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The Virtues of a Conservative

The Virtues of a Conservative

Michael R. Pompeo

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The American family, the faith we have in God and country, and hard work ─ fused with moral courage and introspection ─ built our nation into the greatest force for good the world has ever known. Unless we act now to assert faith and morality, our nation cannot be strong. And if America is not strong, the world will be at the mercy of tyrants and enter an era we dare not imagine.

I am forever grateful I came of age to serve my country during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Four decades ago, before my appointment to the Unit-ed States Military Academy at West Point, I studied the life of my future Commander-in-Chief. Ronald Reagan came to define my conception ─ and that of my entire class ─ of what it means to be an American.

Though Ronald Reagan oversaw the rebuilding of America’s military, he did so in order that our nation would attain peace through strength. Our fortieth president hated war. He thus set an indelible stan-dard that graduates of West Point must always be soldiers of peace.

While seeking a graduate scholarship, I was asked, by the Chairman of the Board of Regents of the University of California, why there was no peace acade-my. I answered, “That’s the school I go to,” and that there were five, the United States Military Academy, the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy and those of the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine. And for us all, peace will always be our profession.

In January 2021, I designated Cuba, a state spon-sor of terrorism. It was the right thing to do.

Now, all our hearts must be one with brave Cuban patriots. All Americans who love freedom stand with the sons and daughters of Cuba who seek free-dom. God bless them in their fight.

When I was elected to Congress, made Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and later confirmed as Secretary of State, my thoughts, concerning the challenges I would face, placed before me Presi-dent Reagan’s image, for he exemplified a nobili-ty of spirit, without which no leader can command. Known for his incomparable humor, President Rea-gan, after a phone call with the Soviet head of state, said to his staff, “We’ve made a breakthrough in our proposal to rid the world of nuclear weapons. General Secretary Andropov agreed to meet us halfway. He agreed to zero for our side.”

This vision, backed by crippling sanctions on the Soviet economy and its planned natural gas pipeline to the West, caused that empire’s dissolution and military concessions that other-wise would have been inconceivable. Presi-dent Reagan’s statecraft informed what President Trump and I did to cur-tail Iran’s nuclear abili-ties. It also provided the template for our actions to contain Vladimir Putin.

Unfortunately, what we accomplished has been cast aside by the deep state that is Washington. In their backdoor negotiations with Iran and in their elimina-tion of our sanctions to inhibit Russia from supplying natural gas to Germany, they have put our world at risk.

What would Ronald Reagan do if faced with the world of today, for our nation is divided? I do not claim to have a complete answer, but I believe I know the path this giant would chart, for it would begin with faith.

Faith has been my strength. Without God’s grace, it is immensely difficult for a soldier to lead his brothers and sisters into battle, for the sacrifices that may be demanded exceed any recompense in this world. To those serving in harm’s way, it is the certain knowledge of everlasting life after this exis-tence that conveys undaunted courage to the weary and implacable resolve to the reticent. It imbues fearlessness.

This is the truth George Washington un-derstood when he com-manded a force of farmers, hunters, and merchants to victory over the great-est army and navy in the world. This is the wis-dom Ronald Reagan ex-pressed when he defeated the undefeatable ─ the evil empire that was the Soviet Union ─ without war, but with a heart full of faith. We must draw on these immortal examples if we are to meet the grave challenges we now face as a people.

To reclaim America, there is no more important resource than the churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples that grace our land. There is no more important need than to hear their voices state: We must return to our moral core, lest all be lost.

America must restore its character, its leadership, and its exceptionalism. The enunciation of faith is paramount. Our proclamation within the halls of power that God’s relationship is with the individual and not the collective is essential.

Fellowship and mutual respect are born from this realization, for our spirits are the creation of God, and what is of God must never be disrespected, no matter our station or accomplishments in life. We, as conservatives, need to communicate our belief that everyone is endowed with dignity that must be respected because we all bear the mark of the Creator.

This principle is the means to bring our divided country together without hatred or acrimony. It is also an idea that statists reject. This is their Achil-les’ heel and is revealed by the actions of privileged elites who applaud what they, themselves, would not do, as they use and take advantage of those they pretend to support.

True conservatism in America declined after the Reagan presidency. The administration of which I was a part brought grit, populism, and disruptive innovation to revivify conservative principles.

I am proud to have helped President Trump destroy ISIS and its leadership, for we saved innu-merable lives and ended unendurable suffering.

