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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Tillerson at State: Sounds Like He Gets It

I would urge all of you to read the address made by SecState Rex Tillerson at the Department on May 3.  Read the text itself, not the rather ignorant press reports about it, e.g., here and here, which seem to rely entirely on reactions either by hard-core bureaucrats or outright Obamistas. It's a remarkable speech in its clarity and, must be noted, one of considerable gutsiness as Tillerson must have known how it would be twisted and maliciously misinterpreted. It also, ahem, happens to reflect just about everything I have ever said and thought about how we should run US foreign policy--here, for example.

It is a speech which could have been written by Hans Morgenthau or Henry Kissinger. It is a return to a foreign policy with the goal of preserving and promoting the national interest. That "national interest" is more narrowly defined than we have become accustomed to in the last few disastrous years.  Clearly Tillerson sees the State Department as working to protect, above all, the nation's security and economic interests. That's how he interprets President Trump's vow to make "America First." There is no airy and, in the end, dangerous promise to "bear any burden," or to make the "world safe for democracy." He makes the excellent observation that
So let’s talk first about my view of how you translate “America first” into our foreign policy. And I think I approach it really that it’s America first for national security and economic prosperity, and that doesn’t mean it comes at the expense of others. Our partnerships and our alliances are critical to our success in both of those areas. But as we have progressed over the last 20 years – and some of you could tie it back to the post-Cold War era as the world has changed, some of you can tie it back to the evolution of China since the post-Nixon era and China’s rise as an economic power, and now as a growing military power – that as we participated in those changes, we were promoting relations, we were promoting economic activity, we were promoting trade with a lot of these emerging economies, and we just kind of lost track of how we were doing. And as a result, things got a little bit out of balance. And I think that’s – as you hear the President talk about it, that’s what he really speaks about, is: Look, things have gotten out of balance, and these are really important relationships to us and they’re really important alliances, but we’ve got to bring them back into balance.
So whether it’s our asking of NATO members to really meet their obligations, even though those were notional obligations, we understand – and aspirational obligation, we think it’s important that those become concrete. And when we deal with our trading partners – that things have gotten a little out of bounds here, they’ve gotten a little off balance – we’ve got to bring that back into balance because it’s not serving the interests of the American people well. <...>
He goes on to make the simple but, frankly, brilliant observation that,
Now, I think it’s important to also remember that guiding all of our foreign policy actions are our fundamental values: our values around freedom, human dignity, the way people are treated. Those are our values. Those are not our policies; they’re values. And the reason it’s important, I think, to keep that well understood is policies can change. They do change. They should change. Policies change . . .  our values never change. They’re constant throughout all of this.
There, faithful readers, you have the core of the issue. Our values and our policies are not necessarily the same. That is brutal truth. It is this observation by Tillerson that has led lefties and bureaucrats to come crashing down on him, calling him "clueless" and so on. They ignore, of course, that that's how we used to do foreign policy. We certainly, for example, did not share the values of the USSR's Stalin, but we made alliance with him against Nazi Germany. We did not share the values of China's Chang Kai-Shek but made common cause with him against Imperial Japan, etc. Those are things which seem to get "forgotten."

There, of course, is a highly cynical motive to some of the bureaucratic criticism which we must underline. By divorcing values and policies, Tillerson threatens the livelihood of an enormous swath of foreign policy bureaucracy.

In my 34 or so years at State, for example, I saw how the "human rights" bureaucracy grew and grew. It grew so much that much of it had to housed in annex buildings around DC. The human rights bureaucracy became an enormous and loud machine that consumed evermore of State resources, hopelessly confused important decision-making, made it increasingly difficult to prioritize our goals, and become a funding source for all sorts of lefty NGOs around the world. It provided employment and influence to thousands of people, and, frankly, produced little in the way tangible benefit to the national interest. Every policy decision had to pay homage to the human rights bureaucracy and its allied vested interest groups.

Likewise other chunks of the State bureaucracy in the trade and commerce arena, for example, became almost advocates for foreign countries and their interests rather than ours. We want "deliverables" to these countries to make them happy and "like" us. This is the mentality, I would note, that also affects, better said, infects our Embassies and regional bureaus. If Tillerson can begin to turn that around, he will be a very consequential SecState.  

27 comments:

  1. I had exactly the same reaction when I read the speech early today, except I wished he would get rid of the "and so" that seems to crop up so often. Of course I realize an extemporaneous speech is not as clear as a written text, but it's something for him to think about.

