Thursday, October 05, 2017

We don't have a Secretary of State

The Secretary of State is what other countries call their Minister of Foreign Affairs. He is America's "top diplomat," meaning that his job is to represent the U.S.'s interest to the rest of the world by speaking on behalf of the U.S. to other countries.

But if the Secretary of State says something to another country and then is later overruled by the President, he is not really speaking for the U.S. anymore. If, for example, Rex Tillerson sets up a direct channel of communication with the North Korean government to discuss their nuclear program and then the President says that communication channel is a "waste of time," Tillerson avenue to discuss the issue with North Korean is no longer viable. Anything he says will be understood by Pyongyang to be outside his authority. If he doesn't have any authority to speak on behalf of the U.S. according to the U.S.'s ultimate decision-maker, he cannot do his job as top diplomat.

The problem isn't limited to that one North Korean example. Now the leaders of every other government know that just because Rex Tillerson says the U.S. is committed to something, it doesn't mean an actual U.S. commitment. The President could overrule him at any time. He has no real authority to negotiate with anyone about anything. He simply cannot represent the interests of the U.S. in any discussion so long as those interests can change on a whim by a moronic tweeter.

I keep hearing about all the stress that Tillerson is under because of Trump and how he has repeatedly considered resigning. But why won't he resign? He isn't the Secretary of State in any meaningful way right now. If he can't do the job, what is the point of sitting behind that desk? We are talking about a gazillionaire who does not need this job. He would do better for himself, and have more power (if measured by how much actual influence he has) if he just quit in a huff and wrote a book about it.