The gulf between a coherent international coverage and President Donald Trump’s narcissistic nihilism is captured by the space between departed Secretary of Protection James Mattis and ascendant Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ― and their reactions to Trump’s precipitous withdrawal from Syria.
The Syria choice was quintessential Trump: abrupt, peremptory, unmoored from technique, contemptuous of advisers and allies, and rooted in a lie ― that America had received a last victory over the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State. In response, Mattis submitted a stinging resignation letter to Trump, telling the president he ought to “have a Secretary of Protection whose views are higher aligned with yours.”
Although he, too, objected to the choice, Pompeo issued a feeble protection of the Syria withdrawal, cementing his position because the State Division’s Paul Ryan. Certainly, Trump assigned Pompeo the exquisitely demeaning job of telling Mattis to go away the Pentagon previous to his acknowledged resignation date.
The episode confirms that one can not serve Trump with integrity, and even competence. Solely courtiers stay. Mattis labored to constrain Trump’s whims; Pompeo catered to them, finally eclipsing Mattis in Trump’s favor ― and survived.
“Mike Pompeo is doing an incredible job,” Trump declared in a tweet final month, calling Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson, “dumb as a rock.” Underneath Pompeo, the president wrote, “it’s a entire new ballgame, nice spirit at State!”
Hardly. Eight months after Pompeo’s announcement that State would “get again our swagger,” morale nonetheless suffers. Practically half of key posts stay empty, and Trump ordered the Syria withdrawal with out consulting the officers charged with coverage within the area, prompting the resignation of Brett McGurk, the division’s envoy to the allied coalition preventing ISIS. Solely Pompeo is swaggering ― which, it seems, is his principal expertise.
No shock. Previous to turning into Trump’s CIA director, Pompeo was a tea get together congressman, a fundamentalist local weather change denier who trafficked in Islamophobic hysteria. He ingratiated himself with Trump by parroting his empty and erratic international coverage pronouncements as they oscillated between senseless bellicosity and nominating himself for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Take Pompeo’s conceited and self-contradictory speech to NATO ministers in December. Serially, he claimed that Trump was constructing “a brand new liberal order”; emphasised “America First” over world cooperation; and disparaged the World Financial institution, the United Nations, the Worldwide Financial Fund and, amazingly, the European Union. Lacking was any coherent imaginative and prescient for our allies ― Pompeo was aping his solipsistic viewers of 1.
As Trump’s world eunuch, Pompeo fronts for a phony peace course of that’s ratifying North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. Previously a fervent advocate of regime change in North Korea, Pompeo fluttered helplessly in Trump’s slipstream over the past yr because the president careened from imposing sanctions and threatening “fireplace and fury” to granting the murderous Kim Jong Un the unprecedented honor of a summit after which proclaiming, after a pair hours of kabuki summitry throughout which they “fell in love,” that “there isn’t a longer a nuclear menace from North Korea” ― leaving Pompeo to play Kim’s idiot in Trump’s narcissistic fantasy of peace.
Shortly thereafter, our intelligence companies concluded that Kim was deceiving Trump by creating extra nuclear supplies and ICBMs. When Pompeo visited North Korea to flesh out “denuclearization,” the regime castigated his “gangster-like calls for.” A second go to yielded solely an as-yet-unfulfilled promise to permit worldwide inspection of a supposedly destroyed take a look at web site and the prospect of one other summit, undercutting Pompeo’s position as middleman.
The North Koreans, Korea skilled Sue Mi Terry says, “simply need to cope with Trump.” Who wouldn’t? Now Kim has issued a New Yr’s assertion insisting that North Korea received’t denuclearize till the U.S. drops sanctions, withdraws its nuclear and navy capabilities from South Korea and formally ends the Korean Battle. This confirms the purpose of Kim’s charade: North Korea won’t ever yield its nuclear weapons. As his fig leaves wither, Pompeo has labeled Kim’s contemptuous remedy as “bumps within the highway” in “an incredible course of.”
Solely in Trump’s thoughts. In the true world, North Korea will grow to be a nuclear energy on Trump’s watch ― as Pompeo seems on.
Nonetheless, nothing captures Pompeo’s feckless tenure higher than Trump’s self-canceling insurance policies towards Iran. Imagining Iran as a colossus astride the Center East, Trump and Pompeo, regardless of Mattis’ recommendation, favored abrogating the Iran nuclear deal negotiated in cooperation with 5 worldwide companions, substituting a fantastic coverage of “most stress” that demanded an finish to Iran’s inside repression and assist of militias in Syria and Lebanon ― primarily, regime change.
Little question Iran helps roil the area. However its navy assets are dwarfed by its Sunni Arab neighbors. Whereas imperfect, the Iran deal postponed Iran’s nuclear improvement whereas subjecting it to stringent inspections and verification. Alienated by Trump’s unilateral choice, our fellow signatories are cooperating with Iran to protect the deal and evade American sanctions in opposition to the regime. Trump’s various, they sensibly consider, enhances the chance of warfare.