I am proud we terminated the Joint Comprehen-sive Plan of Action ─ the Iran nuclear deal ─ that would have aided this terrorist nation to amass the resources to build nuclear weapons as well as the means to deliver them.

I am proud we took decisive action to end the reign of terror of Qasem Soleimani, who headed Iran’s murderous Quds Force, and that we reintroduced sanctions against this fanatic regime.

I am proud we moved our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, for our demonstration of resolve and unalterable support for Israel encouraged four Mus-lim-majority nations to make peace with this Jewish state.

And I am proud we faced down China, to hold them to account for the Wuhan virus, their orches-trated cover-up that poisoned the world, and China’s ongoing theft of American technology and, most critically, American jobs.

A nation’s history is determined one decision at a time. Though the Trump administration’s domestic and foreign policy achievements were numerous, the Left seized upon the president’s presentation to disrupt his term and thwart his chances for reelection.

Since the end of World War II, America has made many correct decisions, bringing democratic institutions to former enemies and unprecedented economic security to much of the world. We averted global nuclear war, but we have also faltered.

Too many times, we have forgotten that our great-est gift to other nations is our example, not our force of arms. At home, we have tarnished our institutions and have compromised our belief in limited government and the necessity for the separation of powers.

We have allowed our courts to legislate, the exec-utive to dictate, and Congress to exceed the bounds of its constitutional authorities. Chicago, New York, and especially Washington symbolize a dysfunction that is grasped by friend and foe alike.

The present crisis cannot be papered over. We have an obligation to our children to restore what we have lost. In studying our history to map our future, we, as a movement, we, as a party, must re-introduce our nation to conservatism.

Today, all of us stand upon a promontory from which we may survey our nation’s history: the good, the bad, the fair, and the unjust. We do not shirk any aspect of our history, nor are we ashamed ─ for we have overcome, we have prevailed, and we have foresworn that which is corruptive of America’s most reverent ideals.

Joy and hope must transcend our nation’s present deterio-ration and discord. It is with this understanding and respect for our past that we must once again openly profess our faith, our devotion to our families, and proclaim, unapologetically, the words, “I am an American.”

We must not look upon our opponents in anger, for it is both ablative to virtue and corrosive to judgement. James Madison, the father of our Constitution, believed that both openness and boldness, but not rancor, were vital for effective leadership. Abraham Lin-coln did not look upon his many adversaries and detractors in fury, but in righteousness, for it was in righteousness that King David thanked a loving God, who fortified and ennobled him. Psalm 41:12 recites David’s gratitude, “Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever.”

Today, many politicians state publicly that integrity is priceless. Is this the reason why so many demonstrate they can’t afford it?

Virtues are developed through God’s grace and are the foundation of our Republic and of all hu-man happiness. Frederick Douglass stated, “The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.” Frederick Douglass said these words on the occasion of the twenty-third anniversary of the Emancipation of the District of Columbia. No truer statement has ever been spoken.

The antidote to strife is virtue. America’s virtues are not represented by our wealth. Our virtues are our wealth.

America is strongest when we act according to our founding documents, which faith has imbued. We are weakest when we disregard this priceless heritage. There are many virtues, but today I will focus on four, which I believe define conservatism and must delineate the Republican Party, for it is these qualities that will permit our nation to vanquish threats of unparalleled scope and danger, which include internal collapse, China’s reach, terrorism fueled by Iran, and new risks, just now beginning to be understood.

The first virtue is vision. What is often most difficult to envision is that which is before our gaze.

Presuppositions distort what we see to the extent that two observers of the same facts may differ in every de-tail of what they recall. Indeed, Congress resembles a carnival funhouse, for its partisan mirrors distort, com-press, or enlarge critical issues that could otherwise be resolved if only they could be observed genuinely.

Narratives have replaced reality. Deprecating fictions concerning the establishment of our nation are presented as fact.

Rather than seek truth, those who seek pow-er demand subservience to stories propagated by disingenuous elites and spewed by unscrupulous politicians enabled by the Internet and social me-dia. The result is a nation separated from truth, but bound by narratives that superficially support the dispossessed, but actually enrich America’s new ruling class ─ the woke billionaire, the star, or the politician ─ who believe they are entitled to control the lives of others, though they often have trouble controlling their own. This politburo of false virtue believes they are smarter than everyone else, but in their arrogance, this wealthy and privileged group betrays itself to be destitute, for no government, no elite, and no authority has ever created prosperity and happiness by making itself lord over men and women born free.

