Mattis Beseeches Pacific Officials to ‘Bear With Us’

In Environment, Military and War On
- Updated

No sooner had Mr. Mattis finished his address than he was thrust into the uncomfortable position of defending White House policy decisions on trade, climate science and burden-sharing in a spirited question-and-answer session.

An Australian questioner wanted to know if the United States, which shelved the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and withdrew from the climate accord, was bringing about the destruction of the very global order Mr. Mattis was championing.

It was only the first question about the America’s new role in the world, which led Mr. Mattis to loyally defend Mr. Trump while trying to soothe anxieties. Trying to reassure his audience, Mr. Mattis argued that the American public had generally accepted that the country has global responsibilities despite occasional frustrations about the burden.

“To quote a British observer of us from some years ago, bear with us,” Mr. Mattis said. “Once we have exhausted all possible alternatives, the Americans will do the right thing,” he continued, invoking a famous quote by Winston Churchill.

“So we will still be there, and we will be there with you,” he added.

At another point, Mr. Mattis implored his audience to understand that just because the United States had backed away from the multilateral Pacific trade agreement “does not mean we are turning our back” on the prospect of negotiating bilateral trade agreements.

. . .

“What a crummy world, if we all retreat inside our own borders,” he said. “Like it or not, we are part of the world.”

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