Rex Tillerson

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Secretary of State for the United States

You are Rex Tillerson, the newly appointed Secretary of State of the United States of America. You were selected by President Donald Trump for your business acumen and worldwide presence, despite having no formal government experience. As a former CEO of Exxon Mobil, you have acquired great wealth and established connections with many world leaders, especially those in the Middle East and Russia. You are conservative, quick-thinking, and accustomed to being in charge. It is important that you maintain your assertive, bullish attitude while being aware that you are new to your position and government. It might not always be smooth sailing politically...


"In the case of the Palestinian leadership, while they have renounced violence, it is one thing to renounce it and another to take concrete action to prevent it. I think until there is a serious demonstration on their part that they are willing to do more than just renounce violence, it is very difficult to create conditions at the table for parties to have any productive discussion."

“Israel is, has always been, and remains our most important ally in the region.”

“The global free market for energy provides the most effective means of achieving U.S. energy security by promoting resource development, enabling diversification, multiplying our supply channels, encouraging efficiency, and spurring innovation.”

Roles and Responsibility of the Secretary of State

You are tasked with being the chief diplomat for the administration. You are the one who is to be engaged with direct negotiations with differing parties. A Secretary of State has a strong presence in the diplomatic sphere, their attention to a given problem demonstrating that the U.S. is deeply concerned with its resolution. The Secretary of State answers only to the President, meaning that when you speak, other actors listen intently. Your words carry great weight, as do your promises. This is something that you will have to remember; the Secretary of State speaks for the United States. You are often responsible for establishing policies for how the United States will conduct itself abroad. As head of the Department of State, you are responsible for managing all of the diplomatic efforts of the United States. While answerable to the President, your statements are generally taken as statements of policy for the United States. This gives you tremendous power in the international arena.

As a Secretary of State you must conduct yourself carefully. Because you are seen to be so important, your words can be tremendously damaging. A statement of support to the wrong person at the wrong time may be seen as the backing for an action you did not intend, or it may be made public to discredit the administration. You must make sure that you understand the problem and that you tailor each of your remarks carefully, in order to avoid making a potentially damaging gaffe. For this reason, the Senior Foreign Policy Advisor will be a close ally. Their remarks are considered nowhere near as binding as those of a Secretary of State. By working in close concert with the Senior Foreign Policy Advisor, you can ascertain what policies will float and which will sink, before committing yourself or the president.

It is also important to consider how you can support allies abroad. Because you carry so much prestige, a simple visit from you can serve to demonstrate that the United States supports a particular leader or a particular path. Every action you take must be well thought out and planned.

While the Senior Advisor is tasked with laying the foundation of negotiations, a Secretary of State is tasked with bringing abstract ideas into reality. While an envoy might speak in hypotheticals, such as, "Would Israel be willing to consider a one for one land trade in the area surrounding Jerusalem," the Secretary of State deals with concrete ideas, "Is Israel willing to accept a one for one land trade?" In negotiations, you are the last stop before the President of the United States is brought into negotiations. This means that you must advance negotiations and use the power of your presence and office to make both sides confront difficult realities. This also means that until you are ready to begin negotiating concrete resolutions, the Secretary of State generally works behind the scenes, and with the media.

The media will be your primary tool, outside of direct negotiations. The media will serve as an implement through which you can put large amounts of pressure on various actors. Your primary goal will be to get different actors to the table and ready to discuss real change. By using the media, you can support your Senior Advisor's actions by making it clear what the U.S. supports and what it does not. You can also support other actors who share the same position. The Secretary of State must also use the media as a means by which to rally other nations to the American cause. While the Senior Advisor may be focused on a specific task, you should look afield to find other nations who can lend you their voices and support. By using your prestige and power, you can utilize the media to encourage allies to join you by demonstrating your support for a particular idea.

You have an incredibly powerful and demanding position. Because of America's role in the Middle East, a U.S. Secretary of State must tread carefully, and cautiously, but be willing to act when the time is right. You are the chief diplomat of the most powerful nation in the world. As such, much is expected from you.

