Defense Secretary General James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and CIA Director Mike Pompeo have been confirmed by the Senate and are now the most powerful influencers of foreign policy in the Trump Administration. In this episode, we examine their worldviews by investigating their pre-Trump Administration experience as corporate titans and hearing critical highlights from their confirmation hearings.
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South China Sea Map
Image Credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Israeli Settlements and Outposts
Image Credit: Vox
- Article: Israeli Allies Condemn Settlement Law as Lawsuits Loom by the Associated Press, The New York Times, February 7, 2017.
- Trumps Makes Right Turn on Iran by Rebecca Kheel, The Hill, February 4, 2017.
- Article: Rex Tillerson Backs Aggressive Policy in Disputed South China Sea as Exxon, Russia Eye Region’s Oil and Gas by Steve Horn, Desmog, February 2, 2017.
- Article: Iran To Ditch The Dollar In Wake Of Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’ by Dominic Dudley, Forbes, January 30, 2017.
- Article: Iran to Ditch US Dollar in Official Reports, Financial Tribune, January 30, 2017.
- Article: What it’s like in the 7 countries on Trump’s travel ban list by Angela Dewan and Emily Smith, CNN, January 30, 2017.
- Article: Exxon-Vietnam gas deal to test Tillerson’s diplomacy by Helen Clark, Asia Times, January 23, 2017.
- Document: Questions For The Record: Representative Mike Pompeo, U.S. Senate, January 18, 2017.
- Op-Ed: America dropped 26,171 bombs in 2016. What a bloody end to Obama’s reign by Medea Benjamin, The Guardian, January 9, 2017.
- Article: How Exxon, under Rex Tillerson, won Iraqi oil fields and nearly lost Iraq by Missy Ryan and Steven Mufson, The Washington Post, January 9, 2017.
- Document: Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, January 6, 2017.
- Article: Secretary Of State Appointee Rex Tillerson Reaches $180 Million Severance Deal With Exxon by Dan Alexander, Forbes, January 4, 2017.
- Article: The growth of Israeli settlements, explained in 5 charts by Jennifer Williams and Javier Zarracina, Vox, December 30, 2016.
- Article: What UN Vote on Israeli Settlements Means–and What’s Next by Jonathan Ferziger and Michael Arnold, Bloomberg, December 26, 2016.
- Article: If ExxonMobil were a country, its economy would be bigger than Ireland’s by Adam Taylor, The Washington Post, December 13, 2016.
- Article: Rex Tillerson, From a Corporate Oil Sovereign to the State Department by Steve Coll, The New Yorker, December 11, 2016.
- Article: Is Donald Trump’s CIA Pick A Koch Brothers ‘Puppet’? Oil And Gas Billionaires Backed Rep. Mike Pompeo by Avi Asher-Schapiro, International Business Times, November 18, 2016.
- Article: Trump’s CIA Director Wants to Return to a Pre-Snowden World by Kaveh Waddell, The Atlantic, November 18, 2016.
- Article: The UK’s Devastating New Report on NATO’s Regime – Change War in Libya by James Carden, The Nation, September 19, 2016.
- Fact Sheet: U.S. Relations With Ukraine, U.S. Department of State, September 6, 2016.
- Op-Ed: Rep. Mike Pompeo: One year later, Obama’s Iran nuclear deal puts us at increased risk by Mike Pompeo, Fox News Opinion, July 14, 2016.
- Article: Colin Powell: U.N. Speech “Was a Great Intelligence Failure” by Jason Breslow, PBS, May 17, 2016.
- Op-Ed: On National Security, Some Republicans May Be as Weak as the Democrats by Mike Pompeo, National Review, December 21, 2015.
- Congressional Bill: H.R. 4270 (114th): Liberty Through Strength Act II by Mike Pompeo, House of Representatives, December 16, 2015.
- Article: ExxonMobil returns to Vietnam market, The Voice Of Vietnam, November 17, 2015.