Another attribute of vision is finding a path for-ward into a future that cannot be known, but must be faced. “The challenge of statesmanship is to have the vision to dream of a better, safer world and the courage, persistence, and patience to turn that dream into reality.” These words, spoken by Ronald Reagan, cannot be improved, but must be observed.

The second virtue is hope. The party, which constitutes our opposition, seeks to divide our nation and has returned to its roots by generating political power through racial discord and exploitation. Through these means, radicals hope to take from us the joy and pride we have in our country. This they will not do.

Where there is no joy or pride, hope is forfeit. Where there is no hope, the value and the sanctity of life are diminished and may vanish.

No nation is faultless, but no nation has pondered and has tried to correct its faults more than the United States. We are proud, for we are free, but in this realization, we are obliged to be humble, for we know our strength comes from our obedience to God and the inalienable rights He has bestowed upon each of us.

The third virtue is gratitude. It is extended to those who provided our inheritance of both liberty and abundance, which we must enlarge and convey to the next generation. When we think of gratitude, it is thanks for some past act or kindness that comes to mind. I believe the most powerful form of gratitude, however, is that which is extended into the future to exist throughout time.

Imagine a young infantryman of seventeen who died while serving in the Continental Army at York-town: What would this boy not have given to be part of the America of today, to enjoy the plenty and free-dom that each of us possesses? We owe it to this leader in liberty, who gave his life so America could be born, to cherish the values he has bequeathed to us.

Imagine a proud mother of two daughters, born into slavery, who perished establishing a new route for the Underground Railroad: What would this courageous woman not have given to see her children raised in the freedom and opportunities of today, rather than to the life of burden she knew? We owe it to all Americans who lived and died under the yoke of oppression to celebrate what we have. For, in doing so, we honor their memory and their many sacrifices, for a nation is not forged in perfection, but evolves according to its people and its principles.

Last, imagine a Choctaw warrior in 1918, serving in the American Expeditionary Force during the assault on Forest Farm in France. Aware from his elders’ oral histories of the broken treaties and grievous losses suffered by his people, and knowing that Native Americans could not yet vote in our national elections, this incomparably selfless man nonetheless used his tribe’s unique language to confound the German force before him, becoming one of our nation’s first code talkers.

This gallant action helped bring victory to an American army. By his deeds, this Choctaw soldier demonstrated that while the past informs the present, it must never be an obstacle to a better, more vibrant future.

History is the sum total of actions both good and bad, brave and irresolute; it cannot be parsed and strained to remove parts that are offensive, for to do so is to rob our past of the richness and complexity that built the road to our present day.

These three stories, to which the names of many of our forebears may be applied, represent the giants who formed the foundation upon which our nation rests. I asked you to imagine what these three persons would not have given to have been part of the America of today, yet I do not believe any would have given up their place in history if in so doing they would have altered our country’s character.

For, as in each of our lives, our sorrows, our joys, our failings, and our accomplishments form what we will become. So it is with America.

Without our belief in a loving God Who forgives our sins, who among us would have the moral cour-age to peer into his or her own heart to discover and to begin to correct the wrongs we have committed. The fourth virtue is forgiveness.

It is through forgiveness that we advance as one united people. It is in majesty that we observe the course of our Republic and the nature of the men and women who are its people. For we are all des-tined to sin, but we are blessed with the courage as a nation to acknowledge our sins, to fight to right them, to overcome what is wrong, and to reflect on our journey to righteousness, which is forever in-complete, but must always be constant.

I submit to you that these four virtues must de-fine conservatism and the Republican Party. Indeed, they must define America. With intrepidity, we must marshal these qualities to confront extraordinary challenges.

Collapse from within is possible. Race and open borders have become levers for the Left to sow societal disunity. Immigration without assimilation, illicit drugs, human trafficking, disputed elections, and inflationary risk have become tools to disassemble our Republic. In what must be an attempt at national suicide, we allow MS-13 assassins to pass through our borders with gang tattoos covering their faces while we are lectured to by our media for our obstinacy.

The Marxist theoretician Antonio Gramsci considered freedom, servitude. He endeavored to res-cue communism by positing that Western values are cultural hegemony. Western values have brought democratic institutions, technology, and a vast array of achievements to the world.

Gramsci died years ago, so I ask, why are our children taught lessons that derive from his invalidated notions? The histories of our heroes should, instead, be taught, so students may comprehend the potential for excellence that exists within every per-son ─ especially themselves.

