Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Berlin, May 2019

American Foreign Policy Adrift

Pompeo Is Calling for Realism—Trump Isn’t Delivering

In a May 11 speech at the Claremont Institute in Beverly Hills, entitled “A Foreign Policy from the Founding,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo quoted John Quincy Adams to explain how Donald Trump’s foreign policy is grounded in a “realism” that eluded his predecessors, particularly George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Adams, then Secretary of State, wrote in 1821 that America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.”

According to Pompeo, Trump’s foreign policy is grounded in this prudent tradition of the United States’ founding generation, with an emphasis on “realism, restraint, and respect.” Trump, Pompeo said, “has no aspiration to use force to spread the American model.” Instead, he aims to lead by example. “The unsurpassed attractiveness of the American experiment is something I market every day,” Pompeo said, describing his role as America’s top diplomat. He then quoted George Washington, who predicted that the United States’ democracy might ultimately inspire “the applause, the affection, and the adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.”

This is the true model for Trump’s foreign policy, Pompeo says. We do not seek monsters to destroy. We seek to renew ourselves at home, and lead by example.

Pompeo’s speech, if one removes the partisan jabs, outlines a foreign policy based on realism and a careful articulation of American interests. It suggests that Trump is acting in good caution against overextension abroad. “No more,” according to Pompeo, will the United States “engage in conflicts without a clear sense of mission.” Quoting Washington again, he said that Trump is building alliances based upon “humanity and interest” to serve his country’s fundamental values.

Full disclosure: between April and December of last year, I worked for Pompeo at the State Department as a Special Presidential Envoy. I like him. That may be enough for some to stop reading. But he offered me full support both

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