Concurrently, Trump’s uncritical assist for Saudi Arabia as a regional counterweight to Iran licenses the reckless conduct of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: blockading Qatar, kidnapping Lebanon’s prime minister, conducting a brutal navy marketing campaign in opposition to Shia insurgents in Yemen and repressing or murdering dissenters like Jamaal Khashoggi. Total, what Pompeo calls the “disruptive boldness” of Trump’s Iran coverage has additional destabilized the Center East.
Right here Pompeo’s linguistic and geopolitical crudity mirrors Trump’s. He criticized Congressional “caterwauling” over Khashoggi’s homicide; misrepresented the CIA’s discovering that MBS directed it; referred to as the Saudis “a strong power for stability within the Center East”; and defended America’s assist for Saudi barbarism that has massacred Yemeni civilians whereas inflicting mass famine ― a humanitarian catastrophe that enhances Iranian affect.
In that regard, Syria highlights Trump’s strategic vacuity ― and Pompeo’s impotence. In October, Pompeo mentioned that American troops served “two different mutually reinforcing goals” past defeating ISIS: “a peaceable decision in Syria” and “the elimination of all Iranian and Iranian-backed forces.” Additional, Mattis argued, our navy presence was important to sustaining inside stability, containing Russia and stopping Turkey from slaughtering our chief allies in opposition to ISIS, the Kurds.
What modified? Merely this: Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan instructed Trump what he wished to listen to ― that Turkey may mop up ISIS in Syria, and that America may decamp. “It’s all yours,” Trump reportedly replied. “We’re achieved.”
So he did. With out session, Trump unilaterally reversed America’s acknowledged place ― together with Pompeo’s blustery pledge that American troops would stay till Iran withdrew “all forces underneath Iranian command all through the whole thing of Syria.”
Simply that week, the State Division’s Syria envoy, James Jeffrey, had acknowledged that the U.S. would stay till ISIS was defeated, Iranian affect was curbed and America helped obtain a political answer to Syria’s catastrophic civil warfare ― defusing a probably incendiary “great-power battle” involving Russia, Iran, Turkey and Israel. In his exit assertion, McGurk wrote that the “full reversal of coverage” had “left our preventing companions bewildered.” To not fear: “Donald’s proper,” Russian President Vladimir Putin assured us.
In brief, Trump’s unmediated impulsiveness eviscerated our Center East coverage, benefiting Syria’s most malign actors. His stark betrayal of the Kurds left them in a killing zone between Erdogan ― who blames them for Kurdish insurgents in Turkey ― and a genocidal Assad regime they need to now embrace. ISIS, which nonetheless controls territory in southeastern Syria and has an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 fighters ready to hold out assaults, is way from defeated.
Russia can now consolidate management over Syria and its authorities, securing the naval base it has lengthy wished. Equally Trump has empowered Iran, via Hezbollah, to dominate jap Syria, safe oil fields that can assist it ameliorate U.S. sanctions, and extra successfully menace Israel ― which Trump left to fend for itself.
However the largest geopolitical loser is America. By abruptly shredding his technique for Syria and Iran whereas ceding U.S. affect within the area, Trump “implements Russia’s adverse agenda by default, undermining the U.S.-led world order, U.S. alliances, U.S. credibility as a companion and ally,” Russian columnist and international affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov instructed The New York Occasions.
The ensuing diplomatic vacuum leaves America with out negotiating leverage to impact a settlement that constrains ISIS, protects the Kurds, buffers Israel ― or, tragically, prevents Syrian President Bashar Assad from slaughtering hundreds extra civilians.
And what of Pompeo, that swaggering secretary who warned that “emboldening Iran would unfold much more demise and destruction within the Center East”? He tried dissembling: His assertion that “we’ve made the caliphate in Syria go away” confuses territory with fighters. As to the apparent undeniable fact that Trump left the Kurds vulnerable to slaughter, Pompeo says ― pathetically ― that “we’re counting” on the Russians and Turks “to honor their dedication” to adjust to worldwide regulation. Invertebrates can’t swagger, however they fold with spectacular facility.
Not Mattis. Resigning, he wrote Trump that “my views on treating allies with respect and… being clear-eyed about each malign actors and strategic opponents are strongly held”; that “China and Russia… need to form a world constant together with her authoritarian mannequin”; and that America “should do all the pieces doable to advance a world order that’s most conducive to our safety, prosperity and values.”
Such views, and the integrity to specific them, have grow to be disqualifying for service within the Trump administration. In international coverage Trump is now ungovernable: America First is Trump Alone ― one other expression of the harmful ignorance and mercurial vainglory of a pathological narcissist who prefers enjoying soldier on the Mexican border to strategizing with advisers and allies a few cohesive technique to reduce world dangers. He has however one trajectory: dangerous to worse.
So, inescapably, does Mike Pompeo.
Richard North Patterson is a New York Occasions best-selling writer of 22 novels, a former chairman of Widespread Trigger and a member of the Council on Overseas Relations.