America’s Cycles of Change

Donald Trump’s Coming ‘War’ on the State Department

Mon, 09 January 2017

By selecting Exxon Mobil President and CEO Rex Tillerson as his first secretary of state, US President-elect Donald Trump has made clear he wants peace with Russia: But he has also declared war on the internal culture of the State Department.

Tillerson’s pick made clear that Trump is determined to end the succession of secretaries of state who were determined to advance democracy and human rights around the world and to destabilize or topple outright recalcitrant regimes as their primary mission, like Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton.

The results of such policies under the last three US presidents have certainly been dire.

Trump has also made manifest his contempt for the current traditional culture of the State Department.

Since the collapse of communism and under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama in particular, the State Department internal culture has degenerated into a passion for nation building and judging the world according to American-only standards of human rights and behavior.

In this climate, the State Department and its diplomats have abandoned their traditional focus on bilateral relations with a focus on the promotion of US national security and economic interests that were the traditional concerns of American diplomacy.

Therefore in choosing Tillerson, Trump also deliberately reached out to pick a “vicar” or chief coordinator and guide, to US foreign policy who was not from within the State Department’s own internal culture, which has become increasingly dominated by neoconservative ideology in recent decades.

Indeed, it appears likely that Trump will want Tillerson to go far beyond restoring the basic protocols of amity and politeness between the U.S. and Russia –the world’s dominant thermonuclear superpowers– and seek to expand their cooperation across a wide spectrum of economic and national security interests.

Trump’s selection of Tillerson makes clear he is determined to restore the State Department to its traditional function as the champion of US national interests, economic, diplomatic and for national security – around the world.

This is a far cry, however, from the past 25 years when State’s priorities were on advancing global ideological agendas to extend democracy and women’s rights – at least in theory. However, this never translated into serious support for the war on so-called “white slavery” – the transnational trade in young women and girls enslaved into prostitution.

Under Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, State’s officials obsessed on advancing global agendas on combatting climate change, saving the environment and toppling governments that would not go along with Washington’s ideological and free trade agendas.

Trump and Tillerson can therefore expect generations of resistance, sabotage and plain hatred focused on subverting their old-fashioned patriotic America First agenda.