Last Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a historic speech at the American University in Cairo, Egypt—the second stop on his eight-day Middle East tour. Billed as an address on “peace, prosperity, stability and security” in the region, Pompeo’s speech was blunt, resolute, and marked a major turning point in United States foreign policy.
Pompeo’s tour of the region – visiting Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman—came amid lingering confusion over President Trump’s announcement to withdraw all US military forces from Syria. The Secretary of State reassured America’s Arab allies that the Trump administration would not turn its back on the region and that the United States remains committed to the global defeat of ISIS.
“It’s the truth that I’m here to talk about today,” Pompeo began. “It is a truth that isn’t often spoken in this part of the world, but because I’m a military man by training, I’ll be very blunt and direct today: America is a force for good in the Middle East.”
Pompeo described how the Middle East has plummeted into chaos due to the many grave mistakes of Barack Obama and his administration, making it clear that under President Donald J. Trump, things will fundamentally change.
“The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering,” Pompeo declared. “We’ve learned from our mistakes. We’ve rediscovered our voice. We’ve rebuilt our relationships. We’ve rejected false overtures from our enemies.”
Although never mentioning the former US president by name, Pompeo was blunt in his condemnation of Barack Obama, who 10 years ago delivered a speech in Cairo to pursue “a new beginning” with the Middle East.
“It was here, here in this city, another American stood before you,” said Pompeo. “He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from an ideology. He told you 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East. He told you that the United States and the Muslim world needed ‘a new beginning.’ … The results of these misjudgments were dire. In falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East, we were timid in asserting ourselves when the times — and our partners — demanded it.”
The Secretary of State’s sharp critique echoed the words of candidate-Trump on the campaign trail, who rightfully rebuked then-president Obama on his weak and apologetic nature, his appeasement of terrorists, and his bolstering of anti-Americanism in the region. And Pompeo’s callout of the rise of radical Islamism marked a clear departure from the Obama administration’s politically correct, euphemistic approach. Obama had a “penchant for wishful thinking” and “misread our history,” Pompeo said, holding the former president responsible for the carnage in Syria and the rise of the Islamic State.
President Trump, Pompeo declared, is determined to correct this trajectory and is working towards real diplomacy in the Middle East. In Iran, Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal Obama had signed. In Syria, Trump has launched two airstrikes in retaliation for Bashar al-Assad’s chemical attacks. Trump’s Middle East doctrine is focused on extinguishing radicalism and thwarting tyranny.
But, perhaps most importantly, Pompeo noted that the Trump administration has boundaries regarding its support in the Middle East. “‘Assist’ is the key word,” he stated. “We ask every peace-loving nation of the Middle East to shoulder new responsibilities for defeating Islamist extremism.”
What does this mean? Point-blank, Trump is following through on his promise of putting America first. We will stand up and fight for our national interests, and we will work with our allies – but our purpose is not to police the world; our allies must be willing to take on the duties of preserving freedom. Our president and his administration know that American power is “a liberating force, not an occupying power,” and will wield it wisely.
Pompeo’s Cairo speech represents a fundamental shift in American foreign policy and will be remembered in history as a turning point for our nation on the world stage. Under the leadership of President Trump, the United States’ reinvigorated role in the Middle East will keep our bilateral relationships strong and our allies secure, while reaffirming our global influence. No longer will we apologize for America. And no longer will our leaders be timid in the face of terror.
President Trump has proven to be the leader our country needs: His actions match his words and his foreign policy strategy reflects his commitment to putting our nation first.
Indeed, the age of American shame is over.