PATRICK LAWRENCE: Mike Pompeo’s Cold-War Fever

As this dreadful year draws near its close, the top U.S. diplomat has put us at far more risk of war than we were at its start.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo during a visit to a Venezuelan migrant and refugee reception center in Boa Vista, Brazil, Sept. 18, 2020. (State Department, Ron Przysucha)

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News

Will we start a war with Iran? Will we invade Venezuela? Will we push the Russian Federation a step too far into a desperate corner? Will we confront Russian troops in Syria? Will we provoke China into a strike across the Taiwan Strait? It is bitter, for American citizens, that these questions now press upon us. Two months before our presidential election, the world according to Mike Pompeo all at once assumes a frightening clarity.

Pompeo is the most dangerously deluded secretary of state since John Foster Dulles, whose paranoiac lawlessness held the world in some proximity to chaos until illness, which can sometimes prove a mercy for the rest of us, forced him to resign late in President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s second term.

Our rotund top diplomat is forever advising us that “the word will be safer” in consequence of the many aggressions he directs. Dulles used to say the same back in the 1950s. Now as then, can any thought be emptier in the face of the perils perfectly evident out our windows?

As this dreadful year draws near its close, we are at far more risk of war than we were at its start. Your columnist wondered in this space as the Covid–19 pandemic exploded upon us whether the U.S. would set aside its too-numerous animosities and ideological obsessions in the name of common humanity. Not a chance. Pompeo the poseur Christian was never going to prove capable of any such thing.

UN Sanctions 

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo delivers remarks on Iran Snapback Sanctions, Washington, D.C., Sept. 21, 2020. (State Department, Ron Przysucha)

On Saturday evening, midnight GMT, Pompeo declared in Washington that “virtually all previously terminated UN sanctions” against Iran are reimposed — an invocation of the “snapback” provision written into the 2015 accord governing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programs.

This is farce, of course. The U.S. is no longer party to the nuclear pact and has no legal standing to announce that the UN is doing anything related to it. The entire Security Council, other than the admittedly powerful Dominican Republic, dismisses Pompeo’s position and has no intention of abiding by it.

Please Contribute to Consortium News’
25th Anniversary Fall Fund Drive

It is an excellent thing that the U.S. has isolated itself on the Iran question, and excellent again that Pompeo’s astonishing overestimation of American power is on such clear and full display. But there is more to this story.

Strike Group in Strait of Hormuz

Last Friday, a day before Pompeo’s sanctions announcement, the Pentagon disclosed that a carrier strike group and two missile-carrying cruisers had just passed through the Strait of Hormuz — the first such deployment in the Persian Gulf since John Bolton, then Trump’s national security adviser, ordered a similar force into the region more than a year ago.

With this, Pompeo’s choreography is evident. Given his imminent failure at the UN, sending the Nimitz and its attendant group into the Gulf now appears to be preparation for the U.S. to enforce unilaterally the sanctions nobody else takes seriously. These are likely to apply to foreign-flag vessels as well as Iranian ships.

We’re looking at what, if the U.S. goes through with this, will amount to a blockade of the Islamic Republic. Any Iranian response will then be cast as aggression, and Pompeo will get his longed-for war.

Trita Parsi, co-founder and executive veep at the Quincy Institute, writes that he may be looking for “an October Surprise; a confrontation with Iran that will be cast as both defensive and lawful.” Parsi predicts that hostilities could begin as early as this week.

I agree with the astute Parsi that there is a political dimension to Pompeo’s latest doings. In my read, he is getting as much of his dangerous program into place as he can should President Donald Trump lose to Joe Biden in the U.S. elections — though it is highly questionable how much of it Biden would change.

A Latin American Tour 

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo visits Guyanese President Irfaan Ali, in Georgetown, Guyana, Sept. 17, 2020. (State Department, Ron Przysucha)

Blockades seem to be Pompeo’s new flavor. Last week he made one of those hop-skip tours of Latin America that U.S. officials deign to manage every so often, this one to Suriname, Guyana, Brazil and Colombia. Look at a map: But for Suriname, which is at one remove, these nations surround Venezuela.

