Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday extolled the “essential rightness” of the United States in global affairs as he urged demoralized U.S. diplomats to act firmly and aggressively as they promote and carry out the Trump administration’s foreign policies.
In a town hall pep talk to State Department employees, Pompeo explained that his repeated calls for the agency to regain its “swagger” meant that diplomats should act with confidence, knowing that the U.S. cause is just. The event was closed to journalists as Pompeo told staff he wanted his conversations with them to be private but the State Department released excerpts of his prepared remarks.
“Swagger is not arrogance; it is not boastfulness, it is not ego,” Pompeo said, according to the excerpts. “No, swagger is confidence; in one’s self, in one’s ideas. In our case, it is America’s essential rightness. And it is aggressiveness born of the righteous knowledge that our cause is just, special, and built upon America’s core principles.”
“Our task is to preserve our civilization of human dignity, individual liberty, democracy, national sovereignty, and the rule of law, and to challenge anyone seeking to take it down,” he said. “We should be proud and confident in America and her values – we should carry that diplomatic swagger to the ends of the earth; humbly, nobly and with the skill and courage I know you all possess.”
Pompeo, who replaced his fired predecessor Rex Tillerson last month, is in his third week on the job. He pledged at his confirmation hearing and has said publicly on numerous occasions that he wants the State Department to get its “swagger” back. Those words were met with relief from many beleaguered State Department employees who were critical of Tillerson’s endorsement of major budget cuts and staff reductions.
The former CIA chief has already reversed some of Tillerson’s most unpopular directives by lifting a 16-month hiring freeze and restoring a program allowing diplomatic spouses to work in embassies abroad.
Still, many diplomats remain concerned as Trump has withdrawn from several key agreements that had been diplomatic achievements of the previous administration, such as the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord and a Pacific Rim trade deal. It has also turned its back on decades of U.S. policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv.
Pompeo, however, maintained that Trump appreciates diplomacy and will use it as a force to protect American interests.
“We are fortunate that our President values and understands the power of diplomacy, and knows that we must use every tool in the diplomatic toolkit,” he said.