Having finished hazardous duty as an armchair military strategist (at least until our troops in the Middle East get a little R&R and get resupplied), I am ready to switch to another well-upholstered station and offer up some thoughts as an armchair diplomatic strategist. In the last few weeks I have taken the dangerous step of chatting up several Mideast experts, including a number of Muslim Middle-Eastern government senior officials. Every Middle East expert has a strong opinion and a blunt-edged axe to grind -- so one goes into such discussions on guard against being manipulated. But my own pre-existing concern was corroborated by the one common theme of all these conversations: How does the United States manage our temporary occupation of Iraq without exacerbating Arab distrust of our motives?
This is about as tricky an operation as trying to perform brain surgery while riding a pogo stick -- there is a very high risk of both killing the patient and falling flat on your face. And yet we are committed to the operation. We are now about two weeks into trying to help Iraq form an at least vaguely representative government capable of more or less managing the country. Not only are there indigenous religious, ethnic, tribal, political, personal and commercial forces in play, but Iran, Turkey, Syria, France, Russia and others have decided to have a go at shaping the form of the emerging government and society. Outside of this competitive arena is a vast Arab and Muslim audience suspiciously watching the United States' effort. Moreover, we are obliged to care what that audience thinks, because we are unlikely to defeat the jihaddist Muslim terrorist threat or gain a Middle-East peace until we have drained the Middle and Central East's malarial swap of Muslim hatred for the United States.
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.