We will have to see, but this looks awfully like a blockade in the making. And it is the same as in Iran. Both nations, honorably enough, prove able to survive Pompeo’s “maximum pressure” campaigns, but in my read a new “maximum” is on the way. And as with the Islamic Republic, Pompeo appears to be cultivating his moment to invade the Bolivarian Republic on the preposterous pretext it is “both defensive and lawful.”

Danger in the Taiwan Strait  

Serious as the Iranian and Venezuelan crises are, they are by magnitude not a match for the danger the U.S. courts across the Pacific.

Last Thursday the government-supervised New York Times reported that the Trump regime intends to notify Congress within a few weeks that the U.S. will sell no fewer than seven large weapons systems to Taiwan in one of the largest such weapons transfers on record.

By law, a perverse Cold War hangover, the U.S. is required to sell the island territory defensive weapons. But air-to-ground missiles that can hit inland Chinese cities, the most provocative items in this sale as carried by the 66 F–16 jets the U.S. sold Taiwan last year, are by no stretch defensive.

(Wikimedia Commons)

The mainstream press can mark this down to Trump’s “get tough on China” posture all it wants. But it is wrong. Trump is tough on trade and tariffs are his weapon. This is Pompeo’s doing, following as it does a summer of purposefully provoking military drills and diplomatic assertions related to the South China Sea question.

A day after the Pentagon posted its disclosure on the government bulletin board we call the Times, while a top U.S. diplomat was in talks in Taipei, China sent 18 fighter jets and bombers roaring around the Taiwan Strait. “Those who play with fire are bound to get burned,” a senior defense official said in Beijing. This is our end-times secretary of state’s favorite language: He wants danger, the knife’s-edge threat of war, the finality of biblical violence.

It is the height of irresponsibility for any U.S. official active in 2020 to press a question that dates to the “who lost China” days after the 1949 revolution and the nationalists’ retreat across the Taiwan Strait.

The island’s status is an internal affair to be worked out between Taipei and Beijing. Even an official as stupid as Pompeo knows that outside interference taken beyond China’s tolerance, which is considerable at this point, is the ne plus ultra if one is looking for a war with the People’s Republic. But this is precisely Pompeo’s intent.

The Russian Fixation 

Never a dull moment in Washington’s smoldering campaign against the Russian Federation, of course — another Pompeo fav. The alleged poisoning of Alexei Navalny last month has unraveled into another transparently implausible put-up job. Navalny may have a 2 percent popularity rating among Russians, but he’s now set up as the Juan Guaidó of Russia — a righteous opposition leader who doesn’t lead much of anybody but who can be cast as a critical threat to the legitimate government. Tell me a story.

It has been plain from the first that the immediate motive behind the Navalny ruse is to alienate Berlin and Moscow, so sabotaging the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline on the very eve of its completion.

Work underway on the Nord Stream project aboard the Castoro Sei pipe-laying vessel. (Bair175, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Russia needs the income Nord Stream 2 will generate, in all likelihood badly. But the U.S. wants into the European gas market, no matter how uncompetitive it may be to ship the product into multi-billion-dollar port terminals that do not yet exist.

But there is a larger picture here that goes beyond sheer greed and should not be missed.

George Friedman, the American geopolitical forecaster, nailed the point in an interview last week with Deutsche Wirtschaftsnachrichten, German Economic News.

Bringing history to bear, Friedman puts the Nord Stream 2 question in the context of Washington’s longtime anxiety about a lasting rapprochement between Germany and Russia. “A Russian–German entente,” Friedman said, “would dominate Europe, end the rationale for NATO, and achieve the exact outcome that the U.S. wanted to prevent in both World War II and the Cold War.”

World leaders at the Nord Stream opening ceremony in 2011. (Kremilin, Wikimedia Commons)

This magnifies the Navalny silliness and the Nord Stream 2 dispute many times. It also serves as a warning of how tenaciously Pompeo will press the Germans to ditch the gas project and learn to hate Russia as long as he is in office. Friedman’s interview is here, in German. The translation is courtesy of Diana Johnstone, the noted Europeanist and sometime contributor to Consortium News.