- Article: What China Has Been Building in the South China Sea by Derek Watkins, The New York Times, October 27, 2015.
- Article: Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire by Tim Dickinson, RollingStone, September 24, 2014.
- Article: Ukraine crisis: Transcript of leaked Nuland-Pyatt call, BBC, February 7, 2014.
- Op-Ed: The GOP should support Obama on Syria by Mike Pompeo and Tom Cotton, The Washington Post, September 3, 2013.
- Congressional Bill: H.R. 4387 (112th):To allow for a reasonable compliance deadline for certain States subject to the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule by Mike Pompeo, House of Representatives, April 18, 2012.
- Op-Ed: Stop harassing the Koch brothers by Rep. Mike Pompeo, Politico, February 2, 2012.
- Article: Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales by Asjylyn Loder and David Evans, Bloomberg, October 3, 2011.
- Congressional Bill: H.R. 2897 (112th): BARR Preservation Act of 2011 by Mike Pompeo, House of Representatives, September 12, 2011.
- Article: Qaddafi, as New African Union Head, Will Seek Single State by Lydia Polgreen, The New York Times, February 2, 2009.
- Article: Foreign Exchange: Saddam Turns His Back on Greenbacks by William Dowell, Time, November 13, 2000.
- Opensecrets: Mike Pompeo
- Opensecrets: Rex Tillerson
- List of Bills by Rep. Mike Pompeo, GovTrack
- By the Numbers: World-Wide Deaths, The National WWII Museum
- About Nord Stream 2, Gazprom
- About General Dynamics
- About NATO
Sound Clip Sources
Interview: General Wesley Clark: Wars Were Planned – Seven Countries In Five Years, Democracy Now, March 2007.
Presidential Speech: Eisenhower’s Farewell Address, January 17, 1961.
News Segment: Trump and Mattis Disagree on Russia, Torture on CNN News Channel, CNN, December 3, 2016.
Video: Middle East Security Challenges, Center for Strategic and International Studies, April 22, 2016.
Video: The Third Presidential Debate: Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump, NBC News, October 19, 2016.
Hearing: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Confirmation, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, January 11, 2017.
Timestamps & Transcripts
- 54:17 Rex Tillerson: We are the only global super power with the means and the moral compass capable of shaping the world for good. If we do not lead, we risk plunging the world deeper into confusion and danger.
- 1:11:18 Senator Ben Cardin: So, what would you have done, after we were surprised by what they did in taking over Crimea, what should the U.S. leadership had done in response to that, that we didn’t do? Rex Tillerson: I would have recommended that the Ukraine take all of its military assets it had available, put them on that eastern border, provide those assets with defensive weapons that are necessary just to defend themselves, announce that the U.S. is going to provide them intelligence and that either NATO or U.S. will provide air surveillance over that border to monitor any movements. Cardin:So, your recommendation would do a more robust supply of military? Tillerson: Yes, sir.
- 1:12:16 Senator Ben Cardin: Our NATO partners, particularly in the Baltics and Poland, are very concerned about Russian aggression. NATO has deployed troops in this region in order to show Russia that Article 5 means something. I take it you support that type of action. Rex Tillerson: Yes, I do. That is the type of response that Russia expects. If Russia acts with force—taking of Crimea was an act of force. They didn’t just volunteer themselves. So that required a proportional show of force to indicate to Russia that there’ll be no more taking of territory.
- 1:15:45 Senator Ben Cardin: We’re a part of COP21. Do you agree that the United States should continue in international leadership on climate-change issues with the international community? Rex Tillerson: I think it’s important that the United States maintain its seat at the table on the conversations around how to address threats of climate change, which do require a global response. No one country’s going to solve this alone.
