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April 24, 2018

Mike Pompeo Needs to Clean Up After Rex Tillerson

The new secretary of state should focus on rebuilding his department.

By Richard Fontaine

Incoming Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will inherit a State Department at a genuine inflection point. Devalued by the White House they serve, and feeling demoralized and bereft of champions, the department’s employees are today desperate for direction and support. And yet they largely wish to continue serving the country and to pursue U.S. interests and values with vigor. This combination of recent damage and future potential presents Pompeo, and the Trump administration, with a unique opportunity. They would do well to seize it.

Any secretary of state would have faced significant challenges leading Foggy Bottom at the outset of the Trump administration. Yet former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seemed particularly ill-prepared prior to taking the job and unable to get a handle on its vast responsibilities once in it.

Tillerson’s strategic priorities were often unclear, not only to U.S. adversaries and allies but even to the department’s own employees. He served not as diplomat-in-chief, explaining U.S. foreign policy to the American people and the world, but instead seemed often to shun opportunities to publicly persuade, inform, and cajole. When he did speak, the gaps between his rhetoric and the president’s raised questions about whether the secretary’s pronouncements were authoritative. When on the losing side of interagency battles, he and his inner circle often appeared simply to soldier on, seemingly oblivious to White House frustrations.

Read the Full Article at Foreign Policy