Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spelled out the new policy in a speech at the Nixon Library in California on 23 July. But instead, he undermined his own international standing and that of the Trump administration, Freeman, who served as President Bill Clinton's Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, said.
"The speech itself was full of factual distortions and willful misrepresentations of the past," Freeman said. "It will have lowered Mr. Pompeo's already very low prestige abroad and added to skepticism about the veracity of American officialdom in general. Whatever this is, it is not a foreign policy but an instance of domestic demagoguery."
Freeman said Pompeo's speech was not a statement of any coherent foreign policy but instead an expression of hostile prejudices and emotions.
"Pompeo was not making a foreign policy speech or outlining a strategy for dealing with China. He was speaking cathartically for all those who have bought into or might buy into the China-as-universal-scapegoat basis of the Trump reelection campaign," he said.
Pompeo sought in his speech to create a new international coalition against China but he had to have recognized that such a grouping was not feasible, Freeman pointed out.
"He made a perfunctory appeal for international support against China, knowing full well that almost no foreign nation or people would offer it," he said.
Pompeo's true objective was to recover the sagging conservative base for President Donald Trump's re-election campaign this year, but he also wanted to co-opt that base for his own future campaign to become president, Freeman observed.
"It is clear that he is more interested in visiting ... Iowa (the state which launches the presidential campaign cycle with its caucuses) for political purposes than he is in acting as America's chief diplomat. Mr. Pompeo cannot go home to run for office in Kansas. His answer to this embarrassment is to position himself to succeed Trump," Freeman said.
Pompeo introduced the phrase "distrust but verify" as a guideline for dealing with China diplomatically. But the term was backfiring as it reflected the growing widespread distrust of the United States around the world instead, Freeman said.
"'Distrust but verify' is a standard that the world has been forced by the rhetoric of this sort to begin to apply to the United States. This is a sad end for a country that began its life by proclaiming decent respect for the opinions of mankind," he said.
The hubris behind the assumption that foreign opinion does not matter was a recent departure from the American tradition, Freeman recalled.
"But then, as Mr. Pompeo's many experiments with hypocrisy have amply demonstrated, that tradition has been slain by contemporary rightwing populism, which corrodes the competence of government even as it attempts to deny empiricism, which is the basis for both truth and realism," he said.
Pompeo's speech would have no lasting foreign policy validity, Freeman predicted.
"Mr Pompeo delivered a speech that will live on only in the minds of bigots and bullies. He represents no one other than the Trump cabal and its dupes and his own presumptions and ambitions," he said.
Chas Freeman served in the State and Defense Departments in many different capacities over the course of 30 years.