The imaginary inner world of a fool is a dangerous place, especially if he happens to be the Secretary of State of the United States of America.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s July 23 speech on U.S. policy with China exposes the vast empty realm between his two ears. This man, who also served as a veteran congressman and ran the CIA for a year and a half reveals himself as so ignorant of diplomacy, history, competence and commonsense that in assessing his comments and their dire consequences it is difficult to know where to start.
First, Pompeo imagines that the United States, guided of course by him can “contain” China the way he believes the U.S. and its allies “contained the Soviet Union through the Cold War starting in 1947.
Pompeo’s speech at the Nixon Library in California was in fact an explicit repudiation of President Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing in 1972 accompanied by then-secretary of state Henry Kissinger. Nixon and Kissinger wisely came in peace and sought de facto alliance with China, then led by Mao Zedong to balance the Soviet Union. But they also sought a constructive and even cooperative relationship with Moscow, for which they were endlessly assailed and sneered at by the first generation of neoconservatives back in Washington.
Pompeo imagined he was repeating history by offering (as he imagined) partnership with Russia to “balance” and “contain” China. In fact, Russia and China have enjoyed decades of close diplomatic and military relations and are the joint leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the largest, most powerful and most successful defense cooperation organization on the planet, which in June 2020 will celebrate its 20th anniversary.
By contrast, the United States over the past quarter century has systematically broken every solemn assurance that Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush ever gave to Moscow that the United States would not try to capitalize on the end of the Cold War by bringing any of the former Warsaw Pact nations into NATO. All of them have been wrapped up tight in that alliance for more than two decades now. And after six years of ever-increasing U.S. economic sanctions against Russia and the outrageous Magnitsky Act targeting individual Russian businessmen and officials, now.
Pompeo imagines that a few words from him will magically cause the leaders in Moscow to swoon at their knees and gratefully accept a new role as Washington’s latest pet, to be destabilized, contemptuously dropped or demonized whenever fleeting expedients require. No wonder President Vladimir Putin did not deign to dignify Pompeo’s ludicrous proposal even with a rejection.
Pompeo is proud of the fact that he graduated top of his 1986 class at West Point, the main military academy and intellectual center of the U.S. Army. If he was the brightest young officer of his generation, one shudders to imagine what the rest of them were like. But it certainly explains why the United States has not won a war since 1945 and then only because the Soviet Union defeated Nazi Germany for them—a simple fact Pompeo has never acknowledged.
Pompeo in his speech revealed a striking parallel with the mind of his former colleague, ex national security adviser John Bolton whose ludicrous but certainly unintentionally revealing memoirs have just been published. Both of them entirely fit the unforgettable definition of a fool in the Book of Proverbs of the Holy Bible—an ignoramus incapable of ever learning anything true who nevertheless imagines he is more “brilliant” than everyone else.
Pompeo, like Bolton also displays the reality of the Dunning-Kruger Effect in psychology: The more stupid and incompetent anyone is, the more likely they are to be convinced they are a brilliant genius who needs to listen to no one. Truly wise and successful diplomats like Benjamin Franklin and Henry Kissinger have been pointing out this phenomenon out for centuries.
Most idiotic of all was Pompeo’s call for an alliance of democratic nations to join him in forcing China to change internally to adopt a democratic political system. This is in fact a literal declaration of war on China. For Pompeo stated clearly that U.S. policy is to destabilize and topple the government of 1.3 billion plus people, regardless of the limitless human suffering that the ensuing chaos would unavoidably cause. No more reckless, stupid, wicked, dangerous and downright stupid policy can possibly be imagined.
In reality, of course, it has always been impossible for the United States to impose its own ideas of “change” on China, and especially so in the 21st century. In fact George Marshall, the 1940s secretary of state with whom Pompeo ridiculously and pathetically tried to associate himself in his speech, expressly ruled out such folly in his unambiguous advice to President Harry Truman in late 1945 not to entangle the United States in China’s Civil War.
Far from isolating China, Pompeo’s narcissistic fantasy of “diplomacy” has isolated the United States and revealed himself to be the monumental buffoon he truly is. This may be a cause for global laughter: Instead it truly ought to inspire sober and fearful concern. What even greater and more dangerous idiocy will “the top man in his class” come up with next?
This article originally appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal.
During his 24 years as a senior foreign correspondent for The Washington Times and United Press International, Martin Sieff reported from more than 70 nations and covered 12 wars. He has specialized in US and global economic issues.