- 1:27:35 Senator Bob Menendez: Do you believe it is in the national interest of the United States to continue to support international laws and norms that were established after World War II? Rex Tillerson: Yes, sir. Menendez: Do you believe that the international order includes respecting the territorial integrity of sovereign countries and the inviability of their borders? Tillerson: Yes, sir. Menendez: Did Russia violate this international order when it forcefully annexed Crimea and invaded Ukraine? Tillerson: Yes, it did.Menendez: Did Russia’s continuing occupation of foreign countries violate international laws and norms? Tillerson: I’m not sure which specific countries you’re referring to. Menendez: Well, the annexation of Crimea— Tillerson: Yes, sir. Menendez: —Eastern Ukraine, Georgia, just to mention a few. Tillerson: Yes, sir. Menendez: Does Russia and Syria’s targeted bombing campaign in Aleppo, on hospitals, for example, violate this international order? Tillerson: Yes. That is not acceptable behavior.
- 1:52:23 Senator Jeanne Shaheen: You were unwilling to agree with Senator Rubio’s characterization of Vladimir Putin as a war criminal, and you point out in your statement that Russia has disregarded American interests. I would suggest, as I think has been brought out in later testimony, that it not only has disregarded American interests but international norms and humanitarian interests. The State Department has described Russia as having an authoritarian political system dominated by
President Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, Freedom House currently puts Russia in a category of countries like Iran, with very restricted political rights ruled by one part or military dictatorships, religious hierarchies, or autocrats. Do you agree with that characterization of Russia and Vladimir Putin? Rex Tillerson:I would have no reason to take exception.
- 2:08:15 Senator Jeff Flake: How can we refashion some of our policies to nudge countries toward democracy that need nudging, or that punished countries weren’t deemed spent, or encourage cooperation with us on security measures or humanitarian measures? Rex Tillerson: Well, certainly, the use of important USAID assistance really falls in kind of two broad areas: a disaster relief addressing imminent situations on the ground, where there’s starvation or the result of storms or as result of conflict, providing assistance to relieve the immediate suffering. That is an important part of USAID. Over the past few years, in looking at the balance of that against, what I would call, development assistance, which is designed to create change, which, hopefully, becomes a sustainable change, that, regrettably, the disaster-assistance part of that budget has grown, and that means there’s less available for development. Other important ways in which we can provide the assistance, though, are through other mechanisms, such as millennial challenge corporation for those countries that qualify. That’s a different model. And so I think in terms of what is the issue we’re trying to address, that then conditions how do we put obligations on the country then to modify behaviors, whether it’s to take steps to reduce corruption, improve the strength of governments and their own institutional capacity to manage their affairs. Where I have seen a good progress is when assistance was put into the country with some requirement that, for instance, they modify or streamline their permitting process. One of the ways to begin to reduce corruption is to remove the complexities of how people are able to carry out their activities. The more steps you have in the process, the more opportunities there are for people to be taking something out of it or adding a cost to it.
- 2:10:24 Rex Tillerson: So, I think where we can tie our assistance to obligations, it’s important that we do so.
- 2:16:25 Rex Tillerson: As to how I would deal with the past history I have in my prior position with ExxonMobil, I’ve made clear in my disclosures, and I think in answers to questions that have been posed, that obviously there’s a statutory recusal period, which I will adhere to, on any matters that might come before the State Department that deal directly and specifically with ExxonMobil. Beyond that, though, in terms of broader issues dealing with the fact that it might involve the oil and natural gas industry itself, the scope of that is such that I would not expect to have to recuse myself.
- 08:38 Senator Tim Kaine: You were with the company for nearly 42 years? Rex Tillerson: That is correct. Kaine: And for the majority of your time you were with the company in an executive and management position? Tillerson: Approximately half the time. Kaine: And you became CEO in 2006? Tillerson: Correct. Kaine:So, I’m not asking you on behalf of ExxonMobil—you’ve resigned from ExxonMobil. I’m asking you whether those allegations about ExxonMobil’s knowledge of climate science and decision to fund and promote a view contrary to its awareness of the science, whether those allegations are true or false. Tillerson: The question would have to be put to ExxonMobil. Kaine: And let me ask you: do you lack the knowledge to answer my question, or are you refusing to answer my question? Tillerson: A little of both.
