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Pompeo hits back at Mattis: ‘Dead wrong’ on attacking Trump’s ‘America First’ strategy

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis, July 24, 2018. (U.S. State Department)
November 25, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hit back at former Secretary of Defense Gen. Jim Mattis’ criticisms of President Donald Trump’s “America First” national security strategy, calling Mattis “dead wrong.”

In an opinion article he co-wrote for Foreign Affairs published Monday, Mattis and his co-authors wrote “In practice, ‘America first’ has meant ‘America alone.’” Pompeo, speaking with Fox News anchor Bret Baier on Tuesday, said “I have a lot of respect for Jim, but he’s just dead wrong on that.”

Pompeo added, “‘America first’ has been at its heart a recognition that when America is secure at home, when America does good things for our own economy and for our own prosperity, that America will be a force for good all around the region, and that indeed, we can’t deliver security, increased security around the world when America is not secure.”

“I take great umbrage at the fact it’s been America alone,” Pompeo said of Mattis’ opinion article.

“I would tell you that our Japanese colleagues, our South Korean colleagues, our Indian colleagues, our Australian colleagues all know that the pivot to Asia was a joke,” Pompeo said, appearing to reference President Barack Obama’s East Asia policies, referred to as his “pivot to Asia.” Pompeo said, “The United States under President Trump actually delivered real benefits to [Asian allies].”

Pompeo also emphasized the Trump administration’s work with other allied countries. He said, “Whether it was the work that we’ve done to build out an enormous coalition to go after the socialist Maduro, to go after the Cubans, these are real coalitions, real things that work. It wasn’t America alone. It was us doing it with our friends and allies based on shared interests and a reality that recognized central facts about what is and not pretending that things are as we would like them to be.”

In his opinion article, Mattis and his co-authors wrote, “In January, when President Joe Biden and his national security team begin to reevaluate U.S. foreign policy, we hope they will quickly revise the national security strategy to eliminate ‘America first’ from its contents, restoring in its place the commitment to cooperative security that has served the United States so well for decades.”

Baier asked Pompeo what his greatest concern is with a potential Biden administration’s foreign policy. Pompeo said, “I know some of these folks, they took a very different view, they lived in a bit of a fantasy world, they led from behind, they appeased. I hope they’ll choose a different course. Here we are in 2020, it’s different than 2015.

“I hope they’ll see the things that we have done and how this has delivered greater peace in the Middle East, how it’s reduced risk from North Korea, where we took down what was a very tense situation when we came into office, whether it’s the central recognition of the Chinese Communist Party as a true threat to jobs all across America. If they’ll keep those things at center-point and center mass, I think America’s trajectory will continue to be one that is safer, more prosperous, and more secure.  The freedoms that we have secured for the American people in these four years are something I hope will continue.”