Can the Pompeo-driven alliance against China hurt Trump?

Can the Pompeo-driven alliance against China hurt Trump?
© REUTERS / Damir Sagolj

The US new policy of trying to force domestic change in China and confronting Beijing with a US-backed alliance in Asia is generating mistrust in Washington, former U.S. Defense Undersecretary Chas Freeman, who accompanied President Richard Nixon to Beijing in 1972, told media representatives.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the new policy in a speech at the Nixon Library in California on July 23.

Instead, he undermined his own international position and that of President Donald Trump’s administration, said Freeman, who served as Undersecretary of Defense for International Security Affairs during President Bill Clinton’s term (1993-2001).

“The speech itself was full of distortions of facts and intentional misrepresentations of the past,” said Freeman, who added that “Pompeo’s already very low prestige abroad has diminished and added to skepticism about the veracity of American officials in general. Whatever it is, it’s not a foreign policy but an instance of domestic demagoguery.”

Freeman said Pompeo’s speech was not a coherent foreign policy statement, but an expression of prejudice and hostile emotions.

“Pompeo was not delivering a foreign policy speech or outlining a strategy for dealing with China. He was speaking cathartically for all those who have bought or could buy the scapegoat base like China from Trump’s re-election campaign.” said.

Pompeo sought in his speech to create a new international coalition against China, but he had to have recognized that such a grouping was not feasible, Freeman said.

“He made a superficial appeal for international support against China, knowing full well that almost no foreign nation or people would accept it,,” he said.

Pompeo’s real goal was to retake the fall of the conservative base for Trump’s re-election campaign this year, but he also wanted to co-opt that base for his own future campaign to become president, Freeman noted.

“It is clear that you are more interested in visiting … Iowa [the state that begins the presidential campaign cycle with its committees] for political purposes that in acting as America’s chief diplomat. His response to this shame is to position himself to succeed Trump,” Freeman said.

Pompeo introduced the phrase “distrust but verify” as a guide to dealing with China diplomatically, but the term was counterproductive as it reflected America’s widespread distrust around the world, the ex-diploma explained.

“‘Distrust but verify’ is a standard that the world has been forced by such rhetoric to begin to apply to the US. This is a sad end to a country that began its life proclaiming decent respect for the opinions of humanity,” he said.

The arrogance behind the assumption that foreign opinion doesn’t matter was a recent departure from American tradition, Freeman recalled.

“But then, as Mr Pompeo’s many experiments with hypocrisy have widely demonstrated, that tradition has been destroyed by contemporary right-wing populism, which corrodes the government’s competence even when it tries to deny empiricism, which is the basis for truth and realism,” he explained.

Pompeo’s speech will not be valid for lasting foreign policy, Freeman predicted.

“Mr. Pompeo gave a speech that will live only in the minds of fans and thugs. He represents no one but Trump’s clique and his tricky and his own assumptions and ambitions,” he said.

Chas Freeman served in the State and Defense departments for 30 years.