Dr. Norman Borlaug, born in 1914, created the green revolution. President Carter wrote that Dr. Borlaug did more than any “individual in history in the battle to end world hunger,” for he developed the high-yield wheat and agricultural practices that averted starvation in Mexico, India, Pakistan, China, and Africa.

In destitute villages the world over, Norman Borlaug did not see race, religion, or color. He asked but one question, do these people have enough food? In so doing, he saved more lives than any person who ever lived.

He was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and countless accolades from around the globe, but his accomplishments are taught infrequently, if at all, in our public schools. This must change.

We dwell on our faults as if they were unique and not ubiquitous to every land that has ever existed. When will we teach our children of America’s triumphs?

Our country is tearing itself apart and for what? Anarchy and the elimination of our police cannot but bring us death and fear. Discrimination cannot be fought with more discrimination. And the form of socialism that is now being praised by woke politicians and billionaires will bring our democracy to its knees by culling dissenting opinions while concealing harmful biases in search engines and in social media platforms. If we do not act to secure our elections, demand voter ID, and end online manipulation, we will be governed by forces beyond our control.

Who will benefit? Not America, but an array of global interests that has amassed power and un-countable wealth through their usurpation of the American dream. This was done by selling or commoditizing the engines of our economy. Whole industries were moved to China.

President Trump and I stemmed this tide. We formulated trade policies that brought unmatched numbers of manufacturing jobs back to America.

We established energy independence through regulatory reform, unleashing America’s dynamism. And we addressed intellectual property theft, critical material, and supply chain insecurities, saving jobs that belong here and must never again be allowed to be stolen. This progress, however, has now been countermanded.

China’s fusion of business and government has become the model for monopolistic corporations that seek permanent market dominance. Continuous surveillance, uniformity, and indoctrination mean stability and growth for the most powerful companies in history.

This is the reason why the same entities that exploit slave labor in China, lecture us at home about racism. Do they not hear the cries of Uighur mothers whose babies are torn from their wombs?

If our press were fair-minded, it would expose this deceit, but they are owned, and they are bought, and they are silent. When dominant social media platforms can suspend and then ban a president of the United States, too much power is in the hands of too few.

To change the present course, we must inform our citizens of threats to liberty designed to be subtle or unseen, and we must eliminate the constellation of laws and regulations that has granted these corporations almost unlimited unearned power and wealth. Use of our antitrust statutes and the termination of Section 230, which gives blanket protections to many Internet companies, are good places to start.

The People’s Republic of China represents an existential threat to the United States. Whether the virus that savaged the world came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology or not, the Communist Party of China’s allowance of international travel from that city while permitting almost no internal travel from that source is an unpardonable act. We must demand concrete answers concerning the origin of a virus that has caused immense suffering and death.

China nearly possesses the combination of wealth, strength, and population required to unseat the United States as the most powerful nation on earth. We counted on our military and other forms of power to maintain our preeminence. These attributes are now in question.

The Chinese Navy is ascendant. China has stolen trillions of dollars in technology from the United States and our allies during the last fifteen years. The extent of this theft has enabled dramatic in-creases in the lethality of their arms.

We still hold an edge across all our services, but unless we fundamentally improve military procurement and our means of technical education, our superiority may soon vanish. Waste, politics, and irresolution have no place in America’s armed forces. Our procurement process, however, is marked by the development of weapon systems that are produced in inadequate numbers or cancelled be-fore a single operational unit is fielded.

This is done to fool the public into believing a new administration is saving money, when the opposite is true. Both parties stand guilty. In this century, tens of billions of dollars have been wasted. New tanks, howitzers, and helicopters cancelled by the military branch in which I served demonstrate this issue’s enormity.

Weapons are of use only if they are in the hands of our forces. The answer is massive, incentive-based restructuring of defense procurement.

Apathy thwarts change. To move forward we must eliminate entire levels of bureaucracy, beginning within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. I observed our bureaucracies firsthand at the Department of State. They are bloated, unwieldy, and, at times, anti-constitutional in their deference to illegitimate influences or forces. Unionized, blatantly woke, and dominated by the Left, bureaucracies must be brought to heel, if they are to serve.

To be strong we must never politicize or indoctrinate our military. We must enhance our alliances and form a new pact to contain China, building upon the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, to which India, Australia, Japan, and the United States are party.

