On Tuesday, United States President Donald Trump disposed of his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, in a move that was not unexpected. Not unexpected, given that over the past 13 months, Tillerson had been at odds with the president on issues such as the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation not paying their share of common defence costs, on moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem, rewriting decades of conventional thinking by recognising that city as belonging solely to Israel, and on what to do with the regime of Kim Jong-un in North Korea.
With talks in the pipeline on dealing with the nuclear ambitions of Pyongyang, the departure now of Tillerson certainly raises questions over Washington’s approach to these critical negotiations, and makes it difficult for Washington’s friends and opponents alike to fully understand just exactly what are the foreign policy objectives of the Oval Office.
What the past 14 months of this administration have shown us is that it remains a volatile and difficult place to work, where chaos itself is a management strategy, and where individuals come and go almost at the drop of a hat or the pushing of a tweet.
Taking over the State Department now will be a difficult challenge for Mike Pompeo, previously the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and a fully paid-up member of the Republican Tea Party. His appointment now places the president’s stamp fully over foreign policy, and President Trump, by firing Tillerson, has shown that he values loyalty above all else. And in Pompeo, he has a loyal supporter to meet and greet the rest of the world.