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December 21, 2020

Donald Trump’s Best Hire: Mike Pompeo

A highly successful foreign policy will be part of Trump’s legacy, in large part because of the man he hired to carry it out.

Attorney General William Barr leaves office on Wednesday. And when he does, it’s possible that President Donald Trump will bring in a replacement who arrests the entire Biden Crime Family and overturns the results of the November 3 election. It’s possible. Not likely, but possible. And barring that, we already know who the president’s best hire was: Mike Pompeo.

On Friday, our Nate Jackson laid out the myriad foreign policy successes of the Trump administration. Not to take anything away from the president, but it’s worth emphasizing that those successes are utterly inseparable from the efforts of Secretary of State Pompeo.

The list would be impressive for an eight-year administration: wrecking ISIS; keeping Russia, Iran, and North Korea in check; calling the world’s attention to the menace of communist China, which he considers an existential threat to the United States; forcing our NATO allies off the dole; pushing for religious liberty around the globe; undoing the Obama administration’s two worst blunders, the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuke deal; brokering the Abraham Accords between Israel and several of its Arab neighbors; and, most remarkably, moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

No wonder Trump has earned multiple Nobel Peace Prize nominations.

Pompeo, who’ll turn 57 on December 30, graduated first in his class at West Point in 1986. Not second, not 10th, not 76th out of 85, like cheatin’ Joe Biden at Syracuse Law School. First out of 973 cadets. So if, during a press conference, Pompeo seems to comport himself as if he’s the smartest guy in the room, it’s because he is. What’s more important, though, is that he’s also the most capable guy in the room.

On a mid-November trip to the Middle East, Pompeo sat for an interview with National Review’s Jimmy Quinn. If the Trump-Pompeo approach to foreign policy can be distilled down to a single term, that term would be “conservative realism.” It’s an approach by which, Pompeo says, “we centrally acknowledge the truth, build up coalitions around that, and then act in a way that protects Americans and builds out prosperity around the world.”

Or, as Pompeo put it during a 2019 address to the Claremont Institute, the Trump foreign policy depends on three principles: realism, restraint, and respect. Pompeo, too, seems to embrace these three principles. He seems utterly in control at all times, and this has no doubt paid dividends in recent months with a series of historic Middle East agreements called the Abraham Accords.

Perhaps more than any other diplomatic achievement, the accords lay bare the weakness and ineffectiveness of the foreign policy bequeathed to Trump by the Obama administration — one that Pompeo calls “a set of policies that didn’t recognize reality, that had an inherent bias toward appeasement.”

Pompeo doesn’t do appeasement. Nor, clearly, does he do disloyalty. “For every hour that I have as America’s secretary of state,” he says, “I’m going to continue to do my best to take President Trump’s guidance and implement it.”

During a recent interview, Pompeo was asked by Fox News’s Guy Benson, “From your perspective, what is indelibly different about the world today that any successful U.S. foreign policy in the future will have to recognize and adapt to?”

“I’ll give you two specific items and a more general one,” said Pompeo. “The two specific items are, first, I think President Trump laid bare the risk presented by the Chinese Communist Party, and we’ve talked about that for 50 years. We tried engagement. We tried appeasement. That presented risk. President Trump flipped the script and said we’re not going to do that.”

“The second one,” he continued, “has to do with Iran and the Middle East more broadly. We acknowledged that the challenges between Israel and the Palestinians were real, but we weren’t going to let that lock up any capacity for improved lives for people in the Middle East. And so the Abraham Accords are a direct result of the efforts our team has made and President Trump has made to deliver peace and prosperity to the Middle East. You can see Sudan and Bahrain and the Emirates all acknowledging that a friendly, warm relationship with Israel is the right direction for their own people. You can’t put those back in the box.”

“Then the third one is more general: the idea that America ought to rightfully lead from the front and not behind is something the world has come to expect, and I can’t imagine that changing.”

Time will tell whether Pompeo is right about this last prediction, especially with a Biden administration full of Obama retreads and so thoroughly compromised by communist China. Regardless, though, this much is empirically certain: Our nation’s foreign policy has been in far better hands these past four years than it was during the previous eight.

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