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Pompeo’s Preposterous Push Back At Munich – Analysis


I assume that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is intelligent and accurately represents the views of the United States of America. That is what makes his 15 February speech at this year’s Munich Security Forum all the more worrying. It was entitled and themed “The West is Winning”.  

In it he pushed back against the fears of other Western leaders that the U.S. is abandoning its global leadership role.  But it was a disingenuous doggerel of denial.

Pompeo cited three examples of the concern that the U.S. is retreating from its leadership role.  These were the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister’s assertion that the U.S. “has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership”; the German Federal Foreign Affairs Minister’s observation that “The multilateral order is experiencing its perhaps gravest crises since WW II”; and the view of the host, country’s President Frank- Walter Steinmeier that “the U.S. rejects the very concept of an international community.”  The consensus implication of these views was that the U.S. believes every country “should look after itself and put its own interests before all others.”

Most observers would say that under the administration of President Donald Trump, all this is true.  But Pompeo declared that “those statements simply do not reflect reality.”  He then began a stream of consciousness that reflected an ‘alterative reality’.  This was worrying because it seems that he shares President Trump’s delusions.

Pompeo piously declared “we honor the right of every nation to carry on their affairs as they choose so long as they do not try to interfere with our sovereignty or do harm to our friends.”  Perhaps he means that Uyghurs and current Hong Kong protesters in   China and drug dealers in the Philippines – are “our friends.”  The U.S. has certainly interfered with these nations affairs on their behalf. To the reasonable observer, there is a litany of historical examples of US interference in other countries internal affairs.  As one egregious example its depredations in Nicaragua were condemned by the International Court of Justice.  That is the reality.

Another of his amazingly disingenuous statements was “Respect for sovereignty of nations is a secret of and central to our success.  This matters because assaults on sovereignty destabilize.  Assaults on sovereignty impoverish.  Assaults on sovereignty enslave.  Assaults on sovereignty are indeed assaults on the very freedom that anchors the Western ideal.”  That may well be so.  But he then went on to criticize “those nations that have contempt for [territorial sovereignty].”  He was apparently referring to violations of their neighbors sovereignty by Russia and China.  But the U.S. regularly violates other countries’ sovereignty.   

Indeed, Pompeo could just as well have been referring to the U.S. involvement in regime change in Iraq or US drone strikes In Iraq and Pakistan without the approval of their governments.

Pompeo went on to specifically criticize China by name. He said that “China has had a border or maritime dispute with nearly every nation bordering it”. So has the US—with Canada, Mexico and many countries in the Caribbean and the Pacific. In the 19th century under the doctrine of Manifest Destiny the U.S. used military means to expand and settle its borders. Even now some disputes remain. The U.S. may not currently be as assertive as China – or others – in enforcing its claims—but it sure has been in the past. Indeed, the timing of both American and Chinese expansionism since their respective independence is comparable.

Pompeo then cited Russia and Iran’s cyber attacks as a threat to the U.S. Indeed they are.   But what of the U.S cyber attacks around the world and their collateral damage? STUXNET, a very destructive computer worm is widely thought has been built and unleashed in 2010 as a cyber weapon.   Although its main target was Iran’s nuclear weapons program, it also infected computers in India, Indonesia and half a dozen other countries.

Pompeo then had the unmitigated gall to suggest that US assassinations of Al-Baghdadi and the leader of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula were evidence that it supports the international community. To top it off, he even asserted that the U.S. “is leading on the environment as well.”

The reality is that the U.S. under Trump and Pompeo has dramatically undermined the existing international order and the concept of international community.  It has alienated many allies and friends and politically undermined NATO.  It has refused to join the International Criminal Court and tried to obstruct its operations, and it withdrew from the Paris climate accords, the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Intermediate- Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.  Moreover it often appears to violate the UN Charter by threatening and even using force to achieve its international political objectives.

This seemingly stream of consciousness speech revealed a great deal about Pompeo’s personal political views – and given his position – those of the U.S. That is what made Pomepo’s pompous, preposterous speech particularly petrifying.

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Mark J. Valencia

Mark J. Valencia, is an internationally known maritime policy analyst, political commentator and consultant focused on Asia. He is the author or editor of some 15 books and more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles. He is currently an Adjunct Senior Scholar, National Institute for South China Sea Studies, Haikou, China.

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