On Saturday night in Beverly Hills, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered an important keynote address at the conservative Claremont Institute’s 40th anniversary gala. Pompeo, who has also formerly served as CIA director and as a U.S. congressman from Kansas, delivered the remarks as the recipient of the Institute’s Statesmanship Award. Over 550 were in attendance (including yours truly), and the full address can be viewed here:
As fellow gala attendee Raheem Kassam noted at Human Events, previous recipients of the Institute’s Statesmanship Award include Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, President Ronald Reagan, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR).
Pompeo asserted the Trump administration’s belief in and dedication to “the foreign policy of the early republic,” which he defined as being encapsulated by “realism, restraint, and respect.” He first sought inspiration from Alexander Hamilton:
The Founders were keen students of human nature and history. They saw that conflict is the normative experience for nations. Hamilton put this in Federalist 34. He said, “To judge from the history of mankind, we shall be compelled to conclude that the fiery and destructive passions of war reign in the human breast with much more powerful sway than the mild and [beneficial] sentiments of peace.”
I’ll simplify: The Founders knew peace wasn’t the norm. And in response to this reality, the Founders knew the first duty of the federal government was to provide for the safety of its citizens. Madison said, “[Security] is an avowed and essential object of the American Union.” You all know that.
In many ways, Pompeo’s speech seemed to embody the foreign policy model of “non-interventionist hawk” that Sen. Cruz presented to the American Enterprise Institute in February. Such a model finds support from a famous passage by President John Quincy Adams:
[America] has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. … But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. … She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.
In the same vein as John Quincy Adams, Pompeo similarly decried unrestrained extraterritorial “adventurism,” contrasting it with a narrrower view of defense of the homeland:
The Founders sought to protect our interests but avoid adventurism. The Barbary War, fought so soon after independence, was an effort of last resort to protect our vital commercial interests. The Monroe Doctrine — relevant even today — was a message of deterrence, not a license to grab land.
Pompeo also could not resist taking a shot at Google, which, as The Daily Wire has previously reported, initially prohibited Claremont from advertising for its own gala due to Claremont’s recent launching of a new intellectual campaign entitled, “Defend America — Defeat Multiculturalism.” Pompeo jested:
[In the late 20th century and early 21st century,] we had lost sight of respect — not for other nations, but for our own people and for our ideals. We cozied up to Cuba. We struck a terrible agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran that put the regime’s campaigns of terrorism and proxy wars on steroids. And many of our leaders were more eager to delight the Davos crowd than champion the principles that have made us the greatest nation that civilization has ever known. By the way, the Claremont Institute sadly knows, I could also name a certain tech company that we spoke about earlier that’s forgotten our first principles too.
Pompeo’s speech generally delighted the black tie-clad audience.
In a Daily Wire op-ed last month, I argued for a foreign policy strategy that closely mimics what Pompeo outlined at the Claremont gala:
[C]onservatives must articulate a hard-headed foreign policy that, if need be, subordinates amorphous “values”-based concerns in favor of much more tangible — and much more legitimate — concerns about prioritizing and maximizing America’s national security. And in so doing, American foreign policy hands ought not to elevate the interests and clout of unaccountable transnational institutions. Nor should America needlessly prolong the deleterious status quo of making satrapies of derelict nations too stingy or otherwise careless to provide for their own defense.
Rather, America ought to ally with self-sufficient nation-states who care about their sovereignty and share our core national security interests in deterring Russian hegemony, Chinese ambitions, and/or Islamist aggression. In Europe, that means focusing more on nations like Viktor Orban’s Hungary than it does on nations like Angela Merkel’s Germany or on institutions like NATO. In Asia, that means focusing more on nations like India and Japan than it does on institutions like the U.N. — and potentially even the exceedingly dovish current government of historic U.S. ally South Korea. And in the Islamic world, that means focusing more on nations like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates than it does on Islamist-exporting, Muslim Brotherhood-cozy states like Turkey and Qatar.