Appearing on CBS’s Late Show With Stephen Colbert on Tuesday, aired early Wednesday morning, former Obama administration State Department official turned journalist Ronan Farrow condemned the United States for “becoming a nation that shoots first and asks questions later” when it comes to foreign policy. He also warned that President Trump’s nominee to be the next Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, would be a “willing executioner of the State Department.”
On to promote his new book, War on Peace, Farrow fretted: “America is undergoing a transformation right now. We are dismissing our diplomats and our peacemakers and our negotiators in droves....in conflict after conflict, we are becoming a nation that shoots first and asks questions later, or not at all in some cases.”
Later in the exchange, he added: “Instead of a system where our peacemakers and negotiators spare our brave servicemen and women from going head-long into conflicts, the first solution is military.”
After noting that Farrow “talked to every living former secretary of state” for the book, Colbert wondered if he spoke with the incoming head of the department: “Did you talk to Mike Pompeo?” Farrow admitted that the CIA Director and soon-to-be chief diplomat was “a question mark in this book,” but still speculated on what his tenure would be like:
And what we know about him is that he’s more hawkish than Rex Tillerson. We know that he’s in lockstep with the President on the Iran deal. Which Tillerson had pushed back on the President’s efforts to get out of the Iran deal. All evidence seems to point to the fact that he will be a much more willing executioner of the State Department.
However, he did note that many career diplomats he spoke to “see him as having an opportunity to reverse the nosedive the State Department is in.”
Appearing on ABC’s Good Morning America on Wednesday, Farrow explained how it wasn’t always easy to arrange interviews with “every living former secretary of state.” Ironically, despite working for years in Hillary Clinton’s State Department, the reporter admitted that she was the hardest person to talk to for the book. The failed Democratic presidential nominee was apparently afraid Farrow would grill her about her longtime friend and campaign donor Harvey Weinstein, whom Farrow exposed as a sexual predator.
Like in his sit-down with Colbert, Farrow told GMA co-host George Stephanopoulos that he feared the direction U.S. foreign policy was headed: “We are becoming a nation that doesn’t have negotiators or peacemakers in many, many places around the world. And in those places, we are shooting first and asking questions later.”
Introducing an interview with Farrow on Tuesday’s CBS This Morning, co-host John Dickerson proclaimed: “Journalist Ronan Farrow looks at the long-term decline of the State Department and what he calls the growing militarization of U.S. foreign policy.”
While Farrow did take the Obama administration to task for its handling of foreign affairs, co-host Gayle King was most concerned about the current administration:
And I think you raised, Ronan, some very troubling things about what’s happening in the Trump administration. You said from the very first day, that it really was – the transition was a big joke. They were basically told, “Pack your bags,” and that even as we sit here today, there’s so many positions that have not been filled. This is very, very concerning.
Farrow responded: “...we are becoming a nation without expertise, that shoots first and asks questions later a lot of the time....these characters in this ravaged profession....bravely trying to serve our country and getting kicked out en masse, as it turns out, in the first days of the administration...”
Before Mike Pompeo has even had a chance to take over as Secretary of State, the media have already deemed the Trump administration’s approach to foreign affairs a failure and painted Pompeo as someone who wants to “execute” the department he has been tasked with leading.
Well, at least they’re keeping an open mind.
Here are excerpts of Farrow’s exchange with Colbert, aired early on the morning of April 25:
12:17 AM ET
STEPHEN COLBERT: What is the War on Peace?
RONAN FARROW: America is undergoing a transformation right now. We are dismissing our diplomats and our peacemakers and our negotiators in droves. And all around the world, instead, we’re doing the work that those negotiators once did through the Pentagon and the C.I.A. And what that means is, in effect, in conflict after conflict, we are becoming a nation that shoots first and asks questions later, or not at all in some cases.
COLBERT: So, okay, what does that mean? How does the decline of the State Department create the decline of American influence?
FARROW: I was a junior State Department official in Afghanistan. And I saw when the Obama administration reviewed what the hell do we do in Afghanistan? And my boss at the time, Richard Holbrooke, who you knew –
FARROW: This larger-than-life veteran diplomat who had made peace in Bosnia, spent his last days decrying a process during that administration that he said was overtaken by “mil-think,” military thinking. And there are senior Obama administration officials in this book who are very frank about saying, “We were snowed by a culture of celebrity generals and the diplomats never got into the room.”
And what that means is you have a very skewed approach to problems. Instead of a system where our peacemakers and negotiators spare our brave servicemen and women from going head-long into conflicts, the first solution is military. And that’s a problem all over the world.
COLBERT: Back in the aughts, Dennis Kucinich, who was a congressman at the time, had introduced a bill calling for the development or the creation of a Department of Peace. And Willie Nelson was a fan of Kucinich’s, and I had Richard Holbrooke and Willy on the same night....Willie said to him, when the cameras were off, “Why don’t you create a Department of Peace? Don’t we need one?” And Holbrooke, who is a very tall man, looked down at Willy and he said, “Willie, we have one. It’s called the State Department, but it has to be used as such.” [Applause]
FARROW: Yeah. Thank you for applauding that.
COLBERT: That is – he was a great man and believed in peace and believed in diplomacy.
FARROW: It’s a misunderstood profession. I’m glad you raised that.
COLBERT: Yeah, what do people not understand about the State Department? Because I’m fascinated by these people who dedicate their lives to this.
FARROW: So often on the campaign trail it’s politically expedient to just denigrate our diplomats, you know? And there’s this image of the dusty bureaucrat who doesn’t get anything done. And for sure, I worked at the State Department, that place does not work all the time. It’s got problems, it needs reform. But what’s happening now is we’re just throwing it out. We’re not reforming it.
COLBERT: You talked to Tillerson – you talked to every living former secretary of state. What does Tillerson have to say about his – what some would call the dismantling of the apparatus of the State Department?
FARROW: He’s more candid here – and I’m very grateful to him for this – than he really has been before on the record. It’s one of his last interviews in his job. And he very openly, first of all, puts a lot of blame on the White House, says that they were cumbersome and they rejected all of his pleas to fill all of the many, many unfilled roles across the State Department. We have all these embassies that are just empty now.
COLBERT: Did you talk to Mike Pompeo?
FARROW: So Pompeo is a question mark in this book. And what we know about him is that he’s more hawkish than Rex Tillerson. We know that he’s in lockstep with the President on the Iran deal. Which Tillerson had pushed back on the President’s efforts to get out of the Iran deal. All evidence seems to point to the fact that he will be a much more willing executioner of the State Department. But I’ve got to say, I’ve been talking to many of the whistle-blowers who did a brave thing and went on the record in this book, and to a one, hope springs eternal. They see him as having an opportunity to reverse the nosedive the State Department is in.