Rex Tillerson’s firing was necessary to national security

It’s been hard to find anyone in the White House to say a bad word about the character or personality of Rex Tillerson or a good word about his leadership at State. The friction between the White House personnel shop and Tillerson’s chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin, is the worst-kept secret inside the Beltway, and the glacial pace of staffing up the political ranks has angered national security conservatives. Those foreign policy wonks tend to admire the director of policy planning, Brian Hook, but look in vain around the department for anyone else with anything resembling a theory of the world on which to operate the world’s link to the United States.

Other key jobs remain unfilled, including the undersecretary for arms control and international security affairs and the U.S. representative to the U.N. mission in Geneva; both jobs have much to do with holding Iran to account to the deal struck under the Obama administration. The undersecretary for management is another empty office, even though veterans of the bureaucracy from past Republican presidents remain available.

Tillerson has also failed to push nominees for crucial ambassador posts, such as Richard Grenell as ambassador to Germany, the most important non-nuclear power in the world. Other important embassies, such as those in South Korea, Turkey and South Africa, lack even a nominee, though numerous and very qualified candidates abound. The paperwork gridlock of an isolated and uninfluential secretary of state brought the conservative pro-Trumpers and career State Department staff together in agreement that the department was a massive shipwreck.