    I liked the way he looked at the various geographical regions, and was pleased that he had clearly thought about regions like Africa and the Americas south of the Rio Grande -- something previous secretaries only thought about when we had an outbreak of HIV or Ebola, of the Castro brothers or Daniel Ortega rattled their cage. Thank God he wants us to think about these regions all the time -- not just when there's a fire to be put out.

    Perhaps the Kiwis and Aussies will feel left out, as he didn't focus on them. But frankly, if the US Secretary of State is not singling you out, you're probably doing something right. A lot of things right.

    The one thing I was thinking as I read the speech, Dip, is that you should offer your services for a senior position. I sent the transition team a note with my interests, but I'm a lot longer retired than you and never reached your august heights. I suppose the missus would not be happy with that -- please remind her that Mrs. Tillerson was the one who convinced Rex to take the job by saying "God's not done with you." I think the same about you, Dip. Please write and offer your talents for a senior position if you have not already done so.

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    1. ..."The one thing I was thinking as I read the speech, Dip, is that you should offer your services for a senior position."

      IMO you're on target with all your ... comments above 'F', and I too was informed if not moved by the quote Tillerson attributes to his wife. Still there is something to be said about 'oldish men in the trenches' or manning the barricades, and most of it tain't pretty. Now if we can be sure that our 'Blogger in Chief' from this here bailiwick will get all the accoutrements of a Field Marshall, along with a souped-up Stryker, 2 drivers, mechANic, and an Expert .50 cal shooter for getting around DCtown, I'll go along with the plan!
      On Watch~~~

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  2. How great that Tillerson gave this fundamental speech on overall US foreign policy to the staff of the State Department. In my few years there some decades ago most of us had no way of knowing what US foreign policy goals were or of how we could contribute to them.

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    1. ..."most of us had no way of knowing what US foreign policy goals were or of how we could contribute to them."

      May I belatedly say, as honestly and sincerely as I can Anon, thanks for your service to the country!
      On Watch~~~

      Delete
  3. Mad,
    I think you know my opinion of NGO's and their associates in government.

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  4. When I watched the speech I thought "This guy should be president."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YD-aHt5qdM

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    1. I also watched Tillerson's speech live and was quite impressed. He challanged those in attendence to pick up the flag and follow him. Those "deep staters" there had to understand what that meant for their future. And he did it all without notes and a TelePrompTer. Very impressive ... a real leader.

      Delete
    2. "This guy should be president."

      Agree Lowly, if this "listening exercise" that the Secretary administered to his troops is any indication of his Leadership Skills, Mental Acuity, and Moral Authority, he certainly presents as Presidential timber! How sweet it is to have another heavy hitter in the line-up! More confirmation of President Trump's capability to draft winners for the Home Team...
      On Watch~~~
      "Let's Roll"

      Delete
  5. "our values around freedom, human dignity, the way people are treated": and assassination, invasion, slaughter.

    It was one of his predecessors, was it not, who reckoned that killing half a million Iraqi children was "a price worth paying"? I'll grant that the half million was probably a spurious figure but she did seem keen to claim it as a decent price for ..... for what? God knows - some will o' the wisp I imagine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ...'who reckoned that killing half a million Iraqi children was "a price worth paying"?'...

      Consider the source drearie, and Madeleine Albright!
      OW~~~

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    2. I would like to remind everyone that, after 15 years being suppressed, the DVD "The Path to 9/11"is available and we watched it this week. I encourage all to do likewise. Watching made it easy to see why the Clintons suppressed it .

      Delete
  6. When one recognizes that democracy is Bolshevism, the rise of State and its desire to infect the world with its views, makes things perfectly clear.

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    1. "When one recognizes that democracy is Bolshevism"

      Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammo--WE AMERICANS LIVE IN A CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC!
      On Watch~~~

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  7. Well, I guess you have to be a diplomat to think that the speech is remarkable in clarity and gutsiness. I am not a member of that profession so my humble opinion is that it sounded ...well, fluffy. I will wait and see how this government will act. As a European I am still eagerly waiting for the diplomatic openings eastward that Trump promised in his campaign. But I appreciated that Tillerson said that " America First" doesn´t come at the expense of others. I hope he means it.
    SwL

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    1. "I guess you have to be a diplomat to think that the speech is remarkable..."

      Guess Again!
      OW~~~

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    2. What is it that you are on about? Tillerson talked about NorKo, China, the Middle East, Africa and S. America.
      What part of that offends your European sensibilities?
      Ha! You wish the US to solve your intractable problems. Think again.