Just before the weekend we had a telling moment as to the authorship of the policies reviewed here. On Friday the Defense Department announced that it was sending 100 additional troops, along with armored transports, to join the 500 U.S. soldiers still in Syria. The Pentagon explained that this is in response to the collision last month of Russian and American armored vehicles.  

Here’s the interesting thing: The Army’s announcement came the same day Trump declared that, apart from the 500 remaining soldiers, “We are out of Syria.”

Trump is a statesman’s bad dream, all over the place on Syria and many other foreign policy questions. Those 500 troops still operating in Syria are there to guard Syrian oilfields, he explains regularly — that is, guarding Syrian oil from the Syrians who own it.

But the crossed wires on Syria confirm what was already evident to some of us. Trump has been a threat to the Pentagon, the national security apparatus, and the rest of the Deep State since he campaigned for détente with Russia and against our pointless wars four years ago.

Pompeo is doing his job: It is to make sure any barely breathing suggestion that what helped win Trump the 2016 election is dead and never to return.

Fever-pitch anxiety and fear: This is Pompeo’s legacy. No voice is raised against it that is not, like Tulsi Gabbard’s, instantly marginalized. Given the Democrats have little to say about any of what Pompeo hath wrought, it is likely to be with us regardless of the Nov. 3 result.  

This column is offered in memory of Sherle Schwenninger and Stephen Cohen, honorable friends.

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century” (Yale). Follow him on Twitter @thefloutist.His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site. 

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

Please Contribute to Consortium News’
25th Anniversary Fall Fund Drive

Donate securely with


Click on ‘Return to PayPal’ here

Or securely by credit card or check by clicking the red button:


13 comments for “PATRICK LAWRENCE: Mike Pompeo’s Cold-War Fever

  1. geeyp
    September 24, 2020 at 01:23

    I have wanted to see this current Secretary of State leave office for the longest time. Plenty of time to consider why he is still there. Hmmm.., he speaks the Democrats language of wanting war with (fill in the many choices). That’s it! He is still there so the Democrats don’t complain at least not with regards to him. So, he appeases them at least. If he did the opposite of what he does, can you imagine the outcry? The Democrats get off the President’s case in this one area. Gives President Trump a space to inhale/exhale.

  2. John
    September 23, 2020 at 20:17

    Mike Pompeo is proud to be a liar, a cheat and a thief. His boss, Donald Trump, is proud to be a murderer.

    • Buffalo_Ken
      September 24, 2020 at 11:35

      I doubt Trump is “proud to be a murderer”… just sort of goes with the office he holds these days.

      What was the psychological assessment….some kind of narcissist. Oh yeah “narcissistic personality disorder”. The same disorder about 50% of the elected individuals located in DC are suffering from probably. The rest of them are sick as well and I’m sure if I was a psychologist I could come up with some sort of disorder to describe them – each and every one. Of course there is a spectrum to it, there always is, and some have it worse then others based on one’s perspective of the spectrum. I mean Aspergers is just on one part of the spectrum of autism, but I don’t think we even understand what autism is, nor how it works in the brain. Regardless, consider the president – he is the epitome of this disorder….that being the disorder of a narcissistic personality. I sure hope he gets some help with his mental illness.

      For Pompeo, I hope he gets no help at all.

  3. Stan W.
    September 23, 2020 at 11:37

    There’s going to be four more years of Pompeo as Secretary of State.

  4. Anne
    September 23, 2020 at 09:42

    Thank you Patrick for this clear and all too depressingly dreadful realistic overview of the developing situation. Of Pompeo’s utter inhumanity – of course he is simply (a) representative of the MIC, corporate-capitalist-imperialist ruling elites’ profoundly Mammon-Moloch worshiping, deeply hypocritical worldview.

    (He makes abundantly clear that the form of religion he “follows” does all it can to ignore the first 4 gospels of their “sacred” book, instead concentrating on the OT and that “book” of revelations: absolutely no humanity, no moral or ethical conscience, no recognition of the shared humanity of ALL peoples on this planet.)

    Was he, do you think, forced on the Strumpet? After all the Stronald has gotten rid of numerous members of “his” admin because they appeared to go against his positions. Why has this warmongering, chicken-hawk bastard been able to remain in such a powerful position?

    And as you also make plain – little or nothing would change under Biden (even less under a likely Harris admin).

