Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech to the German Marshall Fund in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday in which he defended President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, saying the president is reforming the “liberal international order” by restoring the role and responsibility of nation-states, and making America stronger.
The speech, titled “Restoring the Role of the Nation-State in the Liberal International Order,” argues that President Trump is not breaking down the world order, but improving it by asserting America’s national interests.
Every nation – every nation – must honestly acknowledge its responsibilities to its citizens and ask if the current international order serves the good of its people as well as it could. And if not, we must ask how we can right it.
This is what President Trump is doing. He is returning the United States to its traditional, central leadership role in the world. He sees the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. He knows that nothing can replace the nation-state as the guarantor of democratic freedoms and national interests. He knows, as George H.W. Bush knew, that a safer world has consistently demanded American courage on the world stage. And when we – and when we all of us ignore our responsibilities to the institutions we’ve formed, others will abuse them.
The term “liberal” is used as a synonym for “leftist” in domestic American politics, but traditionally it refers to a system of limited government, with guarantees of individual rights. In international affairs, “liberal” also refers to a system of free interactions between nations according to a set of rules, as opposed to conflict and mutual exclusion.
Pompeo said that the “liberal order” created after the Cold War had failed because multilateralism became viewed as “an end unto itself.” Because of the corruption of international institutions, and weak American leadership, Pompeo argued, “bad actors” — China, Iran, and Russia — “exploited our lack of leadership for their own gain.”
President Trump believes in restoring American leadership within the international system — while also reforming it, Pompeo argued. “Our mission is to reassert our sovereignty, reform the liberal international order, and we want our friends to help us and to exert their sovereignty as well,” he said. “We aspire to make the international order serve our citizens – not to control them. America intends to lead – now and always.”
Through asserting U.S. sovereignty — as other countries do theirs — Trump was creating a better, more free, and more effective international system, he said.
While pulling the U.S. out of failing multilateral institutions such as the Paris Agreement on climate change, for example, Trump was ensuring that important ones — such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) — were actually performing the purposes for which they intended, Pompeo argued.
Pompeo called for a “new liberal order” to replace the old — one that would preserve national sovereignty, while uniting allies to counter the “bad actors” who threatened freedom and prosperity: “Let’s work together to preserve the free world so that it continues to serve the interests of the people to whom we each are accountable.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.