Ted Kennedy’s Foreign Policy Legacy

Created: August 26, 2009 14:41 | Last updated: July 31, 2020 00:00

Two great pieces, one at the Daily Beast by Adam Clymer and the other at U.N. Dispatch by Matthew Cordell, take stock of the Kennedy legacy on foreign affairs. It’s a testament to Kennedy’s monumental domestic policy achievements that this very long record of human rights and peacemaking advocacy is overlooked, as well as the inevitable overshadowing comparison to his brothers, both of whom had enduring foreign-policy legacies. I liked this note of recognition from Clymer’s piece:

In 2008, President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, herself tortured and exiled by the Pinochet regime, presented Kennedy with the Order of the Merit of Chile, saying “you were there for us when human rights were being massively and systematically violated, when crime and death was around our country. You are one of the great, good, and true friends of Chile.”

One lesser-known aspect of Kennedy’s foreign policy work was his efforts on behalf of refugees and internally displaced persons dislocated by the Iraq war, and in particular those who worked for the U.S. occupation. He challenged the Bush administration in Senate hearings and on the pages of The Washington Post to admit more refugees to the U.S.:

There is an overwhelming need for temporary relief and permanent resettlement. Last year, however, America accepted only 202 Iraqi refugees, and next year we plan to accept approximately the same number. We and other nations of the world need to do far better.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration responded with more of the same small, incremental steps that Kennedy thundered against.