Former U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has received a lot of blowback for recently co-authoring a piece in Foreign Affairs magazine titled “Defense in Depth,” where he argues for removing President Trump’s signature mantra “America First” from its national security content. Among his critics is U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who called Mattis “dead wrong” on this.
Though Mattis was instrumental in developing Trump’s National Security Strategy in 2017, he and his co-authors now write that “In practice, ‘America first’ has meant ‘America alone.”
The article’s authors include establishment experts such American Enterprise Institute Director of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies Kori Schake, Hoover Institution fellow and former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command Jim Ellis, and Hoover Institution fellow Joe Felter. They add that, “That has damaged the country’s ability to address problems before they reach U.S. territory and has thus compounded the danger emergent threats pose.”
How Trump’s policies actually did this is left rather vague.
Mathis, et al. conclude by stating their hope that Joe Biden “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.”
While this has been a persistent criticism of Trump’s foreign policy from Never-Trumpers of all stripes, it has been, at best, less than accurate, and at worst, highly misleading.
In an interview on Fox News, Pompeo said, “I have a lot of respect for Jim, but he’s just dead wrong on that,” adding that he takes “great umbrage” at the suggestion of “America first” meaning “America alone.”
“I would tell you our Japanese colleagues, our South Korean colleagues, our Indian colleagues, our Australian colleagues, all know that the [Obama administration] pivot to Asia was a joke but that the United States under President Trump actually delivered real benefits to them,” he continued.
“‘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, for our own prosperity, that America will be a force for good,” Pompeo said.
When asked by Brett Baier about his greatest foreign policy concern about the next administration, Pompeo said plainly, “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 will choose a different course.”
In reality, the choice may really be between the Trump policy of America First, or a return to the Obama-Biden policy of America Last.