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Bush Iraq aide pens ‘Ideal Qualities of a Successful Diplomat’

U.S. Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill Bob Blackwill at a conference when he was ambassador to India. (AP Photo/Ajit Kumar) U.S. Ambassador to India Robert  Blackwill at a conference when he was ambassador to India. (AP/Ajit Kumar)

When last we checked in on career diplomat Bob Blackwill, the former ambassador to India who abruptly resigned his post as the White House’s top official on Iraq policy was at  a D.C. lobbying firm.

That move, in November 2004, came  after then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice scolded him over an alleged incident in which he verbally abused and physically hurt a female embassy staffer during a visit to Iraq in September.

The incident at the Kuwait airport occurred when Air France told Blackwill, who was rushing to return home, that he was not on the flight manifest. Blackwill allegedly grabbed the embassy aide’s arm. There were conflicting accounts of what happened, but Rice, we were told, wanted to ensure that Blackwill treated his subordinates appropriately. (One official said at the time that the incident and Blackwill’s later departure were unrelated.)

When he was in India, Blackwill was dinged by two State Department inspector general’s reports about his management and the plunging morale among embassy staff.

Blackwill, widely considered a brilliant guy, was a “prickly, demanding boss,” our colleague Bob Woodward wrote in his book “State of Denial, Bush at War, Part III,” and “often referred to himself as Godzilla.”

Well, he seems to be doing quite well these days, judging from an e-mail we got from him Wednesday. He’s now an “international council member” at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

“I am pleased to share with you a paper I recently wrote entitled, “Ideal Qualities of a Successful Diplomat,” the e-mail says. “Drawing from my experiences in the United States government at home and abroad, I outline fifteen characteristics that I believe are fundamental for successful diplomats.”

The generally harmless bromides — “write well and quickly. . . be verbally  fluent and concise. . . study history” — include an instruction to “prudently speak your opinion to power.” Blackwill adds: “But choose your dissenting moments wisely.” And if you really object to the policy, “don’t whine. Resign.”

Nothing about treating your subordinates well?




Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.



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Al Kamen · October 24, 2013

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