      Delete
  8. Diplomad:

    Who is actually managing the State Department as Tillerson is being diplomat? I hoped for Bolton, but obviously not. So who is? Does Tillerson really dare leave the place(s) and its inhabitants unattended?

    As someone who thinks State bungled or sabotaged post-invasion Iraq and will sabotage Trump, I want to know what percentage of personnel could theoretically be fired. And down or up to what levels of policy making?

    Some day maybe I will understand how Scooter Libby, not Richard Armitage, got prosecuted for Valerie whats-her-Name. That's an aside. No comment sought.

    Would you be so kind to comment on first 2 paragraphs, please.

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  9. ..."Valerie whats-her-Name."

    sshhhh itsa secret Ms. Msher
    but I suspect you mean dis Clintonista,
    I got peektures too if you want some?
    Off Watch~~~

    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/05/why-former-spy-valerie-plame-thinks-hillary-clinton-is-the-next-fdr/

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  10. Thanks for sharing. I have not been paying too much attention to the news the past week or so - I get so annoyed by the MSM bias that I have to take breaks periodically. I liked the speech. Now, to follow it up with deeds -- and hopefully get a bunch of those top positions filled to that the actings can go back to their regular jobs!

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  11. To Anonymous at 1:54 am

    I'm sorry, I don't believe you have pictures or that the woman I saw plastered all over Vanity Fair was she. If her name was covert, then certainly her pictures would be covert. Nor do I believe she gave an interview favoring one future candidate. It seemed clear neither she nor her hubby were political. And a Democrat candidate! Well, like really. Although themselves reticent, anyone with great political acumen could guess that she and hubby were huge Bush-Cheney fans. And most important as to believing she would give an interview, if nothing else was obvious, one thing was: how truly publicity-shy she and hubby were. I mean, hubby even wrote a book about the ordeal of publicity!

    So I dismiss your entire post. ��



    ReplyDelete
  12. To anonymous at 1:54 am

    When I hit "publish" on my reply to your reply, there was one emoji of a smiley face. Somehow the site's software changed that to two emojis of question marks. I am curious to try that again. I have no idea what emoji(s) will emerge this try.

    ��

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    1. It was damndest thing I ever saw Mshka! Your emojis started out looking like a pair of Santa's eyeglasses, and when I looked closely, I swear they became mirrors I could see my reflection, and then a pair of women appeared and started speaking to me in some Slavic tongue, and suddenly, I was transported to what appeared to be St Petersburg ballroom, which was filled with glitterati and a squadron of dancing Cossacks in NavyBlueJackets! I swear I must've been doped by the Wilsons! Or more likely hacked by a Russian agent because my decanter of Svenske wodka was lying on the floor, mortally finis! And, written on the bathroom mirror, in ruby-red lipstick, was this Cyrillic missive~~~ OW~~~

      Танец "Яблочко", ансамбль танца Игоря Моисеева
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kui3KTQjsqs

      Delete
  13. It's difficult to impossible to kill the parasites in state, when the parasites are bigger and meaner than what was supposed to be the body of state in the first place.
    They will do a hit job on Tillerson.

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    1. Oh, they're working on it already. :(

      Delete
    2. On another note, Tom Kratman posted a link in the bar

      http://bar.baen.com/index.php?t=msg&th=134984&start=0&

      If you don't have a membership or don't want to get one, you can see the video here:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIhHsJTya0Q&feature=youtu.be

      I highly recommend it. Tom is right about this being very worth watching it.

      leaperman

      Delete
  14. Diplomad, I feel the need to point out what seems a mistake to my eyes: the values of Stalin were indeed common to "us", if by "us" you consider FDR loved the guy. It wasn't simply an alliance against the Nazis (which Stalin had entered into before he was "betrayed" by Hitler - who used the faux alliance as a means of protecting his flank while he gobbled up much of Europe) that led FDR to deal with Stalin. FDR was a fellow traveler from the start.

    I firmly believe that FDR was faking his shared values with Churchill more than with Stalin.

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  15. "Likewise other chunks of the State bureaucracy in the trade and commerce arena, for example, became almost advocates for foreign countries and their interests rather than ours."

    Very true, and part of the (sad) reason for this: in a lot of overseas embassies, Washington cares little about what happens on a day-to-day basis, and State employees are looking for achievements to put in their performance reviews. The easiest "achievements" involve doing things the host country wants.

    ReplyDelete