Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Article: Who Gave You Another 15 Minutes?

Joe, I have to admit that I am suprised that you find the Gingrich article in FP sensational and non-academic. While I don't agree with all of Gingrich's arguments, I do think he has valid arguments. While you seem to imply that the article is an attack on the Rogue Powell rather than the rogue State Department, Gingrich's arguments raise bigger questions about the role of the State Dept. Should the State Dept be exactly in line with the President's policies in an obligatory sense? If so, is this truly the best path to a successful international diplomacy? If you see Gingrich's article as an attack on Powell, then perhaps he is right. If you were running the country, would you want your appointees countering your policies and beliefs openly in the press? Wouldn't this undermine the ability of a president to instill confidence in the public and carry out policy? While discussion is clearly important, open contradiction is likely to be counterproductive. The exception to this, of course, is when no discussion occurs in the first place (as with Johnson and the Joint Chiefs prior to Vietnam).

I think you also missed the real criticism of the article, which Gingrich himself alludes to. He quotes a Los Angeles Times article about diplomats who "said they are profoundly worried about what they describe as the administration's arrogance or indifference to world public opinion, which they fear has wiped out, in less than two years, decades of effort to build goodwill toward the United States". Gingrich quickly dismisses this as simply being out of line with the Bush vision. However, this is another (more) plausible argument for the failure of the State Dept. In short, I contend that this administration's policies are so out of step with world views and processes that no restructuring of the State Dept would have solved our "image problem". Gingrich's failure to seriously address this point is a major limitation of the article. On the other hand, why hasn't the State Dept restructured according to the suggestions of the US Commission on National Security?

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