Sen. John McCain accused Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday of abandoning the goal of using U.S. influence to promote western values around the world, and said Tillerson sent a "dangerous" signal that the U.S. is no longer a "beacon of hope" to those fighting for human rights.
In Wednesday remarks to State Department employees, Tillerson said if the U.S. conditions its national security efforts on other countries adopting our values, "we probably can't achieve our national security goals or our national security interests."
"If we condition too heavily that others must adopt this value that we've come to over a long history of our own, it really creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests, our economic interests," he added.
"With those words, Secretary Tillerson sent a message to oppressed people everywhere: Don't look to the United States for hope," McCain responded in a New York Times op-ed.
"Our values make us sympathetic to your plight, and, when it's convenient, we might officially express that sympathy," McCain wrote, interpreting Tillerson's remarks. "But we make policy to serve our interests, which are not related to our values. So, if you happen to be in the way of our forging relationships with your oppressors that could serve our security and economic interests, good luck to you. You're on your own."
McCain said Tillerson ignores the idea that the U.S. is a "country with a conscience" that believes "moral concerns must be an essential part of our foreign policy, not a departure from it."
"To view foreign policy as simply transactional is more dangerous than its proponents realize," he added. "Depriving the oppressed of a beacon of hope could lose us the world we have built and thrived in. It could cost our reputation in history as the nation distinct from all others in our achievements, our identity and our enduring influence on mankind."