Pompeo launches commission to ground foreign policy in US founding principles

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday unveiled the formation of a commission aimed at grounding future foreign policy discussions in America's founding principles.

From the State Department, Pompeo announced the creation of the new Commission on Unalienable Rights—a body composed of academics, philosophers, activists, Republicans, Democrats and independents who are expected to advise the secretary of state on foreign policy matters.

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The commission will be chaired by Harvard Law School professor and former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon.

“The time is right for an informed review of the role of human rights in American foreign policy,” Pompeo said Monday, adding that it is “an American commitment to uphold human rights.”

A senior administration official told Fox News that the commission is somewhat of a personal project of Pompeo’s—something he has been imagining since he was a cadet at West Point.

The official explained that the commission was not created to outline new principles, but to ground policy in existing ones. The official added that those on the commission would furnish advice to Pompeo rather than make policy, but added that the administration hopes that the commission could serve as a lodestar for policy in the future.

The commission is expected to serve for two years and can be extended.

In an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal Sunday, Pompeo wrote that he hopes the commission will generate a human rights debate that extends beyond the United States—similar to the human rights panel convened in 1947 by then-first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

“Its members will address basic questions: What are our fundamental freedoms? Why do we have them? Who or what grants these rights? How do we know if a claim of human rights is true? What happens when rights conflict? Should certain categories of rights be inextricably ‘linked’ to other rights?” he wrote.

The commission also comes amid growing concern from conservatives that talk of human rights at home and abroad is less about fundamental rights and more about certain economic or social rights.

“If everything is a right, then that by definition means we are devaluing the core importance of unalienable rights -- that matters,” the administration official said.

Pompeo argued that oppressive regimes like Iran and China have taken advantage of that shift, while international bodies like the United Nation need to be refocused back on their original missions.

“Human-rights advocacy has lost its bearings and become more of an industry than a moral compass,” Pompeo wrote. “And ‘rights talk’ has become a constant element of our domestic political discourse, without any serious effort to distinguish what rights mean and where they come from.”

The senior official said that the commission is an offshoot of a speech Pompeo gave to The Claremont Institute in May, where he spoke about how he saw foreign policy through the prism of America’s founding.

In that speech, he described how America’s foreign policy had become “unrestrained” and “untethered from common sense.”

“I am very confident that the Founders would have been perplexed by those moves. We had too much confidence in the international system and not enough confidence in our own nation. And we had too little courage to confront regimes squarely opposed to our interests and to our values.”

Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.