Learning from past mistakes, however, is absolutely crucial. And that’s the problem.
Over the years, State has demonstrated no capacity for self-appraisal. It cannot admit mistakes, but more fundamentally, it does not look at its own actions to learn what changes need to be made. There is perhaps no more vivid illustration than what happened with a program called Visa Express.
After this columnist wrote a story last June about a program in Saudi Arabia that had let in three of the terrorists that was still open nine months after 9/11, State did two things: 1) it dropped the name “Visa Express,” and 2) it changed the description of the program on the web site of the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh. That was it.
There was no attempt to reform or change the program that was allowing all residents in the country that sent us 15 of 19 9/11 terrorists to submit visa applications at private Saudi travel agencies. State, in fact, wanted to expand Visa Express to other nations. It only closed the loophole in our border security—and grudgingly, at that—following a month of intense public pressure.
State’s refusal to change its ways also can be seen in its determination to continue “engaging” the Iranian mullahs, even though years of talks have yielded nothing but the regime’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and continued brutal repression of the Iranian people. Rather than taking a tough stand against the mullahs, State’s number-two official, Richard Armitage, legitimized the oppressors by labeling Iran a “democracy” this February.
There’s one lesson that State must learn before any other—one that should be painfully obvious given State’s history of coddling despots in the name of “securing” America’s interests with “stability”: security in tyrants is no security at all.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, 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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