Steve Coll on the Tillerson Pick Plus Excerpt From ‘Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power’

Posted: 1:11 am ET
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Steve Coll writes in The New Yorker that Trump’s reported pick of Tillerson as Secretary of State is “astonishing on many levels.”

As an exercise of public diplomacy, it will certainly confirm the assumption of many people around the world that American power is best understood as a raw, neocolonial exercise in securing resources.
Compared to the records of some of the other people around Trump, Tillerson’s is at least one of professional integrity; Exxon is a ruthless and unusually aggressive corporation, but it is also rule-bound, has built up a relatively strong safety record, and has avoided problems such as prosecutions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, even though it operates in many countries that are rife with corruption.
In his career at ExxonMobil, Tillerson has no doubt honed many of the day-to-day skills that a Secretary of State must exercise: absorbing complex political analysis, evaluating foreign leaders, attending ceremonial events, and negotiating with friends and adversaries. Tillerson is a devotee of Abraham Lincoln, so perhaps he has privately harbored the ambition to transform himself into a true statesman, on behalf of all Americans. Yet it is hard to imagine, after four decades at ExxonMobil and a decade leading the corporation, how Tillerson will suddenly develop respect and affection for the American diplomatic service he will now lead, or embrace a vision of America’s place in the world that promotes ideals for their own sake, emphatically privileging national interests over private ones.

Read in full here.  Steve Coll is the author of the book on ExxonMobil, excerpt below courtesy of Kindle Preview:




Insider Quote: The Business of US Mission India?

Is business.

Here is the notable quote:

“This helps me to emphasize a point I intend to make again and again: the business of the U.S. Mission in India is business.”

Remarks by Ambassador Nancy J. Powell at the American Chamber of Commerce’s 20th Annual General Meeting (As Prepared for Delivery)
New Delhi | April 27, 2012

A paraphrase of the most famous “misquotation” (according to the CC Memorial Foundation) of Calvin Coolidge’s “The Business of America is Business?”

Which makes me think of two things – one, it’ll be a lot easier this year to solicit contributions from American companies, or local outlets of U.S. companies in India for the US Embassy’s Fourth of July big bang do.

And two, it’s not so surprising that economic statecraft is coming back big time, after all, did it ever go away? Steve Coll has a new book, and put out an excerpt in about U.S. foreign policy, brought to you by ExxonMobil:

“As part of the research for “Private Empire,” I filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the U.S. State Department seeking embassy cables and other documents about how the Bush administration managed ExxonMobil’s position in the Aceh conflict. The cables revealed a startling series of episodes in which the administration worked with ExxonMobil in Indonesia to extract the corporation from the conflict and reduce the violence that was destabilizing Indonesia’s fledgling democratic order. In one episode previously unreported, the Bush administration threatened to designate G.A.M. as a terrorist organization if it did not stop attacking ExxonMobil’s property and personnel. The excerpt below, from a chapter titled “Do You Really Want Us as An Enemy?” describes what happened.” –Steve Coll

Active links added above.  It is not a pretty read, really, especially if you joined the service to change the world; this world, I mean.

Oh, and I just thought of a third thing – it’s probably time to update the State Department’s Mission Statement:

“Shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.”
–From the FY 2011 Agency Financial Report, released November 2011

And then I don’t have any more thought, thank goodness!

Domani Spero