have to treat them fairly doesn't need to be seen as our top foreign policy challenge.
>> i appreciate you sharing your view on everything with us today.
>> thank you very much.