Tillerson and Trump are frequently at odds with one another, but it seems they are united in holding completely unrealistic views of what U.S. policy can accomplish overseas:
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in remarks later on Tuesday, plans to say that he is optimistic about North Korea denuclearization talks and that there is no role for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s future [bold mine-DL], a U.S. official said.
“The secretary is very optimistic that we can achieve denuclearization through negotiation [bold mine-DL]. We are in the middle of that path and that continues,” the official told reporters ahead of two planned speeches by Tillerson.
Tillerson’s job at this point seems to be reciting administration talking points that have no relationship to the real world. His confidence that “we can achieve denuclearization through negotiation” seems to be based in nothing but wishful thinking. North Korea has repeatedly said that their nuclear weapons program is not even up for discussion, so there is no question of having a negotiation aimed at getting them to give that up. There is absolutely a need for direct talks with North Korea and a de-escalation of tensions through diplomatic engagement, but those talks aren’t going to lead to denuclearization. It is time that the administration accepted this.
The insistence that there is no role for Assad in Syria’s future is, if anything, even less connected to political reality. The U.S. isn’t in a position to dictate who does or doesn’t have a role in Syria’s future. That isn’t really a criticism, but simply a statement of fact that U.S. influence there has been and remains negligible. Tillerson periodically says this about Assad, but it seems to be something that he feels he has to say because trying to get rid of Assad has been U.S. policy for so many years. Much like the fixation on denuclearization that won’t happen, the administration’s anti-Assad rhetoric is just echoing what the last administration said with no regard for changed circumstances. Both examples show that administration officials lack imagination and don’t know how to adapt to new realities.