- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Outspoken ex-speaker

Newt Gingrich insists he has been misunderstood. The former House speaker wants a stronger State Department, with a bigger budget, a state-of-the-arts communication network, an expanded foreign service and cushy sabbaticals for Foggy Bottom’s overworked diplomats.

All he asks in return is that the department actually make an effort to carry out President Bush’s policies, not undermine them at every turn.

Expanding on his celebrated tongue-lashing of the department at a recent American Enterprise Institute seminar, Mr. Gingrich has taken his case to the heart of the diplomatic establishment with a cover story in the upcoming July/August issue of Foreign Policy on “The Failure of U.S. Diplomacy,” complete with a scowling portrait of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell as the primary illustration.

“We can no longer accept a [State Department] culture that props up dictators, coddles the corrupt, and ignores secret police forces,” Mr. Gingrich writes.

Holding court for nearly two hours yesterday for a small group of journalists, including The Washington Times’ David R. Sands, the Georgia Republican said on issues ranging from democracy in Iraq to nuclear missiles in North Korea to Libya’s chairmanship of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the department’s accommodationist stance has been at odds with Mr. Bush’s more aggressive policies.

“If you think your job is to propitiate and appease dictators and bad actors, it is hard for you to design a strategy that is completely different in its goals,” said Mr. Gingrich.

He denied seeking to politicize the foreign service, but praised U.S. diplomats who had resigned in opposition to Mr. Bush’s foreign policy as “honorable.”

“What’s not honorable is to keep your job as a diplomat and try to undermine” the administration you are supposed to defend, he said.

Mr. Gingrich insisted his complaints were based on policies, not personalities, but said Mr. Powell has not done enough to change the culture of his department.

Mr. Powell has proven to be “a magician in getting more resources for his department without reform. I just don’t think that’s healthy.”

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage famously told USA Today that Mr. Gingrich was “off his [medications]” following his blistering AEI speech in April.

“That just tells you how little ammunition he had,” Mr. Gingrich retorted yesterday. “It just shows he wasn’t very secure about the facts of the case I presented.”

Certifying Serbia

The ambassador of Serbia and Montenegro is praising the U.S. decision to certify that his country is cooperating with the international manhunt for suspected war criminals in the former Yugoslavia.

Ambassador Ivan Vujacic this week thanked Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who issued the certification Monday. He said the decision will lead to the release of $135 million in U.S. aid and will assure continued U.S. support in international financial institutions.

“The secretary of state’s decision will have a positive impact on the economic front … ,” Mr. Vujacic said in a statement. “On a higher level, the support of the U.S. has been of vital importance in strengthening democracy in Serbia and Montenegro.

“Therefore [the] decision has a broader meaning as a signal of support and acknowledgment of continuing efforts by our government to pursue democratic reforms and to comply fully with its international obligations.”

The congressional human rights group, the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, opposed Mr. Powell’s decision. It complained that Serbia and Montenegro has failed to track down Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, two of the most-wanted war-crimes suspects from the 1992-1995 war that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia. Former Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic is on trial before the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague.

Certification “would be detrimental to U.S. foreign policy goals of supporting international justice and successful and complete democratic change in Serbia,” the commission said in a letter to Mr. Powell last week.

Yugoslavia changed its name to Serbia and Montenegro in February.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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