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Jewish World Review June 23, 2003 / 23 Sivan, 5763

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mobray
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Many people at State Dept. want to embarrass President | "Many people at State want to embarrass the president," explains a State Department official - a comment echoed by others at Foggy Bottom alarmed that some of their colleagues are so brazen as to openly plot against the commander in chief. Some of those wishing to harm President Bush politically are now in Iraq, where the president's vision of a free Iraq is being fought by State officials on a regular basis.

Of course much of the rhetoric could be nothing more than boastful bravado - particularly since such comments actually help in a building teeming with people who openly despise Bush and want him to lose in 2004 - but State's actions have clearly undermined the president, and it is only a matter of time until it takes a political toll. In that vein, the White House would be wise to heed the advice of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who is renewing his calls for a "top-to-bottom transformation" of Foggy Bottom.

Although Gingrich's latest critique - an article in Foreign Policy magazine - will no doubt be labeled a "broadside," it is a relatively modest set of concrete proposals. Chief among them is increasing language proficiency of foreign service officers, in part by offering generous bonuses, so that the officers can better communicate with the locals in the countries where they are stationed.

Two other "radical" suggestions are more comprehensive continuing education programs and one-year sabbaticals after the sixth year and two-year hiatuses after the 14th year.

Though he pared back his original emphasis in the American Enterprise Institute speech two months ago on State's incompetence, the title of Gingrich's article, "The Failure of Diplomacy," implies something about State that probably isn't accurate. The natural conclusion one would draw from the headline is that State somehow does not achieve what it sets out to accomplish. The real problem, though, is that State is incredibly effective at accomplishing its objectives. Look at the record.

State wanted Baathists to remain as a significant part of the post-Saddam transitional authority in Iraq, in large part because Foggy Bottom officials believed that those Saddam loyalists were the only ones with the requisite knowledge and skill sets to manage the country effectively. Until new civilian administrator Paul Bremer issued a sweeping de-Baathification order last month - banishing 15,000 to 30,000 former high-ranking party members from holding any public office - State was successful in installing Saddam loyalists into any number of key positions. One of the most vivid examples was State reinstating as president of Baghdad University Saddam Hussein's personal physician.

Despite President Bush's inclusion of Iran in the "axis of evil," State managed to initiate talks with the reigning mullahs. This was no small feat. The approved talking points for the meeting were changed from the friendly tone State wanted to a much harsher one endorsed by the so-called "hawks," but having the talks at all with a government that might be on the brink of collapse was a victory in and of itself.

Proving that they are, in fact, exceedingly skillful bureaucrats, State officials managed to conceal for three weeks North Korea's March 31 admission to them that it was reprocessing plutonium - the first time Pyongyang had conceded that.

Had State told the White House and the Pentagon, the talks with North Korea and China slated to start on April 23 in Beijing likely would have been canceled. But because of State's "shielding" of the information, the talks went off as planned.

Gingrich's proposed structural fixes of State could have a substantial impact. But it's hard to imagine that organizational reform alone will cure State's corrosive culture. If anything, Gingrich's modest proposals do not go far enough in reforming Foggy Bottom. There are many talented and dynamic foreign service officers, but they are outnumbered by those who adhere to State's culture, as Ginrich puts it, "that props up dictators, coddles the corrupt, and ignores secret police forces."

If the White House and Congress fail to act on Gingrich's recommendations, President Bush's policy goals could be jeopardized. If they fail to go even further by bringing in fresh blood and outside leadership, the president's political goals - namely re-election next year - could be jeopardized as well.

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JWR contributor Joel Mowbray is the author of the forthcoming book "Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Endangers America's Security". Comment by clicking here.

06/18/03: Bush, State Dept. at odds over democracy protests in Iran
06/16/03: Moral equivalence in the Middle East
06/11/03: What's really going on at Saudi mosques
06/09/03: The will to go on
06/04/03: ‘What most Jews don't want to verbalize is that they know, deep down, this is never going to stop’
06/02/03: Expect State Dept. to ignore Bush policy toward Iran
05/29/03: Neocon': Slang for 'Jew'?
05/27/03:'Defense Dept.'s de-Baath efforts run into State's pragmatic view of party
05/21/03: Comments by State Dept. official reflects Foreign Service disdain for Bush and believers
05/14/03: Jesse Jackson's Latest "Outrage" is Outrageous
05/12/03: Saddam's doctor selected by State Department
04/14/03: Why we fight
04/09/03: State Department giving Baghdad to House of Saud?
04/07/03: State Department giving Baghdad to House of Saud?
04/02/03: Martha Burk's State Department adventure
03/31/03: State's bad deeds head to Baghdad
03/26/03: Human shields-turned-hawks
03/24/03: No such thing as a benign despot
03/20/03: Self-fulfilling tyranny
03/14/03: Gadhafi-State Department Alliance
03/12/03: Pushing "peace" pushes war instead
03/10/03: One last chance --- for the UN
03/03/03: Democracy domino theory
02/28/03: $1 Trillion tax cut?
02/12/03: Saudi Slavery in America
02/05/03: "We're Going to War"
02/04/03: State Department's idea of a "traitor"
01/27/03: State's cold shoulder
01/02/03: Canada: The Weakest Link
12/20/02: Real Story of Yemen's Scud Missile Purchase
12/18/02: Lott's got the Senate in the palm of his hand
12/12/02: White House moves closer to finding Iraq in "material breach"
12/10/02: A 9/11 plotter confessed
12/06/02: Saudi Spin doctors dodge U.S. marshals
12/03/02: Wild, Wild Web
12/02/02: Justice, finally, for terrorism victims
11/26/02: Sue McDonalds? I Lost 80 lbs With Fast Food!
11/25/02: The State Department's spin machine
11/22/02: Finally! No more open door for Saudis
11/20/02: A defeat for border security
11/18/02: Trial lawyers vs. homeland security
10/09/02: The visas that shouldn't have been
09/26/02: The "right" Miss America
09/23/02: Tax Cuts, R.I.P.
09/17/02: Freedom denied
09/11/02: Iraqi roulette
09/06/02: O'Reilly the wrong 'Factor' in Saudi abduction case
09/05/02: State's war on Americans
08/09/02: White House wants replace 'Visa Express' genius with woman accused of not helping free kidnapped American kids in Arab lands
07/23/02: Visas for suspected terrorists?
07/03/02: Saudis Fueling Mideast Terrorism
07/02/02: Dick Gephardt, Wannabe Deadbeat Son
06/26/02: Open door for terrorists still open
06/17/02: Open Door for Saudi Terrorists
06/11/02: Sacrificing liberty and safety
05/29/02: Coddling Castro
05/20/02: GOP running from social security reform?
05/09/02: Arab (sky) High Culture
04/24/02: Catholic Church's real challenge
04/17/02: How do you say 'media-bias' in Hebrew?
04/09/02: Sexually Explicit "Abstinence" Education?
04/09/02: A price on the heads of Americans overseas
04/02/02: Bush's New Version of Compartmentalization
03/25/02: Homosexuality a Factor in Sex Abuse by Priests
03/20/02: Government's "Candid Cameras"
03/14/02: Happy Abortionist Appreciation Day
03/07/02: Let dissent ring
03/04/02: Is Ted Kennedy a racist?
02/26/02: The Audacity to Be Black and Conservative

© 2003, Joel Mowbray.