March 13, 2018

The Clock Is Already Ticking on Mike Pompeo

The new secretary of state corrects for his predecessor's weaknesses.

By Julianne Smith and Derek Chollet

Rex Tillerson’s humiliating end is hardly surprising. He’s been on life support for months: last summer, Washington buzzed with rumors of “Rexit,” and last November the White House leaked the very plan it executed today. With his departure, Tillerson shatters John Sherman‘s long-standing record for being forced out so soon. Few in the State Department are sad to see him go; he never seemed to like the job, and despite his good intentions, future secretaries of state will study his short tenure for lessons in what not to do.

Tillerson is an honorable and decent person, but one strains to think of anything he got right, minus perhaps his final statement, on Monday, condemning Russia for the nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom. History will not be kind to him. His efforts to reform the State Department weakened its diplomatic corps and diminished America’s diplomatic heft. It is hard to think of any policy area where he had a noticeable or lasting positive impact.

He allegedly projected a moderating influence on Trump, but it’s not clear that anyone, especially the president, really listened to him. He supported strengthening the Iran nuclear deal and remaining in the Paris climate accords but never got Trump to agree. His lack of clout was well understood around the world, which explains the chilly reception he often received by some of our closest allies. In fact, up to now, it seemed his most notable accomplishment was not being fired.

Read the full op-ed on Foreign Policy.

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