- 36:00 Rex Tillerson: We’ve had two competing priorities in Syria under this administration: Bashar al-Assad must go and the defeat of ISIS. And the truth of the matter is, carrying both of those out simultaneously is extremely difficult because at times they conflict with one another. The clear priority is to defeat ISIS. We defeat ISIS we, at least, create some level of stability in Syria which then lets us deal with the next priority of what is going to be the exit of Bashar Assad, but importantly, before we decide that is in fact what needs to happen, we have to answer the question, what comes next? What is going to be the government structure in Syria, and can we have any influence over that or not?
- 53:10 Senator Edward Markey: Do you believe that it should be a priority of the United States to work with other countries in the world to find climate-change solutions to that problem? Rex Tillerson: I think it’s important for America to remain engaged in those discussions so that we are at the table, expressing a view, and understanding what the impacts may be on the American people and American competitiveness.
- 1:13:38 Senator Jeff Merkley: There are three individuals who were involved in the Trump campaign—Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, and Carter Page—who, public reports, have been involved in dialogue with Russia, with the goal of finding a common strategy, with Russia believing that Trump would be better on Syria and Ukraine policy and Trump believing that Russia could help defeat Hillary Clinton. Now these reports have not been substantiated, I’m sure much more will come on them, but in theory, how do you feel about a U.S. candidate turning to a foreign country to essentially find another partner in defeating another opponent in a U.S. presidential election? Rex Tillerson: That would not comport with our democratic process.
- 1:16:35 Rex Tillerson: The defeat of ISIS as an ideology, in other words, other than the battlefield, is going to require advanced capabilities in our own communication tools in terms of disrupting their communication to develop their network, more importantly to further their ideology. This means getting into the Internet airspace and putting forth different ideas and disrupting their delivery of ideas to people who are persuaded to join them.
- 1:23:42 Senator John Barrasso: We have had a situation where some of the programs in place have not really supported all of the above energy, and we’ve seen where the World Bank has blocked funding for coal-fired power plants which would help bring light and other opportunities to a number of countries in Africa, and I wonder if you could comment on the need to use all of the sources of energy to help people who are living in poverty and without power. Rex Tillerson:Well, I think, and I know you touched on it, but nothing lifts people out of poverty quicker than electricity. That’s just a fact. You give people light, you give them the ability to refrigerate food, medicine—it changes their entire quality of life. They no longer cook on animal dung and wood cooking in their homes, so health issues—their health improves. I think it’s very important that we use wisely the American people’s dollars as we support these programs, and that means whatever is the most efficient, effective way to deliver electricity to these areas that don’t have it, that should be the choice, and that is the wisest use of American dollars.
- 1:27:30 Senator Chris Coons: Do you see RT as a Russian propaganda outlet, and how would you use and lead the resources of the State Department to counter Russian propaganda and to push back on this effort to change the rules of the world order? Rex Tillerson: Well, as you point out, utilizing the opportunity to communicate to the people of Russia through mechanisms that were successful in the past—Radio Free Europe—and utilizing those type of sources as well as providing information on the Internet to the extent people can access Internet so that they have availability to the facts, the facts, as they exist, to the alternative reporting of events that are presented through the largely controlled media outlets inside of Moscow. That is an important way in which to, at least, begin to inform the Russian people as to what the realities are in the world, and it is an important tool. It should be utilized.
- 08:28 Senator Cory Booker: You did characterize the Obama administration’s decisions as weakness, even though you’re saying that you wouldn’t necessarily do something different. Rex Tillerson: In that instance, I would’ve done something different. Booker: Military force. Tillerson:A show of force at the border of the country that had been already had territory taken from them. Booker: American military force, in this case? Tillerson: No, I indicated Ukrainian military force, supported by the U.S. providing them with capable defensive weapons. If that’s not seen across the border, then it’s not a show of force.
