Rex Tillerson Could Be a Good Secretary of State But Not in a Trump Administration

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Author: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
December 15, 2016
Los Angeles Times

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson is by all accounts a shrewd, pragmatic and successful dealmaker. In another administration, he might have made an excellent secretary of State.

Serving a president with a strong moral grounding and certain fixed principles, such as Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, he might have been successful in sanding off the rough edges and making the compromises necessary to get things done. But under Donald Trump, a man of few if any discernible principles beyond a desire for self-aggrandizement, he would be a dangerous choice because his role will be not just to implement policy but — more than most previous secretaries of State — to shape it.

As far as most foreign policy issues go, Tillerson is a tabula rasa. What does he think about the U.S. alliance with Israel? The U.S. policy toward Pakistan? The future of NATO? The North Korean nuclear program? Chinese aggression in the South China Sea? Syria and Iraq, Libya and Yemen? No one knows because he seldom has opined in public about non-energy issues.

To the extent that Tillerson has a track record, it is as an amoral businessman who has never hesitated to work with some of the world’s most repressive and corrupt regimes in places such as Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Venezuela, Vietnam and of course Russia. Tillerson himself has said that he has “a very close relationship” with former KGB agent Vladimir Putin. He has negotiated multibillion-dollar oil deals with the state-controlled Rosneft oil company run by Putin crony Igor Sechin, another former KGB man, and he lobbied against the imposition of U.S. sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

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