In the early spring of 1940, half a year after Germany invaded Poland, but during a falsely hopeful period called The Phony War that preceded the major Anglo-German hostilities of World War II, Winston Churchill spoke to the House of Commons. He told them that "I will not make any prophecies about the future, which is doubly veiled by the obscurities and uncertainties of war ... We must not boast, or speak in terms of vain conceit and overconfidence ... (But) we trust in God and in our own arm uplifted in a cause which we devoutly feel carries with it the larger hopes and harmonies of mankind."
As so often is the case, Churchill's words provide sound advice for us today as we attempt to understand the progress of the War on Terrorism. Recent events have been hopeful: Saddam captured, Libya conciliatory, Iran open to nuclear inspection, Saudi Arabia somewhat more helpful, Syria seizing millions of Al Qaeda funds. We have reason to be hopeful. These are measurable successes that weaken the terrorist enemy, strengthen our relative position with them, and begin the process of disconnecting weapons of mass destruction from rogue states and their possible terrorist associates. But the recent question of whether we are safer since Saddam's capture is fundamentally silly. The answer is unknowable, and the current debate is fatuous and self-serving on both sides. As yet we are in but the earliest stages of a war that is likely to go on for decades, perhaps generations. Events that seem useful now may have unknown consequences for good or ill -- both on the enemy and on our own war-fighting judgment.
The history of warfare is replete with all forms of miscalculations made by people who were every bit as smart and cunning as we think we are today. In the Peloponnesian War of the 4th century B.C., Alcibiades, the brilliant and brave Athenian, overplayed his strong hand and brought complete defeat for Athens and the end of her golden age. In the Thirty Years War of the 17th century -- which was in part a war of princely interests, in part a German civil war and in part a religious struggle -- not only were there constant reversals of fortunes, but more to the point, the players had no concept of the historic implications that would flow from their day-to-day strategies and tactics. Out of a hodgepodge of immediate calculations, the continent of Europe was transformed into its modern political shape and nature.
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.