    Why does the electorate of this country (the majority of it anyway and largely among the well-educated sectors) ignore the annual obscenity that is the Military Budget and that fact that only a handful of legislators ever vote against it (or abstain)? To my mind they a) don’t give a f*** about what we do to other countries, peoples, not at all; b) don’t make, or refuse to, the connection (why not?) between this budget and the lack of free healthcare, schooling, decent affordable housing.

  5. Skip Scott
    September 23, 2020 at 08:21

    If Trump were serious about detente with Russia, he would not surround himself with people like Pompeo. Trumpers are always quick to claim that he has not started any new wars. Let’s see if that holds true through October. The war machine is chomping at the bit. What will happen when they go too far and one of our carriers goes down with all onboard? Will the sheeple once again rally around a “war president”? Will Pompeo finally get his Armageddon?

  6. rick
    September 23, 2020 at 07:06

    This overt display of Pompeis violent warmongering psyche (echoes of Doctor Strangelove) is a warning that the Anglo/American Empire and global capitalist system confronted by its serial nemesis may instinctively seek a resolution of its material contradictions in conflict and wars. The “War on Terror” suggests that epochal events like 9/11 were used as a catalyst for rearmament and redeployment while in the context of a totally controlled western MSM information warfare as a propaganda model has been refined and extended to wage an undeclared war on Russia since its intervention in the proxy war against the Syrian State. The Navalny poison plot is but the latest fabrication of this propaganda model and should be compared to a “John Le Carre” style novel replete with cold war overtones and containing actors or agents (members of Navalny’s staff) who worked for anti-Russian groups and foundations in London with suspected links to British Intelligence. It is no surprise to detect traces of British Intelligence secreted in the background reworking the WMD threat to polarise the German electorate, strengthen the right wing pro US lobby in the Bundestag and overtly derail Nord Stream 2. The common thread that runs through all the WDM incidents commencing with the chemical attacks in Syria the fabricated WMD attack on the Skripals and now the attack on Navalny is the British connection. The sudden death of James Le Mesurier (UK ex military founder of white helmets who staged and publicised the alleged chemical warfare attacks in Syria) the disappearance of the Skripals is a warning to Navalny that he is the latest propaganda exploit in a sustained campaign by UK intelligence agencies to criminalise and vilify Russia and its allies particularly in situations where Russian assets are invested and represent a threat to Western global interests and hegemony.

    • Lily
      September 23, 2020 at 11:16

      In 1989, after Michael Gorbatchew allowed the German reunification there was a fair chance to create peaceful terms with Russia. The reunification took place on the condition that the NATO would not move further to the east. Gorbatchew was too kind and too naive to insist on a written treaty.

      This wonderful opportunity was put aside as soon as Angela Merkel became Chancelor. She had seen President Bush before to assure him that Germany would have joined in the in the Irak War if she had been Chancellor at that time. Chancellor Gerhardt Schröder of the Social Democrates had refused this.

      Angela Merkel is the most loyal of the US vassels. Unfortunately there is no true opposition in German Politics neither in the Main Media. This is a great shame as German culture is linked closer to Russia than to US and UK. In World War II the Russians did not destroy the cathedral in Königsberg (Kaliningrad) because that would have meant to destroy the sculpture of Emmanuel Kant which is seated right in front of the cathedral. For a century the US and UK have tried to prevent peace between Germany an Russia.

      Now the NATO is in Poland as well as in the Baltic states and Putin has made it quite clear that – in case the US should attack Russia from their military bases in Germany- he would send his missiles not only to these but directly to the US as well. And he can do that.

  7. Jeff Harrison
    September 23, 2020 at 00:37

    Things are, indeed, bad but… This is straight out of a Tom Lehrer tune. Send the Marines from That’s the Year that Was which contains the line “They love us everywhere we go” and the US appears to actually believe that. But most of what we do anymore doesn’t float for long as actual democracy seems to be taking root in places. Pompous’ is likely to find Guyana and Suriname more likely to be seduced by Chinese cash (which the US doesn’t actually have much of where the ink is dry) than they are by his threats. Count Doqu in Columbia has lost his mentor Uribe to corruption and house arrest and Bolsonaro has been boosted over the pandemic but at the cost of probably blowing up Brazil’s economy. We may have gotten the execrable Morales chased out of office through our typical chicanery but it seems that Mr. Morales isn’t execrable to the Bolivians and our right wing puppet has dropped out. Even in Venezuela, our “interim president” Guido can’t get a break in the Legislature.

