Rex Tillerson Wants To Be George Marshall, But He Works For A Boss Who’s More Like Joe McCarthy
On Tuesday, the new State Department spokesperson tweeted a brief statement by the secretary of state to commemorate the 70th anniversary of George Marshall’s famous address at Harvard that launched the Marshall Plan. Celebrating his predecessor’s “bold vision,” Rex Tillerson said the Marshall Plan “laid the foundation for the transatlantic bond” and serves as a “reminder of what is possible when the U.S. and Europe work together.”
It’s nice that Tillerson wants to bask in Marshall’s legacy. All secretaries of state do. But to think Tillerson actually believes the Trump administration is faithfully carrying forward Marshall’s legacy is, as his boss would put it, sad.
Marshall’s speech on June 5, 1947, capped a dramatic period that many consider one of the most successful moments in American diplomatic history. One of the best books about that time was written over six decades ago by a former State Department staffer, Joseph Jones, who described The Fifteen Weeks of policymaking leading up to Marshall’s speech as the turning point when the United States stepped forward as a world leader.
Now we are 20 weeks into the Trump administration. We see a very different set of policies unfolding — and possibly a period just as momentous in the history of American foreign policy.
Consider the intellectual underpinnings of the Marshall Plan: an enduring American interest in a free and democratic Europe. Tying American power to the defense of democracy. Championing the idea that the United States needed to lead in building strong global and regional institutions. Understanding the importance of economic and political development — stressing soft power as much as hard power — while building strong security organizations like NATO. For seven decades, these ideas have served as the foundation for American foreign policy. Yet the Trump administration, and especially the president himself, is questioning them all.