For anyone with a taste for often malicious and usually incompetent war politics, the last four years have been a banquet -- with the table now, in its fifth year, even more heavily laden.
As an early and continuing strong supporter of President Bush's war effort, I nonetheless regularly have criticized his administration's inept communications and war fighting strategies -- particularly in the years 2004-2006. Along with many others, I was both exasperated and puzzled by the gap between the magnitude of the president's bold enterprise and the stingy assignment of material resources (men and material), and diplomatic energy with which he provisioned it. Also historically noteworthy has been the painfully slow learning curve, non-instinct for experimentation and the stubborn inflexibility of their strategy and tactics in the face of evident shortcomings.
But what was perhaps most inexplicable (because most easily remedied) was the administration's dead-in-the-water communications effort to explain the war to the public in the face of continuing malicious and dishonest criticism from the war critic. From the spring of 2002, the president had made a persuasive geo-political argument for war -- of which the threat from weapons of mass destruction was only one part.
But when he decided to go to the United Nations in the fall of 2002, WMDs was the only topic the United Nations considered relevant (because it was the only subject of Iraqi-violated U.N. resolutions). By failing to loudly, publicly and remorselessly reiterate the broader purposes of the war (as President Bush ably laid out just once at his February 2003 American Enterprise Institute speech), he permitted WMDs to be seen by the public as the only reason for the war.
From the fall of 2003, once it had become clear that Saddam's WMD program had been at least temporarily put on the back burner before the war, the Bush White House passively permitted itself to be pummeled by anti-war critics and most of the national and international press -- literally for years -- with no vigorous media effort to publicly revivify the broader purposes of the war.
Although the Republican Party has a historically unprecedentedly deep bench of renowned and very credible foreign and military policy experts, no effort was made to organize and rally these experts to get into the media both here and in Europe to help re-shape the debate. The Bush White House has paid a terrible price for this failure to reach out to its friends -- a result, no doubt, of its astonishingly insular and unjustifiably cocky disposition on all matters both substantive and procedural.
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.