It is not easy being Secretary of State Mike Pompeo right now. One after another, career Foreign Service members have trooped up to Capitol Hill to decry his failure to defend Marie Yovanovitch, former ambassador to Ukraine, and for allowing Rudolph W. Giuliani to influence U.S. policy for his own and President Trump’s personal interests.

These days Pompeo cannot even go on Fox News without facing searing questions about his role in foreign policy debacles. Last Friday, Pompeo was pummeled by a local Nashville reporter, Nancy Amons, for his passivity in the face of Giuliani’s scheming. Pompeo was reduced to surly retorts and ad hominem attacks on the reporter, while refusing three times to say whether he met with Giuliani during a visit to Warsaw. And on Wednesday, Pompeo was reduced to his default setting — exasperation — in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on the unfolding calamity in Syria. She pressed him repeatedly on abandoning the Kurds, who had been losing hundreds upon hundreds of fighters in the war against the Islamic State.

The interview came to a peak when Bartiromo asked why it’s not in the United States’ national security interest to keep a small group of troops in the region to stop Turkey’s invasion. That incursion threatens U.S.-allied Kurds with losing control over Syrian oil fields and detained Islamic State fighters. Pompeo absolved Trump of fault for the crisis, blaming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but Bartiromo pressed on by noting that it was the role of U.S. troops in northern Syria to provide backup to the Kurds, who were doing the "bulk of the fighting.” Bartiromo also noted that “we have not lost many people in the last five years,” while the Kurds have suffered mass casualties.

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Bartiromo argued America “wronged” its allies with the troop withdrawal and alleviated the pressure campaign on Iran. Pompeo insisted that “the Islamic Republic of Iran is feeling full might, the full pressure of the United States of America,” and Bartiromo moved on to ask if there is a strategy “to hit back at Turkey.”
The interview continued with Bartiromo and Pompeo going back and forth on whether Trump “greenlit” the invasion with the troop pullout, and what would conflict with Turkey mean for NATO. Eventually, Bartiromo noted comments from the former prime minister of Israel Ehud Barak who said that Russia, Bashar al-Assad, Iran, and ISIS are the biggest winners from the situation in Syria.
“Is it your belief that Israel today is less safe as a result of this move?” Bartiromo asked, to which, Pompeo responded with a singular “No.”

I find it inconceivable that the former Army officer, hawkish congressman and CIA director does not understand the gravity of the mistakes Trump is making over the objections of his national security staff. He now will have the distinction of being remembered as the worst secretary of state, who presided over the most easily predicted disaster in Middle East policy. (Yes, worse than the Iraq War since in that case members of both parties believed faulty intelligence.) This comes during a presidency in which Pompeo has been compelled to defend such moves as inviting the Taliban to Camp David, giving public-relations bonanzas to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, questioning the utility of the NATO alliance and allowing Russia to become the predominant power in the Middle East.

Pompeo’s strategy for survival in the administration has been to never get on Trump’s bad side, never to deliver bad news, never to challenge the president’s cockeyed view of the world and never to push back on efforts to politicize the State Department. It “worked” in the sense that he outlasted Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster, John Bolton, Rex W. Tillerson and John Kelly, but at what price?

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Others have escaped some of the worst of the foreign policy blunders and have retained their dignity and credibility. Pompeo’s considerable political ambitions might very well be thwarted by his willing participation in an administration as incompetent and misguided as this one. Pompeo might be a true-believer, but he is also smart enough to know the legacy that he will leave behind and the blame Trump will eventually cast on him. (Doesn’t everyone in the top echelon of advisers eventually get kicked to the curb?) You wonder how long it will take before Pompeo throws in the towel and sets out to rescue what’s left of his reputation.

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