Before COVID, our media, our popular culture, our universities, and our international businesses had been forces for democratic development and market creation through-out the globe. This is no longer universally true.

China has infiltrated Hollywood, academia, our technology companies, and the conglomerates that control America’s media, publishing, and news sources. Our strength has been turned against us.
Communist influence must be eliminated in our country ─ root and branch. This is why I acted to shutter Confucius Institutes at our universities by designating them foreign missions. This is why I closed the Chinese consulate in Houston.

We must impose proportionate costs on Beijing. Strength is what China understands, and we are showing little of it.

China constructed its first overseas military base in Djibouti in 2017. From that nation’s location near the southern approach to the Suez Canal, the Chinese Navy can affect trade. Coupled with other regional redoubts, China, for the first time in history, is positioning itself as a global military power.

Most crucially, China is empowering Iran, having inaugurating a multi-decade strategic partnership. Though this compact may be viewed as part of China’s new imperialism, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, it is far more treacherous.

Terrorism and disintegration in the Middle East support the interests of Beijing and Tehran as well as Moscow. For China, terrorism instigated by Iran diverts American military capabilities. Iran’s active nuclear weapons program compounds this danger and has been supported surreptitiously by China for decades.

For Iran, its ties to the East constitute an invaluable source of dual-use technology, much of it stolen from the United States and our allies. China also represents a secure market for oil that could other-wise be subject to embargo.

A resurgent Iran now has a free hand to set loose the terrorists who constitute Hamas and Hezbollah. The present administration has removed sanctions that we imposed, to restart negotiations to limit what Iran will never willingly limit: its nuclear weapons program.

This militant state threatens not only Israel and world energy supplies, but the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. Hamas’s recent assault on Israel would not have occurred if America’s support for this Jewish state had not been altered by ambiguous statements and outreach to Israel’s enemies.

President Trump and I recognized that America’s relationship with Israel must be unshakable to con-strain Iran’s objectives and those of its confederates. If America and Israel act as one, the opponents of peace understand that they will never attain victory.

Before the Trump administration, the status of Jerusalem had been a diplomatic chess piece. It is not. It is the eternal capital of the Jewish people. Our decisive action in moving our embassy to Jerusalem demonstrated determination and in so doing re-moved an obstacle to the Abraham Accords, which saw four Muslim-majority nations make peace with Israel.

American energy dominance was absolutely critical to our efforts to enshrine peace and security in the Middle East. We have the means to be a net energy exporter of fossil fuels and advanced fission power plants.
Sadly, the production of American energy is now being dismembered on an altar of radical environ-mentalism. Does the Left not know that a combination of fossil fuels and nuclear power is the only means to provide enough energy, clean water, and sanitation for the many cities in Africa now experiencing explosive growth that will last throughout this century?

By the year 2100, many of the planet’s most populated cities, projected to comprise 700 million people, will be in sub-Saharan Africa. If energy supplies are inadequate, war, pestilence, extremism, and exodus will result.

Renewable sources of energy can only be supplementary, for their production is intermittent. Defacing many once-beautiful landscapes, the blades of colossal windmill farms act as scythes, eviscerating countless birds. Even our national symbol, the eagle, is not spared, for their death in the thousands was allowed by the Obama administration.

Is this the environmentalism we were promised?

I have spoken of three threats we all recognize. But new dangers to freedom appear constantly. Pandemics, genetic engineering, cyberwarfare, power-grid disruptions, and strong artificial intelligence will change our world. In the coming months, I will address each of these risks and offer policies that can lead our nation to security and prosperity in a world of extraordinary technological expansion.

Vision is the key to meeting these and other challenges. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev established the foundations for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor program during their summit in 1985.

Now being built, this project will explore the production of fusion energy. If successful, Ronald Reagan’s vision will, in this century, bring the heart of the sun’s power to our planet. Truly clean energy will finally exist in infinite supply.

This was imagination. This was exceptionalism. Since we cannot find this type of prescience and grit in our government today, we must take back the House, the Senate, and the presidency to create it.
The great poem, “The Ruin,” written more than one thousand years ago, records the remnants of Ro-man Britain, which was built centuries earlier, but lost to time, “This masonry is wondrous; fates broke it; courtyard pavements were smashed; the work of giants is decaying.”

This must never be the future of America. Events may have pushed our nation into a furnace, but the Book of Daniel tells us that people of faith cannot be harmed by such a test.

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