- 55:32 Rex Tillerson: I had a great 41-and-a-half-year career, and I was truly blessed, enjoyed every minute of it. That part of my life’s over. I’ve been humbled and honored with the opportunity to now serve my country—never thought I would have an opportunity to serve in this way—and so when I made the decision to say yes to President-elect Trump when he asked me to do this, the first step I took was to retain my own outside counsel, to begin the process, and the only guidance I gave them is I must have a complete and clear, clean break from all of my connections to ExxonMobil—not even the appearance—and whatever is required for us to achieve that, get that in place. I am appreciative that the ExxonMobil Corporation, whoever represented by their own counsel, and the ExxonMobil board were willing to work with me to achieve that as well. It was their objective, too. And in the end, if that required me to walk away from some things, that’s fine, whatever was necessary to achieve that. And again, told people, I don’t even want the appearance that there’s any connection to myself and the future fortunes, up or down, of the ExxonMobil Corporation.
- 1:04:25 Rex Tillerson: We’ve got to step back and look at all of China’s activities, and the one you mention now—the island-building in the South China Sea, the declaration of control of airspace in waters over the Senkaku Islands with Japan—both of those are illegal actions. They’re taking territory or control or declaring control of territories that are not rightfully China’s. The island-building in the South China Sea itself, in many respects, in my view, building islands and then putting military assets on those island is akin to Russia’s taking of Crimea. It’s taking of territory that others lay claim to. The U.S. has never taken a side in the issues, but what we have advocated for is, look, that’s a disputed area, there are international processes for dealing with that, and China should respect those international processes. As you mentioned, some of their actions have already been challenged at the courts in The Hague, and they were found to be in violation.
- 1:06:00 Rex Tillerson: But you’ve got five trillion dollars of economic trade goes through those waters every day, and this is a threat to the entire global economy if China’s allowed to somehow dictate the terms of passage through these waters.
- 1:06:23 Rex Tillerson: We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands is also not going to be allowed.
- 1:45:10 Senator Chris Murphy: Do you believe that the Iraq war—not the conduct of the war, but the war itself—was a mistake? Rex Tillerson: I think I indicated in response—I believe it was to Senator Paul’s question—that I think our motives were commendable, but we did not achieve the objectives there: we did not achieve greater stability, we did not achieve improved national security for the United States of America. And that’s just, the events have borne that out. And at the time, I held the same view, that I was concerned just as I was concerned before the decisions were made to go into Libya and change the leadership there. It’s not that I endorse that leadership, but that leadership had the place somewhat stable with a lot of bad actors locked up in prison. Now, all those bad actors are running around the world. Murphy: Just, just— Tillerson: So it’s the question of—it isn’t a question that our ultimate goal has to be to change that type of oppressive leadership. It has to be, though, that we know what is coming after, or we have a high confidence that we can control what comes after or influence it, and it will be better than what we just took out. Murphy: But which—in this case, which motives are you referring to that were commendable? Tillerson:I think the concerns were that Saddam Hussein represented a significant threat to stability in that part of the world and to the United States directly.
- 1:47:00 Senator Chris Murphy: One last question, going back to Russia. You’ve said in earlier—answered an earlier question that you wouldn’t commit today to the continuation of sanctions against the Russians for their involvement in the U.S. presidential election, but could you make a commitment to us today that if you deem sanctions to be the inappropriate policy, that you will recommend and argue for a substitute response for the interference in U.S. elections? Will you argue for a U.S. response, even if you don’t believe sanctions is the right policy? Rex Tillerson: Yes. Yes, and all I’ve read is, again, the unclassified portions, but it is troubling. And if there’s additional information that indicates the level of interference, it deserves a response.
