Mike Pompeo went further than many members of his own party in blaming Hillary Clinton, who was then secretary of state, and President Barack Obama’s administration for the deaths of four Americans.
His outspokenness was a key reason he gained favor with Trump.
.. some members of Trump’s team chose him because another potential contender, former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), was seen as too “soft” on the Benghazi issue.
.. The 2012 incident, they wrote, was “the story of a State Department seemingly more concerned with politics and Secretary Clinton’s legacy than with protecting its people in Benghazi.”
“And it is the story of an administration so focused on the next election that it lost sight of its duty to tell the American people the truth about what had happened that night,” they added in their report, which came out just a few months before the presidential election in which Clinton was running... Republicans like Pompeo argued that top members of the Obama administration
- ignored warnings about the danger of the situation,
- refused to call in military help during the attack and then
- tried to cover up what happened.But the independent investigations into the matter concluded that while there were systemic failures, Clinton herself was not personally responsible or deliberately reckless.
Pompeo, however, said the Obama administration’s response to Benghazi was “worse in some ways” than Richard Nixon’s response to Watergate. He also pushed a conspiracy theory about how Clinton supposedly received her intelligence about the attack... Pompeo will have a tough road to climb at the State Department after his role in the Benghazi investigation... “For all of the Republican fulminating about Benghazi, Rex Tillerson refused to meet one on one with his head of diplomatic security and did not nominate ambassadors, who are the officials ultimately responsible for the safety and security of our personnel overseas,” she said. “The bar for any secretary of State is understandably extremely high and, when it comes to Pompeo, will be even higher due to the role he played in politicizing a real national tragedy.”
dwell for a moment on the awfulness of Tillerson.
He came to office with no discernible worldview other than the jaded transactionalism he acquired as ExxonMobil’s C.E.O. He leaves office with no discernible accomplishment except a broken department and a traumatized staff.
Six of the 10 top positions at State are vacant; even now the United States does not have an ambassador to South Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, South Africa or the European Union, among other posts.
.. he did seem to figure out that Vladimir Putin is a bad guy. But that’s progress only because he was previously the Russian despot’s premier apologist.
.. he opposed the president’s two best foreign policy decisions: moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and decertifying the Iran deal.
.. Some secretaries of state — Colin Powell, for instance — alienate their bosses by siding with the bureaucracy. Others, like Henry Kissinger, do the opposite. Tillerson is the rare bird who managed to do both.
.. unlike Tillerson, he will have credibility with foreign governments. Just as importantly, he’s been willing to contradict the president, meaning he’ll be able to act as a check on him, too.
Trump isn’t going to be disciplined by someone whose views are dovish or establishmentarian. But he might listen to, and be tempered by, a responsible hawk.
.. The notion that Kim Jong-un is going to abandon his nuclear arsenal is risible. What, other than reunification of Korea on Pyongyang’s terms, would Kim exchange his arsenal for?
Equally risible is the idea that his regime will ever abide by the terms of a deal. North Korea violates every agreement it signs.
.. might strike it at South Korea’s and perhaps Japan’s expense. This president has never been particularly fond of our two closest Asian allies, much less of the cost to the United States of aiding in their defense.
.. The promise of Pompeo is that he can provide ballast against some of Trump’s other gusts, particularly when it comes to the Kremlin.
- On Syria, he dismisses the possibility of a collaborative relationship with Russia.
- On Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he insists, “America has an obligation to push back.”
- On WikiLeaks, he calls it a “non-state hostile intelligence service.”
- On Russian interference in the U.S. election, he acknowledges it as incontrovertible fact and warns of the “Gerasimov doctrine” — the Russian conviction that it can use disinformation to win a bloodless war with the West.
.. If the thought that Putin has strings to pull with this president alarms you, Pompeo’s presence should be reassuring. However much you might otherwise disagree with him, the guy who graduated first in his class from West Point is not a Russian stooge.
.. he’d be smart to model his behavior on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the administration’s one undisputed star, who thrives in his job because he’s plainly not afraid of losing it, much less of speaking his mind.
2. Mismatched signals may have set up the talks to fail.
Usually, before high-level talks like these, both sides spend a long time telegraphing their expected outcomes.
Such signals serve as public commitments, both to the other side of the negotiation and to citizens back home. It’s a way for both sides to test one another’s demands and offers, reducing the risk of surprise or embarrassment.
.. North Korea has not publicly committed to anything. It has, quite cannily, channeled its public communications through South Korea, making it easier to renege.
