Saturday December 15, 2018
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began his December 4 speech in Brussels at the German Marshall Fund with “a well-deserved tribute to America’s 41st president, George Herbert Walker Bush,” whom he praised as “an unyielding champion of freedom around the world.” It was fitting that he did so. The heart and soul of Pompeo’s remarks extolling the return of “the United States to its traditional, central leadership role in the world” were little more than a rehash of Bush the Elder’s aggressive internationalism.
Pompeo (or his speechwriter) should be given credit for a masterpiece of misdirection. While the substance of his speech was a blast of stale air from the 1990s, the rhetoric was all Trumpism and national sovereignty – but only for countries obedient to Washington: “Our mission is to reassert our sovereignty, reform the liberal international order, and we want our friends to help us and to exert their sovereignty as well.”
What about the sovereignty of countries the US doesn’t count as “friends”? Well, that’s a different story: “Every nation – every nation – must honestly acknowledge its responsibilities to its citizens and ask if the current international order serves the good of its people as well as it could. And if not, we must ask how we can right it.” [emphasis added]
So according to Pompeo, the United States and our vassals (“we”) have an obligation (“must”) to fix international actors that in our infinite wisdom are not serving “the good of their people.” For example, “Russia hasn’t embraced Western values of freedom and international cooperation.” (Why should Russia care what “we” think of its values – and why should its values be “western,” anyway? Never mind! We “must” do something about it!)