- 2:04:25 Senator John Barrasso: The last thing I wanted to get to was the issue of energy as a master resource in the way that Putin uses it as a political weapon. And one of the things we’re seeing now is this Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the pipeline between Russia and Germany that the United States has been working closely with our European partners, with respect to that. And this is something that we’ve had bipartisan support on—looking across the aisle: Senator Shaheen, Senator Murphy have signed a letter with me and with Senator Risch and Senator Rubio, Senator Johnson—because of our concern with the ability of this pipeline to deliver more energy and make Europe more dependent upon Russia for energy. It also bypasses Ukraine and impacts the Ukrainian economy as well when it runs directly from Russia under the Baltic Sea directly into Germany. Several European countries have raised the concerns that this pipeline would undermine sanctions on Russia, increase Russia’s political leverage over Eastern Europe, and can you give us your assessment of something of which there’s actually a lot of bipartisan agreement on this panel with regard to? Rex Tillerson: Well, energy is vital to every economy the world over, so it can be used as a powerful tool to influence, kind of tip the balance of the table in one party’s direction or the other. So it is important that we are watching and paying attention to when this balance is upset. Now, the greatest response the United States can give to that threat is the development of our own natural resources. The country’s blessed with enormous natural resources of both oil and natural gas, and I know the Congress took action here in the recent past to approve the export of crude oil. We now have exports of liquefied natural gas. The more U.S. supply, which comes from a stable country that lives by our values, we can provide optionality to countries so that they cannot be held captive to a single source or to a dominant source.
- 2:17:45 Senator Rob Portman: I want to talk to you a little about your views on Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship. One important issue for me, as you know, is this issue of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement—the so-called BDS movement—which is a global movement targeting Israel. I’ve been concerned about this for a while, introduced some legislation on it. In fact, Ben Cardin and I have not just introduced but passed legislation in this regard to try to push back against the BDS forces. Recently—of course with the consent of the Obama administration—the U.N. Security Council passed this resolution condemning the settlements and demanding Israel cease all activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem, is the way the resolution reads. I think this will, no doubt, galvanize additional BDS activity. And so here’s my question to you: would you make it a priority to counter Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions efforts against Israel, make sure Israel is not held to a double standard but instead treated as a normal member of the international community? Rex Tillerson: Yes, I would. Portman: Any preliminary thoughts as to how you would do that? Tillerson: Well, I think, just by raising it in our interactions with countries that do put in place provisions that boycott whatever elements of activity or business with Israel in their country, that we begin by highlighting that we oppose that and just expressing that view, and that those countries need to understand that does shade our view of them as well, then. One of the things that would, I think, help change the dynamic, obviously, would be if there were a change in the dynamic regionally. Today, because of Iran and the threat that Iran poses, we now find that Israel, the U.S., and the Arab neighbors in the region all share the same enemy, and this give us an opportunity to discuss things that previously, I think, could not have been discussed.
- 2:26:45 Senator Jeff Merkley: We are also viewing, often, climate change as a national-security issue, and since you believe—so I wanted to ask, do you see it as a national-security issue? Rex Tillerson: I don’t see it as the imminent national-security threat that, perhaps, others do.
- 2:27:30 Rex Tillerson: The facts on the ground are indisputable in terms of what’s happening with drought, disease, insect populations, all the things you cite. Now the science behind the clear connection is not conclusive, and there are many reports out there that we are unable, yet, to connect specific events to climate change alone.
- 2:30:26 Senator Jeff Merkley: We also saw that leading up to Paris, China has committed to producing as much renewable power as our entire electricity production in the United States, and we’ve seen India, now, talking about how to shift providing electricity to 300 million people who don’t have it and doing it primarily, or shifting from primarily a coal strategy to primarily a renewable-energy strategy. So we’re seeing big countries with big populations that have far smaller carbon footprints than the United States stepping up, and shouldn’t we step up as well? Rex Tillerson: I think the United States has stepped up. As I indicated earlier, I think the United States has a record over the last 20 years, of which it can be quite proud.
