It seems former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is not a fan of the famous proverb: “Do not throw stone in the well you drank from.”
Tillerson has twice acted against it. The first time was when he doubted his president’s reason and morals when he still held his post (back then, he denied doing so), and the second time was when he repeated this again few days ago during a conversation session at an event in Houston.
Tillerson who is bitter due to his bad experience at the State Department and how he was sacked via a tweet said things that are well-known about Trump such as he does not like to read and prefers to watch news channels instead and hates to hear daily briefings.
However, he did say something new and it is that his boss asked him to break the law. However, he did not specify what the demands were exactly and this make the accusations insignificant and without any legal consequences.
Trump responded by saying Tillerson is dumb and lazy but these two characteristics do not apply to him. While he held his post, Tillerson was active going everywhere but without making tangible achievements. Of course, he is also one of the most prominent figures in the oil field hence he is not dumb.
The drama of mutual insults has distracted people’s attention from the more important case and that is perhaps the less interesting and which is related to the differences between Trump’s first secretary of state and the second, Pompeo whom he praised a lot to enrage Tillerson.
How do they see the world and what are their political doctrines? How does Trump think and what does he want in terms of foreign policy?
Trump was fiery and clear regarding domestic policy; fighting illegal immigration, decreasing high tax, protecting infiltrated borders and defending vulnerable workers.
Trump appointed Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and ever since the administration has had a coherent and effective political rhetoricMamdouh AlMuhaini
In foreign policy though his speeches were less clear. They were contradictory. He worried his friends in a speech and reassured them in an interview afterwards. His appointments of officials however drew some of the features of this foreign policy.
They were traditional Republican figures who believe in the American international system, strengthening alliances with friends and combating rogue regimes. This raises a question though: If Trump thinks this way, why did he choose someone who opposes his ideas like Tillerson?
There were just guesses and assumptions regarding this question. It was said that Tillerson was not familiar with politics or diplomacy before and this seems like a point against him which Trump viewed in his favor. The untraditional president decided to choose a secretary of state who is not traditional and who carries new ideas and unexpected approaches.
Others say that Tillerson was capable of exploiting his extensive relations thanks to his work in the oil industry in order to make deals with leaders who are old acquaintances and whom he has old trade ties with. And some said this strange appointment was a reward of friendship between the two men and an act of returning the favor between friends.
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All these guesses evaporated in the air. It later turned out that they are not friends and what’s surprising is that Trump has not even met him before he got the job. It turned out that Tillerson does not have personal traits or strong ties that help him make diplomatic breakthroughs the Kissinger way.
On the personal level, he was not friendly and charming. He actually has one facial expression that is gloomy and that does not change no matter how occasions change.
What’s more important than all this is his way of thinking regarding foreign policy. It completely contradicts the approach of Trump’s administration and the doctrine of his men.
He was not enthusiastic about confronting the Iranian regime and succeeded in thwarting two attempts by Trump to shred the nuclear deal. He opposed his president regarding sealing a deal with North Korea.
At the time when members of the Trump administration seemed like Republican hawkish figures who believe in the idea of the American system, Tillerson seemed like an old grumpy man who does not want anyone to dictate him what to do even if it is his boss. Due to these ideological differences, we saw the deep and public disputes between the president and Tillerson.
It is probable that if Tillerson had still kept his post, we would have seen a different world where Tehran is not besieged and suffocated like it is today. This is not because he is bad or dumb or lazy like Trump said but because he sees the world from a different angle.
Afterwards, Trump appointed Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and ever since the administration has had a coherent and effective political rhetoric.
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Those who follow up on what Pompeo says can see that he’s not just an experienced politician but also someone who deeply believes in the traditional Republican doctrine, more than Trump who spent a great deal of his life in the world of money and business.
It seems he influenced his boss and increased his knowledge and faith in this issue that’s vital and important for the stability of the world. If one analyzes Pompeo’s stances toward issues like Iran, he can realize the significance of these strong and clear positions in terms of standing in the face of the enemy and standing with friends even during critical times.
All this contributed to forming the international order which collapsed after World War II and which the US along with its allies have succeeded in restoring to life and protecting for more than 70 years.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain.