Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Don’t Trust Pompeo’s Cause of Freedom and Democracy

Unlike Europeans, Japanese, particularly right wingers, praise Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s causes for freedom of the Uyghur and Hong Kong. Come to think of it, it seems quite odd, because rightists among the Japanese are not necessarily satisfied with Pax Americana. Rather, they make revisionist cases against the postwar world order. But there is no denying that Japanese people, from nationalists to moderate general public, are increasingly concerned with the threat of China and Beijing’s defiance to the global rules and norms. Geopolitically, there is no reliable multilateral security framework in the Asia Pacific region,. However, it is ridiculous to admire Pompeo as the savior of freedom, simply out of anti-Chinese sentiment.

Pompeo’s speech at the Nixon Library on July 23 draws much attention worldwide, but experts give a poor grade to this. Richard Haass comments that Pompeo’s criticism of American policy on China since the Cold War reveals his fundamental lack of understanding of the Nixon-Kissinger geopolitics (“What Mike Pompeo doesn’t understand about China, Richard Nixon and U.S. foreign policy”; Washington Post; July 26, 2020). Furthermore, Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution criticizes that Trump’s America mishandles the ideological warfare with China. Pompeo portrayed the world in clash between open and free democracy of America, and Marxist-Lenist autocracy of China. However, the Trump administration is destroying liberal and rule-based world order, and exploring a tributary international system that enables predatory great powers to exploit smaller nations, as China does. More problematically, Trump and Pompeo do not denounce human rights abuses in other countries so much, and furthermore, democracy in the United States is falling year by year during their rule, according to Freedom House. That erodes the legitimacy of Pompeo’s coalition of the willing (“Pompeo’s surreal speech on China”; Brookings Institution; July 27, 2020). Therefore, Paul Saunders of the Center for the National Interest caricatures that the Nixon Library speech was just an election campaign for Trump (“Responding to Chinese and Russian Disinformation”; Tokyo Foundation; July 29, 2020).

Above all, above experts unanimously criticize Pompeo’s verbal abuse on allies, which is completely incompatible with his idea of freedom coalition against China. Since the height of the Cold War, successive US presidents have been asking burden sharing of defense for allies. Therefore, it is nothing so outstanding that American Secretary of State urges allies to stand firmly against an adversary like China. However, Pompeo’s offensive remark of NATO allies in the speech is unprecedented, I don’t think it is helpful to forge a coalition. Rather, it would deepen the trans-Atlantic chasm furthermore.

Pompeo pounces on Iran, too. Last December, he denounced the repression of religious minorities in this country (“Human Rights and the Iranian Regime”; Department of State; December 18, 2019). However, his commitment to Iranian freedom and democracy is questionable. Kenneth Pollack at the American Enterprise Institute comments that the diplomatic normalization between Israel and the UAE is not a diplomatic breakthrough. In his view, this is in line with strategic withdrawal from the Middle East of the Trump administration, as shown in Iraq and Afghanistan. If it happened, Israel and the UAE along with other Arab nations would have to fill the power vacuum against Iran, by themselves (“Israeli-Emirati normalization: Be careful what you wish for”; AEIdeas; August 13, 2020). Remember that Trump urged Saudi Arabia and other Gulf emirates to nuclearize to defend themselves from Iran, during the campaign for his first term.

Those inconsistencies in the ideological warfare stem from Pompeo’s view of democracy and human rights. As Robert Kagan argues ("The Strongmen Strike Back"; Brookings institution), he understands these words from the Hazonian perspective of nationalism, not the Lockean perspective of natural law and universal liberalism. This view is more in line with sovereign democracy that is proclaimed by Vladislav Surkov, who serves Putin’s Russia to underpin authoritarian traditionalist rule of this regime, rather than that of liberal democracy among Western allies. Japanese right-wingers may feel common nationalist and revisionist bonds with Pompeo, instinctively. That implies that his coalition of the willing is completely unreliable, and no match for that of John McCain, which is based on the universal value.

Quite problematically, Pompeo’s definition of democracy and autocracy is not fair, and based on his own idiosyncratic geopolitics. When the Department of State released “2019 Country Reports on Human Rights and Practices” this March, he named China, Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela the worst violators of civil liberties in his speech, but dismissed other violators mentioned in the report, like Russia, Turkey, North Korea, and so forth. His unfair conduct reveals a deep chasm between the American Foreign Service and himself (“Critics Hear Political Tone as Pompeo Calls Out Diplomatic Rivals Over Human Rights”; New York Times; March 11, 2020). Furthermore, the Trump administration keeps silent to the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, while Germany responded quickly to denounce the Kremlin (Nicholas Burns; Twitter; August 25, 2020). Moreover, Michael McFaul points out that US presidents since Ronald Reagan have paid tribute to both the leaders of the Kremlin and the opposition, when they visited Russia. However, Trump and Pompeo remain dismissive to the Novichok attack (“A Russian dissident is fighting for his life. Where is the U.S.?”; Washington Post; August 21, 2020). Similarly, he did not denounce Saudi Arabia for the murder of Jamal Kashoggi in 2018.

In addition to unfairness, we have to review other ethical problems of Pompeo's behavior furthermore. After the adults in the room such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis et. al, have gone, Pompeo has become the leader of Trump sycophants, as Max Boot mentions (“Trump relies on grifters and misfits. Biden is bringing the A Team”; Washington Post; August 23, 2020). Typically, his televised appearance at the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem was bitterly criticized by opinion leaders from Richard Haass to David Rothkopf, because it politicizes diplomacy to please evangelical voters for the Trump campaign. In view of this, Jackson Diehl, Deputy Editorial of the Washington Post, assesses Pompeo the worst Secretary of State. He comments that the morale of the Foreign Service is at historic low, because Pompeo infringes on professional code of conducts reteatedly. Notably, he sold weapons to Saudi Arabia arbitrarily, and fired the inspector general subsequently (“Mike Pompeo is the worst secretary of state in history”; Washington Post; August 31, 2020). Through this way, he corrodes American democracy at home!

Consequently, Pompeo could easily withdraw his freedom and democracy causes, once Trump made a trade deal with China, as John Bolton says in his memoir. Therefore, we should rather not trust his causes naïvely. On the other hand, we should be in close contact with the “Deep State” to understand what the “real will of America” is. Then, allies can explore how to coordinate their policy with the United States. Even Americans face difficulties to handle Mike Pompeo, and diplomatic interactions would remain extremely troublesome, as long as the Trump administration continues.