- 3:13:55 Rex Tillerson: I think the president-elect’s made clear in his views, that his whole objective of his campaign and putting America first, that he is not going to support anything that would put U.S. industry in any particular sector at a disadvantage to its competitors outside of the U.S., whether it’s automobile manufacturing or steel making or the oil and gas industry.
- 3:32:57 Rex Tillerson: I have never supported energy independence; I have supported energy security.
Hearing: DoD Secretary James Mattis Confirmation Hearing, Senate Armed Services Committee, January 12, 2017.
- Watch on CSPAN
CSPAN Timestamps & Transcripts
- 20:15 Senator John McCain: For seven decades, the United States has played a unique role in the world. We’ve not only put America first, but we’ve done so by maintaining and advancing a world order that has expanded security, prosperity, and freedom. This has required our alliances, our trade, our diplomacy, our values, but most of all, our military for when would-be aggressors aspire to threaten world order. It’s the global striking power of America’s armed forces that must deter or thwart their ambitions. Too many Americans, too many Americans seem to have forgotten this in recent years. Too many have forgotten that our world order is not self-sustaining. Too many have forgotten that while the threats we face may not have purely military solutions, they all have military dimensions. In short, too many have forgotten that hard power matters—having it, threatening it, leveraging it for diplomacy, and, at times, using it. Fairly or not, there is a perception around the world that America is weak and distracted, and that has only emboldened our adversaries to challenge the current world order. The threat posed by violent Islamic extremism continues to metastasize across Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, and but for those who remain vigilant, our homeland. It should now be clear that we will be engaged in a global conflict of varying scope and intensity for the foreseeable future; believing otherwise is wishful thinking. So, if confirmed, General Mattis, you would lead a military at war. You of all people appreciate what that means and what it demands. At the same time, our central challenge in the Middle East is not ISIL, as grave a threat as that is. It is a breakdown of regional order in which nearly every state is a battlefield for conflict, a combatant, or both. ISIL is a symptom of this disorder.
- 51:20 Senator John McCain: You are a distinguished student of history, and, as we are all aware, that following World War II, a world order was established which has held for, basically, the last 70 years. Do you believe that that world order is now under more strain than it’s ever been? James Mattis: I think it’s under the biggest attack since World War II, sir, and that’s from Russia, from terrorist groups, and with what China is doing in the South China Sea. McCain: And that would argue for us making sure we’re adequately prepared to meet these challenges. Mattis:I think deterrence is critical right now, sir. Absolutely. And that requires the strongest military. McCain: Do you think we have a strong-enough military today in order to achieve that goal? Mattis: No, sir.
- 1:13:08 Senator Jeanne Shaheen: Today, for the first time since the fall of Communism, American troops arrived in Poland as part of the European Reassurance Initiative. How important is it for us to continue these initiatives to reassure our European allies that we will continue to support them, and how concerned are you that some of President-elect Trump’s statements with respect to continuing to support NATO, to support our allies in Europe, has undermined our ability to continue this initiative, and will you support the ERI continuing, as secretary of defense? James Mattis: Senator, I do support ERI. NATO, from my perspective, having served once as a NATO supreme allied commander, is the most successful military alliance probably in modern-world history, maybe ever, and was put together, as you know, by the “greatest generation” coming home from a war to defend Europe against Soviet incursion by their military. Yet the first time it went to war was when this town and New York City were attacked. That’s the first time NATO went into combat. So my view is that nations with allies thrive, and nations without allies don’t, and so I would see us maintaining the strongest-possible relationship with NATO.
