Joel Mowbray

“Many people at State want to embarrass the President,” explains a State Department official—a comment echoed by others at Foggy Bottom alarmed that some of their colleagues are so brazen as to openly plot against the commander-in-chief.  Some of those wishing to politically harm President Bush are now in Iraq, where the President’s vision of a free Iraq is being fought by State officials on a regular basis.

  Of course much of the rhetoric could be nothing more than boastful bravado—particularly since such comments actually help in a building teeming with people who openly despise Bush and want him to lose in 2004—but State’s actions have clearly undermined the President, and it is only a matter of time until it takes a political toll.  In that vein, the White House would be wise to heed the advice of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who is renewing his calls for a “top-to-bottom transformation” of Foggy Bottom.

  Although Mr. Gingrich’s latest critique—an article in Foreign Policy magazine—will no doubt be labeled a “broadside,” it is a relatively modest set of concrete proposals.  Chief among them is increasing language proficiency of Foreign Service Officers (FSOs), in part by offering generous bonuses—so that FSOs can better communicate with the locals in the countries where they are stationed.  Two other “radical” suggestions are more comprehensive continuing education programs and one-year sabbaticals after the sixth year and two-year hiatuses after the 14th year. 

  Though he pared back his original emphasis in the American Enterprise Institute speech two months ago on State’s incompetence, the title of Mr. Gingrich’s article, “The Failure of Diplomacy,” implies something about State that probably isn’t accurate.  The natural conclusion one would draw from the headline is that State somehow does not achieve what it sets out to accomplish.  The real problem, though, is that State is incredibly effective at accomplishing its objectives.  Look at the record.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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