    The rest of it does scare the s–t out of me. Iran could easily mine the straits of Hormuz and, frankly, unless ships are out in the open sea, they’re pretty much just target practice for shore based weapons. Aircraft carriers are bigger and easier to hit. That will get out of hand because the US won’t tolerate getting its teeth kicked in. For the rest, I really worry about the US dollar. We’re flying high because of the petrodollar. But China, the world’s largest buyer of oil has an oil futures market denominated, not in US$, but in gold backed Chinese Yuan. This will put a major dent in the petrodollar market. An oil market where you don’t need US$s is about the last thing that the US should want to see. The other major problem is that the Fed is blowing hot air into every financial bubble in the landscape. Their persistent quantitative easing, aka printing money, is likely eventually to cause the US to go from low interest rates to exorbitant rates at near light speed. And we haven’t yet considered what happens if China, whom we are abusing, starts to slowly unload the $1T in T-bonds, a billion here, a billion there and pretty soon the world is awash in American debt just as we need to borrow a ton of money for the one sided arms race the US is going to get in wherein we spend ourselves into penury.

    And we’re doing all this because we want to be able to tell everybody else how they have to live. Dumb.

  8. Aaron
    September 22, 2020 at 20:59

    There were some folks yesterday at a rally holding signs “Jesus is my Savior, Trump is my President”. I doubt if any of them could even find any of these countries on a map, much less have any understanding of the danger their Secretary of State is creating. Not a good situation going on. Netanyahu will push Pompeo to get the U.S. into a war with Iran, and I don’t think Biden would oppose it if that were to happen. It’s sad but true. Seems like those things always start with some kind of false flag event, and then the public supports the lies.

  9. September 22, 2020 at 17:53

    I may be mistaken but my recollection is earlier in the year after an absolutely illegal assassination (as all assassinations are) Iran demonstrated that their missiles could cause focused damage.

    Pompeo presumably knows this, and therefore he is delusional. This happens sometimes to Christians who have lost their way.

    Could somebody please explain this to him so that he understands.

    Otherwise, could somebody please take care of this ridiculous problem that we all see so clearly. It is obvious.

    Simple. Please, lets solve this problem shall we?

    Pompeo is the worst sort of puppet. He is a puppet to himself.

    • paul
      September 23, 2020 at 22:51

      Pompeo is just one of a kind. He typifies the egregious leadership we see throughout the contemporary western world. Trump, Clinton, Bolton, May, Merkel, Macron, Johnson, Trudeau. It is the same wherever you look. Arrogant, venal, corrupt, mendacious, irredeemably ignorant, delusional, ideologically driven and psychopathic. Western countries have the worst leadership in their history.

      • Buffalo_Ken
        September 24, 2020 at 10:40

        Paul – I agree with one exception.

        I don’t think Pompeo is “one of a kind”. I think he is just the epitome of a bully. He is an exceptional bully. Exceptional at causing suffering for others and his amazing lack of empathy – how far apart from the Christ he proclaims to worship could that be? Nothing sets me off more than a bully and I’ve learned how to deal with them. Oh wait, nothing besides maybe “Calvinist” ideology – man I have hated that since I was a kid.

        Hypothetically, if Pompeo was in front of me just now, I would let him have it and he would suddenly become flustered, bamboozled, and at a loss for words because he would be alone with me without all his support that props him up. Just me and him. Later on, he would become lame in his mind and unable to act. Whether he meets me or not (it ain’t gonna happen…ha, ha), the sooner he is removed from a position of authority the better it will be for ALL of us because he is the worst sort of fake Christian…….

        I’ll tell you this though, if somebody punched him in his bloated face, what do you think would happen? I reckon it depends on who throws the punch. Why is it that bullies so often are so bloated and rotund in the face and body? Hmm. Maybe it genetic, but even if it is, that is no defense.

Comments are closed.