- 1:51:05 Senator Joni Ernst: I do believe we need to look at other regions around the globe, and we cannot turn a blind eye to ISIS in regions outside of the Middle East, such as in Southeast Asia. There are many news reports that have showed those areas are very active, and reports from last year, I noted over 57 Philippine government forces have been killed in battles linked with ISIS groups. There was also an attempted U.S. Embassy bombing in Manila and many other ISIS-claimed attacks throughout that region. Secretary Carter did agree with my assessment on ISIS in Southeast Asia, and President Obama was made well aware of my concerns; however, we have yet to develop a strategy to combat ISIS, especially in those regions where we are not focusing. How should our new administration address the rising threat of ISIS in Southeast Asia, and will you commit to working with me on this, sir? James Mattis: Absolutely, Senator. The way we do this, I think we have to deliver a very hard blow against ISIS in the Middle East so that there’s no sense of invulnerability or invincibility there. There’s got to be a military defeat of them there, but it must, as you point out, be a much broader approach. This requires an integrated strategy so you don’t squeeze them in one place and then they develop in another and we really are right back to square one. We’ve got to have an integrated strategy on this, and it’s got to be one that goes after the recruiting and their fundraising, as well as delivering a military blow against them in the Middle East, and that way you slow down this growth and start rolling it back by, with, and through allies.
- 2:08:55 Senator Dan Sullivan: In the Arctic, Russia has filled a vacuum left by the U.S., and, as you know, General, just in the past few years the buildup in the Arctic by the Russians has been quite dramatic: a new Arctic command; four new Arctic brigades; 14 operational air fields; 16 deep-water ports; 40 icebreakers, with 13 more on the way, three nuclear powered; huge new land claims in the Arctic for massive oil and gas reserves; the most long-range air patrols with Bear bombers since the Cold War; a snap military exercise in 2015 that included 45,000 troops, 3,400 military vehicles, 41 ships, 15 submarines, and 110 aircraft. What is the effect on the United States not being actively engaged in the Arctic, as you mention in your article? James Mattis: Senator, I think that America has global responsibilities, and it’s not to our advantage to leave any of those areas of the world absent from our efforts. Sullivan: What do you think Russia’s trying to achieve in the Arctic with that massive military buildup? Mattis: I don’t know. I believe, however, that we are going to have to figure it out and make certain that we’re not seeing an expansion of these efforts to dominate, what have been up until now, part of the international commons. Sullivan: What role would you see of increased U.S. presence and involvement with regard to our role in the Arctic versus what the Russians are doing? Mattis: Senator, with the new sea routes of communication that are opening up, as the sea ice retreats, I think we’re going to have to recognize this is an active area, whether it be for search and rescue, for patrolling, maintain sovereignty up along our Alaska coastline, that sort of thing.
- 2:47:17 Senator Lindsey Graham: Are we going to give the world a veto of what we do? James Mattis: I would never give the world a veto.
- 3:02:12 Senator Ben Sasse: You have commented, General, on the political objectives must be clearly defined to ensure military success in Iraq and Syria. How will your recommendations for pursuing Iraq and Syria differ from the Obama administration? James Mattis: Senator, I think the most important thing is to know when you go into a shooting war how you want it to end, and by setting out the political conditions that you’re out to achieve up front and come into agreement on that in the national security team and with the Congress, then you give it full resourcing to get there as rapidly as possible. And I think it’s getting there as rapidly as possible is probably where it would differ from the current administration where it would be a more accelerated campaign from what the president-elect has already called for.
Hearing: Central Intelligence Agency Director Confirmation Hearing, Senate Intelligence Committee, January 12, 2017.
- Watch on CSPAN
CSPAN Timestamps & Transcripts
- 57:28 Senator Martin Heinrich: You’ve been supportive of the use of enhanced interrogation techniques in the past, saying, back in September of 2014, that President Obama has continually refused to take the war on radical Islamic terrorism seriously and cited ending our interrogation program in 2009 as an example. Can you commit to this committee that under current law, which limits interrogation to the Army Field Manual, that you will comply with that law and that the CIA is out of the enhanced-interrogation business? Mike Pompeo: Yes. You have my full commitment to that, Senator Heinrich.
Panel: National Security Issues Panel, Foreign Policy Initiative Forum, December 3, 2014.
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