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Editorial, Opinion Pieces Examine U.S. Secretary Of State Tillerson’s Speech On, Approach To ‘America First’ Foreign Policy

Washington Post: What Rex Tillerson gets right about American values — and what he gets wrong
Editorial Board

“…[In a speech delivered to the U.S. Department of State on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson was right to point out that the United States must safeguard its national security and economic prosperity if Americans are to ‘protect our ability to be that voice of our values now and forevermore.’ And he was right that, to protect its security and economy, the United States at times must make allowances for dictators. … But Mr. Tillerson errs in a couple of fundamental ways. First, he perpetuates a dangerous idea when he refers exclusively to ‘our values.’ The ideals of free speech and expression, worship and assembly, and living in dignity, free of coercion, are universal values that apply as much to a person in Shanghai as in Springfield. … Second, he seems to put values in a basket of their own, separate from ‘America First’ national interests. … But values and their promotion are integral to U.S. national interests. … Keeping human rights and democracy at the forefront of diplomacy, along with economics and security, does not create ‘obstacles,’ as Mr. Tillerson put it. Rather, it is an enduring source of American strength, a source that no totalitarian or authoritarian system can ever match” (5/4).

The Atlantic: Rex Tillerson Doesn’t Understand America
Eliot A. Cohen, director of the Strategic Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies

“…[In his speech, Tillerson] gave those who think that American diplomacy matters more reason to worry. … Tillerson’s idea that in foreign policy American interests and American values are two separate things, the first mandatory, the second optional, reflects a misunderstanding of our past … and of the essence of our national character. The United States is surely the Manhattan skyline, the Kansas plains, the redwood forests, the Mississippi river. But it is, far more importantly, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address. … If Americans jettison the Bill of Rights and the ideas enshrined in it, they become a different country altogether. … It was an intellectually shallow performance. … In the absence of historical perspective and understanding, foreign policy degenerates into crisis management; in the absence of values-informed and in some cases values-driven policy it can easily slip into short-sighted tactical accommodations…” (5/5).

POLITICO: Clinton and Helms Nearly Ruined State. Tillerson Wants to Finish the Job.
Jeremy Konyndyk, senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development

“…The White House is seeking to gut civilian foreign affairs budgets in fiscal year 2018 while bulking up a military budget … Cutting civilian capacity in relatively peaceful times only guarantees it won’t be readily available when crises arrive. … Viewing reconstruction and stabilization as a military, rather than a political and developmental, process led to massive missteps [in the past] … But then something important happened. … The focus of [President George W. Bush’s] security efforts moved from violently hunting insurgents to a more astute approach centered on providing security and protection to the civilian population … Bush also came to recognize the value of a strong civilian foreign policy in other areas. His PEPFAR program to fight the scourge of AIDS today supports life-saving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for nearly 12 million people. This stands as a signature achievement of his presidency and an enduring reflection of American values throughout the world. … These efforts paid continued dividends under President Obama. … The fight against Ebola — led by civilians from USAID and CDC, with DoD in a supporting role — likewise demonstrated the importance of a balanced civilian-military toolkit. … Efforts have since been made to reinvigorate public diplomacy within the State Department, but to little avail. Against this backdrop, President Trump’s 2018 budget plans look like an homage to the worst mistakes of the Clinton and Bush eras. … This is a critical moment. … Here’s hoping President Trump will learn from his predecessors’ mistakes, rather than doubling down on them” (5/4).

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