Kerry 'perplexed' by accusations of US disengagement

Secretary of State John Kerry told world leaders in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday that he was “perplexed” by accusations that the United States has stopped playing a leading role in world affairs under President Obama.

America's top diplomat pointed to nuclear talks with Iran, Syrian peace talks and, especially, his efforts to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as evidence of America's global commitment. He blamed the “myth” of U.S. disengagement on the “misperception, and in some cases, a driven narrative” that “if we don't have a huge troop presence, or we aren't brandishing an immediate threat of force, we are somehow absent from the arena.”

“Far from disengaging, America is proud to be more engaged than ever, and, I believe, is playing as critical a role, perhaps as critical as ever, in pursuit of peace, prosperity, and stability in various parts of the world,” Kerry said.

He said a decade of war begun under former President George W. Bush is coming to an end, and the U.S. is seeking other ways to maintain its influence around the world.

“So after a decade that was perhaps uniquely, and in many people’s view, unfortunately, excessively defined foremost by force and our use of force, we are entering an era of American diplomatic engagement that is as broad and as deep as any at any time in our history," Kerry said. “And such are the responsibilities of a global power.”

The speech was aimed in part at Obama's Republican critics, who have faulted the president for not adopting a more aggressive stance in the almost 3-year-old conflict in Syria. Kerry countered that, thanks to Obama's threat of force, the international community is “on its way to completely removing all of Syria's chemical weapons,” despite reports that President Bashar Assad's regime is delaying turning over its arsenal. 

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