After the action comes the after-action reports -- what the Pentagon calls lessons learned, and what the State Department calls business as usual (BAU). But at State, BAU is likely to become CYA if my old boss, Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, has anything to say about it. And he has a lot to say. Yesterday, at the American Enterprise Institute, Newt delivered a major speech entitled "Transforming the State Department," in which the opening sentences surely sent a chill through the State Department looking for a spine to go down. "The last seven months have involved six months of diplomatic failure and one month of military success. The first days after the military victory indicate the pattern of diplomatic failure is beginning once again and threatens to undo the effects of military victory."
The high point of American diplomacy was on Sept. 12, 2002, when President Bush laid down the law to the United Nations. Then, Newt observed, "the State Department took the president's strong position and negotiated a resolution that shifted from verification to inspection (because, in part) under internal State Department politics, verification would have put the policy in the hands of people who disagreed with the Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs' propensity for appeasing dictators and propping up corrupt regimes." State's next mistake was to accept Hans Blix as chief inspector, even though they had been warned that "he was clearly opposed to war and was determined to buy time and find excuses for Saddam. (They) then accepted Blix's refusal to hire back any of the experienced inspectors, thus further drawing out the process. The process was turned from verifying Iraqi compliance, which put the burden of proof on Saddam, to pursuing United Nations inspections, in which case the burden was on the United States."
Newt went on to explain in detail how the State Department's public diplomacy -- i.e. communicating to the world -- utterly failed, characterizing that effort harshly but fairly as "a pathetic public campaign of hand-wringing and desperation." Moving on to the matter of the State Department's private diplomacy, he noted their calamitous failure to gain Turkish basing rights. During that pre-war period I was personally told by a number of foreign diplomats and a major Russian player that "They don't know how to make an offer and close a deal" (in the words of the Russian).
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.