It is not the first time that Tillerson has taken a back seat, and we can wager it will not be the last. Hillary Clinton, when she was secretary of state, often emphasized the importance of face-to-face meetings. It is no secret that the Trump administration plans to pare down the state department and de-emphasize diplomacy in general, but this kind of abdication of presence comes as a shock nevertheless.
Today, Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan led the U.S. delegation at the 47th Regular Session of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Cancun, Mexico.In his remarks to 33 heads of delegation from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada, Deputy Secretary Sullivan outlined U.S. goals for engagement in the Americas for mutual security and shared prosperity, the principles and values we share with fellow OAS member states, and our support for collective OAS action when these principles and values are threatened, such as in Venezuela.Read more >>>>
Multinational summits and assemblies are prime ground for networking among peers. For Tillerson to turn his back on 33 counterparts from our backyard smacks of lunkheaded isolationism on our part as a nation and betrays a dangerous consolidation of power and authority at the top.
Foreign ministers and secretaries of state knew, when they met with Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, that major concerns voiced to them would be passed on to the president. Depriving these officials of the opportunity to meet with Tillerson eliminates an important conduit.
Hillary Clinton's first appearance at an OAS GA coincided with a push on that body's part to readmit Cuba which Hillary opposed without strict conditions on human rights reform. She also, everywhere she went, made a point of meeting not only with officials but also with civic leaders and organizations.
You can read about some of her Latin American diplomacy here.
This was "smart power," as Hillary dubbed it. At summits and assemblies, the presence of the top official is key. Seems now we are reverting to a counter-productive foreign policy. All power is consolidated in the man at the top and excludes his official top diplomat. This is the Trump Doctrine: Stupid Power.