.. Mr. Trump has declared “denuclearization” as his minimal acceptable outcome for talks, making it harder for him to accept a more modest (but more achievable!) outcome and costlier for him to walk away.
The table is now set in such a way that virtually any outcome is a win for North Korea, but only a very narrow and difficult range of outcomes will save the United States from an embarrassing failure.
The North Koreans can walk away more freely, while the Americans will be more desperate to come home with some sort of win. It’s a formulation that puts the Americans at significant disadvantage before talks even begin.
3. The sides do not agree on the point of talking.
.. “denuclearization” means vastly different things to the United States and North Korea.
.. North Koreans, she writes, tend to mean it as a kind of mutual and incremental disarmament in which the United States also gives up weapons.
Normally, the United States and North Korea would have issued months, even years, of public statements on their goals for direct talks, to clear all this up.
.. 4. The Trump administration has gotten the process backward.
It’s practically an axiom of international diplomacy that you only bring heads of state together at the very end of talks, after lower-level officials have done the dirty work.Instead, the Trump administration is jumping straight to the last step.
.. There is little obvious gain in skipping over a process that is intended to lock North Korea into public commitments, test what is achievable and ensure maximum American leverage and flexibility.
.. “Failed negotiations at the summit level leave all parties with no other recourse for diplomacy.”
.. 5. The State Department is in a shambles.
Wouldn’t this be a good moment to have an American ambassador to South Korea? Or an under secretary of state for arms control and international security?
Both posts are empty. The desk for assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs is occupied by a respected but interim official who has clashed with the White House. Her boss, the under secretary for political affairs, is retiring.
.. There will be fewer high-level diplomats to run parallel talks, fewer midlevel officials to assist and brief the president, fewer analysts to feel out North Korean intentions and capabilities.
.. conventional wisdom among analysts, as summed up by The Economist, is that “Mr. Trump — a man who boasts about his television ratings, and who is bored by briefings and scornful of foreign alliances — could end up being played like a gold-plated violin.”
.. 6. Everything could turn on the president’s personality.
.. It means that talks and their outcome will be determined, to an unprecedented degree, by Mr. Trump’s personal biases and impulses. By his mood at the time of talks. By his particular style of negotiation.
.. Mr. Kelly expressed concern over Mr. Trump’s “chaotic management style, erratic, moody personality and chronic staffing problems.”
He added, “That’s not ideology talking. I am a registered Republican and worked once for a G.O.P. congressman.”
- .. He has tended to oscillate unpredictably between policies, throwing talks over the budget or health care into chaos.
- He has set members of his own party against one another, weakening their position against Democrats. And
- he has offered the Democrats sweeping concessions on a whim, to the surprise of his party.
.. When legislative efforts have stalled, Mr. Trump has at times lashed out. In domestic politics, that can mean publicly denigrating his target or pressuring them to resign. In a heavily militarized standoff between nuclear powers, the stakes would be higher.
.. 7. North Korea has already achieved a symbolic victory.
.. For North Korea, high-level talks are a big win in their own right. Mr. Kim seeks to transform his country from a rogue pariah into an established nuclear power, a peer to the United States, a player on the international stage.
.. “Kim is not inviting Trump so that he can surrender North Korea’s weapons,” Jeffrey Lewis, a Korea expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, wrote on Twitter. “Kim is inviting Trump to demonstrate that his investment in nuclear and missile capabilities has forced the United States to treat him as an equal.”
Yet as this moment arrives, the Trump administration hasn’t confirmed an ambassador to South Korea or a permanent assistant secretary of state for Asian affairs. The State Department’s special representative for North Korea policy has just resigned, and the military commander in charge of Pacific forces soon will leave, to be replaced by an officer light on Asian experience.
.. In short, an outbreak of diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula has begun, and the U.S. could find itself behind the curve, unable to adequately protect its interests or steer the process. There is also a risk that the arrival of diplomacy will prompt South Korea to cancel planned military exercises with the U.S., a step the U.S. fears will send a dangerous signal of weakness.
.. Some suggest appointing a special presidential envoy to oversee the North Korean issue, much as the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke did in helping end Bosnia’s civil war in the 1990s. But special envoys also can create internal tensions and a different kind of uncertainty.
.. “I don’t think they work unless totally embraced and supported by both the secretary of state and the president,” says Robert Gates
.. —Figure out what incentives to offer North Korea. In the carrot-and-sticks equation, the sticks are clear: relentless economic pressure and threats of military action.
.. The stated, broader goal of this “maximum pressure” is to force North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in entirety. That is a fine goal, but many analysts don’t think it is realistic, and even those who think it is achievable consider it a long-term goal.