Your Early Years and Education

You were born on March 23, 1952 in the state of Texas. You spent much of your childhood in the Boy Scouts of America, eventually earning the rank of Eagle Scout. You graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s in civil engineering in 1975, and were hired by Exxon Mobil that same year. You rose quickly through the company, leading Exxon’s partnerships with Yemen and Russia, and eventually becoming CEO in 2006. Your close ties with Russia helped you to achieve an important oil-drilling contract with the country in 2011, a deal that would have been a boon to the company but was ultimately put on hold after the United States imposed economic sanctions on Russia for their involvement in the Ukraine.

After the 2016 presidential election, President-Elect Donald Trump began to publicly announce his picks for his Cabinet advisors. Despite having no formal government experience, you are an accomplished negotiator and international deal-maker. Although your connections with Russia and the Middle East are considered controversial due to your relationships with autocratic leaders, your presence on the world stage and reputation as CEO make you a suitable, if not universally popular, candidate for Secretary of State.

Beliefs and Policies Pertaining to the Middle East

As Secretary Tillerson, you must believe that there is always a solution to complicated problems, even if the result angers others along the way. Your past as a loyal and devoted employee and CEO of Exxon taught you to put the needs of the company first, and it follows that you will act in a similar fashion when you are Secretary of State. The international interests of the United States must be your utmost concern, which has not always been the case in your past. When Exxon could not get a favorable oil deal with the central Iraqi government, you negotiated an agreement with the unrecognized Kurdish government in northern Iraq, a decision that earned you the ire of the US State Department. Although you have a history of justifying the means with the end result, you must now be careful as Secretary of State to negotiate with a more middle line approach, rather than the hard-ball style that Exxon required. This may be your greatest challenge: you are accustomed to authority and action, but you must learn to temper your responses and actions in order to account for your lack of political nuance and experience. In terms of the Arab-Israeli conflict, you hold a centrist position, favoring a two-state solution. You are a man of action, and you believe that in order for there to be a successful, sustained peace in the region, the Palestinian leadership must make an active effort to stop the violence against Israel. With the basis of your Middle East knowledge extending from your past history of friendship and negotiations with leaders of oil-rich Arab nations, many Israeli leaders were apprehensive about the extent of your devotion to the US-Israeli alliance. You see the United States’ role in this region as one of facilitation, bringing together the Palestinians and Israelis for frank, bilateral negotiation, much like a business deal. Much of the Trump administration appears to be staunch supporters of the right-wing Netanyahu government, and you function as the pragmatic, centrist voice of diplomacy and negotiations, balancing Trump’s pro-Israel stance with your own more tempered view.

Although you favor a more midline approach to these issues, the Palestinians are still not enthusiastic about your appointment. They see you as another pawn in the Trump administration with a pro-Israel agenda. In your time at Exxon, you spoke out against the use of economic sanctions as a tool to bring countries like Iran and Russia to the negotiating table, believing that global free trade and mutual economic benefits are among the best ways to build international relationships. Therefore, when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, your negotiation methods will likely rely on diplomatic deal-making and mediation. Much of your work as Secretary of State will be spent earning the trust of both parties, all the while urging them toward peace.

Role-Playing Notes

Due to both the controversial election of President Trump and your own appointment, there is a lot of pressure in your position and a lot of eyes watching. Because you work so close to the President, much of your job will require interpreting and likely watering down much of his words. You will be the sharp-edged businessman, manipulating the situation to best suit the interests of the United States, while people are distracted by the blustering leader in the White House. It will be a dynamic pairing, and it is important that when you act you remember that you are known to be shrewd and professional. You will have to maintain a tight hold on any semblance of temper or dramatics--that will be the role of the President. When questioned about your friendship with Putin, you have calmly stated that you do what is best for your company. When asked about your deals with autocratic Arab and African rulers in oil-rich nations, you have spoken about the importance of stability in developing nations. These are responses that demonstrate the ruthlessness of your rationalism--you are not afraid to do what is unpopular in order to serve the interests of the organization that you lead. Your background is the oil business, and this means that you will likely feel most comfortable talking about issues in terms of the economy, and will shy away from discussions regarding the environment and human rights. You are the type of man who is used to being listened to and who is comfortable talking to powerful, even frightening, leaders. This confidence should be evident in your statements and comportment.


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