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Opinion Assessing Pompeo’s leadership at the State Department

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during the coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on April 8. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

It’s hard to imagine a more succinct indictment of U.S. foreign and domestic policy than Richard Haass’s July 28 Tuesday Opinion essay, “What Pompeo doesn’t get about China and foreign policy.” While reminding us of the rationale and undeniable benefits of five decades of U.S.-China engagement, Mr. Haass exposed the glaring weakness of the Trump/Pompeo approach.

The Chinese are not “ten feet tall,” as Mr. Haass implicitly noted. Like us, they have problems, and the last thing either country needs is a new Cold War. Beijing doesn’t seek it, our friends and allies in Asia and Europe don’t want and won’t support it, and we can’t win it alone.

We would do far better by treating China with respect. The multilateralism Mr. Haass advocated would enable us to deal more effectively with challenges Beijing poses and the far greater challenges of climate change, Middle East instability, Russia, nuclear proliferation and the pandemic.

This is an election year, which can bring out the worst in foreign policy ideas; but come November, we’ll have to take stock. Mr. Haass provided a valuable guide.

William F. Rope, Washington

The writer is a former deputy assistant secretary of state for Political-Military Affairs and former

director of the State Department China Desk.

Missing from the July 29 news article “Report blasts Pompeo’s leadership at State Dept.” was that Mike Pompeo was the first secretary of state since Al Haig in 1981 to meet with the Iran hostages of 1979 to 1981 and their families. Mr. Pompeo and then-Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs (now national security adviser) Robert C. O’Brien did not just “meet” with the former hostages. They also drew out the hostages’ histories of abuse, beatings, mock executions and family hardship at the hands of Iran. It was a powerful meeting that was deeply appreciated by the Iran hostages and their families. 

Under Mr. Pompeo’s leadership, the hostage affairs office has taken its obligations seriously, working quietly and tirelessly to free U.S. citizens held hostage around the world. The Iran hostages and their families are thankful for these efforts. 

Certainly, Mr. Pompeo will be the subject of partisan attacks. However, a balanced approach to assessing his work might allow the United States to advance a broader foreign policy agenda.

V. Thomas Lankford Jr., Alexandria

D.E. Wilson Jr., Arlington

The writers are attorneys for the Iran hostages and their families.

Read more letters to the editor.