Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Gingrich at AEI

Former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, blasted the State Department and called Colin Powell's planned trip to Syria ludicrous today in remarks at the American Enterprise Institute. The White House replied that Powell is carrying out the President's wishes.

Gingrich also claimed in a Washington Post piece this morning that the diplomatic failure leading up to the war was a more profound story than the the military victory. (By the way, where is the NYTimes in all of this? I can hardly find anything on their website about Gingrich.)

Nobody should downplay the military victory, but Gingrich has a point. In fact he has done American foreign policy a great service. He has taken the arguments that many Democrats put on the administration before the war concerning diplomatic blunders and placed them squarely in the lap of the State Department. What the popular (and liberal) press portrayed as a testosterone problem in a supposedly insensitive administration that swaggered too much may actually have been a weak, dissenting, ineffective diplomatic corps. This is so crucial now because with the military conflict over so quickly, what remains is diplomacy and "winning the peace." We are not off to an auspicious start in that respect, and something had to be said. Indeed the American Scene says that State is "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory."

According to the Post article, Gingrich acknowledged that Powell improved morale at State, but Gingrich also noted that Powell improved the morale of people who are fundamentally against the administration.

Institutional problems at State are one thing. But if Powell had not been so against the use of force initially, would France have had the courage to obstruct until the end? Wasn't Powell a bit foolish to be so surprised by Dominique de Villepin's refusal to vote for a second resolution against Iraq? Would Turkey have also been more supportive with a different diplomatic approach? Pre-war blunders aside, is Powell more of a liability than he's worth at this crucial point when tough diplomacy is needed more than (though backed by the threat of) military force?


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