Mike Pompeo graduated first in his class at the United States Military Academy at West Point. So, the secretary of state was not exactly in enemy territory when he addressed students at the Army War College in Carlisle on Monday morning.
The former Army officer addressed a roomful of Army officers about the relationship between the military mission and the diplomatic mission. But his message also had a tinge of Boy Scout: Be prepared.
“You all will be tested again and I am confident it will be soon,” Pompeo said during prepared remarks that the media was allowed to record. “I don’t know how. I don’t know where. I don’t know precisely the challenge you will face, but I can assure you that you will.”
The media was escorted out of Bliss Hall so Pompeo could speak candidly with the military officers, but he then emerged to meet the press. He sees a globe full of potential conflicts including the U.S.-Mexico border. He defended President Trump’s recent threats to shut down the border completely.
“Look at the math,” Pompeo said. “How many people are coming across? This is a crisis and we need to fix it.”
The President is also promising to steer money from military projects to pay for a border wall. I asked Pompeo about congressional critics who don’t want that money siphoned from Pennsylvania earmarks.
“Oh, goodness,” Pompeo said, almost dismissing the question. “We make decisions all the time about priorities in America. We’ll make them again. I am confident the people of Pennsylvania want a safe and secure border, too. I am intensely confident in that.”
Pompeo can also be confident he left a good impression on the student-officers he visited.
“It was a great opportunity for us to see first hand how the United States uses diplomacy to advance our interests worldwide,” said Col. Terry Peterkin, of Arkansas.
Many in the world, and in this country, were upset when Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Pompeo isn’t one of them. He calls it nothing more than a feel-good deal that countries like China signed but then never actually reduced its CO2 emissions.
“This is why President Trump withdrew,” Pompeo said. “It was a document without any enforcement mechanism that was gonna cost the American people a fortune for no benefit. The burden of that agreement fell on the people of the United States.”