War-cloud watchers in both parties can relax a bit.
The Mike Pompeo era of no-nonsense diplomacy is unlikely to explode into another series of Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam-style military expeditions.
Since President Trump’s pick for secretary of state is not a wheedler by nature or inclination, Mr. Pompeo will not try to wheedle his boss into war with Iran, North Korea or any other bad actors for now.
No question Mr. Pompeo is hawkish, but in the sense Mr. Trump is hawkish, which is tactical and verbal but not of the “bomb it if it moves; bomb it if it dosn’t” variety.
Of course, the departing CIA director and former Kansas congressman could be harboring, unbeknownst to him, a dormant Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz attack gene just be waiting for the right circumstance to, well, awaken and attack.
But not even Neocon-in-Chief Bill Kristol and Deputy Chief Stephen Hayes are calling for another go at “Shock and Awe,” this time north of the the DMZ. At least not in public.
Barring a sudden stirring of such a dormant war gene, it’s hard to imagine Mr. Pompeo actually trying to persuade Mr. Trump that the anti-interventionism on which he ran for president is actually a bad idea.
It’s equally hard to imagine Mr. Pompeo, once the Senate approves him as top U.S. diplomat, will pull off a pitch worthy of Gordon Gekko that makes Mr. Trump think, “Well, yes. Why didn’t I see this before? War for the sake of regime change is really a cool idea after all.”
Mr. Trump is a stubborn force of nature who conceivably will be remembered as a great president in something like the way Republicans, conservatives and many independents of a certain age remember Ronald Reagan.
Though surrounded by neoconservative advisers, Mr. Reagan was hardly an interventionist presidency. His only “war” involved dispatching the Marines to liberate a few U.S. students at a medical school on a Marxist-run Caribbean island whose name nobody remembers. (It was Grenada and within three days of the Marines’ landing, it was no longer Marxist-run.)
Gentleman George H.W. Bush’s presidency wasn’t wildly interventionist either. He mobilized the mighty U.S. war machine to liberate tiny Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.
Mr. Bush resisted neoconservative entreaties to go all the way to Baghdad to replace the Saddam Hussein regime, which neocons considered as the greatest threat to Israel. We had no one to replace Saddam who could unite Sunnis, Shi’ites, Kurds and every other religious/tribal splinter group determined to murder all the others if only given the chance. (Saddam, for all his ruthlessness, never gave them that chance.)
Still, events can push even non-interventionists over the edge.
George W. Bush told me in a long interview in 1999 that he opposed regime change to force foreigners to be more like us. He changed after 9/11. Abetted by spectacularly bad advice by spectacularly bad advisers, he decided to try to manage regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are still fighting wars there.
There’s no one you can think of on the Trump team longing to offer such spectacularly bad advice.
Another way of coming at the Pompeo question is to ask if he will be another George Tenet, telling George W. Bush that finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq would be a slam dunk.
It wasn’t because there weren’t.
In the context of the time, Mr. Tenet, the CIA director, was also saying a successful military adventure in Iraq would be a breeze.
The occupation that followed, however, was more like repeatedly having to push a boulder of Kim Jong-un’s mass up a mountain, only to have the boulder fall back down every time.
It’s somewhere between difficult and impossible to imagine Mr. Pompeo somehow lusting to bomb Pyongyang and whispering to the Man from Mar-a-Lago “Go for it,” given the huge cost in American and Korean lives and taxpayer dollars involved.
Mr. Pompeo does not, for starters, fit the neocon profile of ex-leftists who think the U.S, as the world’s sole moral superpower, has an obligation to police the world.
It’s conceivable, of course, that he’s a war hawk who was never on the left but nonetheless touts U.S. entanglements abroad and pushes for a military solution more often than, say, a Dwight Eisenhower or a Ronald Reagan would.
Even if he somehow comes to think we can and should forcibly replace the regimes in power that we don’t favor with ones we do favor, Mr. Pompeo would find it the opposite of a slam dunk to convert an unconvertable president.
Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.