2007.09.06: September 6, 2007: Biography of Robert Blackwill

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Hugh Pickens writes: Wikipedia Biography of Robert Blackwill

Hugh Pickens writes: Wikipedia Biography of Robert Blackwill

Robert Blackwill served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, Ambasssador to India, and as a Deputy National Security Advisor to Condoleezza Rice.

Hugh Pickens writes: Wikipedia Biography of Robert Blackwill

Robert Blackwill
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Robert Blackwill

Robert Dean Blackwill (August 8, 1939)[1] is an American lobbyist and retired diplomat. Blackwill was the United States Ambassador to India (2001-2003), and United States National Security Council Deputy for Iraq (2003-2004), where he was a liaison between Paul Bremer and Condoleezza Rice.

* 1 Early Life, Education, and Peace Corps Service
* 2 Diplomatic Career
o 2.1 1960's
o 2.2 1970's
o 2.3 1980's
* 3 Academic Career
o 3.1 Professor at Harvard University
o 3.2 Associate Dean and Belfer Lecturer
o 3.3 Books and Articles
* 4 US Ambassador to India
o 4.1 Advisor to Bush Campaign
o 4.2 Stronger Ties with India
o 4.3 Relations with Pakistan
o 4.4 Appreciation of Indian Civilization
o 4.5 Controversy over Management Style
* 5 National Security Council
o 5.1 Coordinator for Strategic Planning
o 5.2 Envoy to Iraq
o 5.3 Departure from the Administration
* 6 Lobbyist
o 6.1 India's Nuclear Program
o 6.2 Contract with Ayad Allawi
* 7 Memberships, Honors, and Awards
* 8 Personal
* 9 References
* 10 External links

Early Life, Education, and Peace Corps Service

Blackwill was born August 8, 1939, in Kellogg, Idaho.[1] and grew up in Kansas. "From my boyhood on the Great Plains, I brought back east more than 30 years ago the values of Kansas and its people: honesty, candor, compassion, hard work, a dogged stamina in the face of challenge and adversity, a sense of humor, a recognition of one's own limitations, and a deep and abiding love of country," Blackwill said in June 2001 at his Senate confirmation hearings to become ambassador to India.[2] Blackwill earned a B.A. from Wichita State University.[3]

Blackwill served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi from 1964 to 1966.[1] While in the Peace Corps Blackwill served with writer Paul Theroux who Blackwill later described as "the glorious American writer who was my friend in the Peace Corps in Africa more than thirty years ago."[4] In an interview with Rediff News on June 27, 2006 Blackwill was asked if he was still in contact with Theroux and replied "Not recently. But I just finished reading his new novel, Blinding Light. It is terrific."[5]

Diplomatic Career


Blackwill was appointed a Foreign Service officer in 1967.[1] Blackwill served as a training officer in the Bureau of Personnel of the US State Department from 1968 to 1969.[1] Blackwill served an associate watch officer in the State Department's Operations Center from 1969 to 1970.[1]


Blackwill took Swahili language training in 1970 at the Foreign Service Institute.[1] Blackwill served as a political officer in Nairobi, Kenya from 1970 to 1972.[1] Blackwill served as a staff officer in the Executive Secretariat of the State Department from 1972 to 1973.[1]

Blackwill served as a special assistant to State Department counselor Helmut Sonnenfeldt in 1974.[1] While serving as special assistant Blackwill worked closely with Paul Bremer, then chief aide to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Blackwill and Bremer forged a close relationship mediating policy differences between their bosses. Bremer and Blackwill would come to work together again thrity years later when Bremer was President George W. Bush's top envoy to Iraq and Blackwill was named to the National Security Council staff in August,2003 to coordinate between Washington and Baghdad.[6]

Blackwill served as political-military officer in London, England from 1975 to 1978.[1] Blackwill served as political counselor in Tel Aviv, Israel from 1978 to 1979.[1]

Blackwill became Director, Western European Affairs, on the National Security Council staff at the White House in 1979.[1]


Blackwill served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs in the Department in 1981.[1]

Blackwill served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs from 1982 to 1983.[1]

After returning from a two year sabbatical at Harvard University, on March 29, 1985 President Reagan nominated Blackwill to Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be the chief negotiator[3] of the United States of America with the Warsaw Pact for Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions Negotiations. Blackwill served in this position with the rank of Ambassador.[1]

On March 13, 1989, President George H. W. Bush appointed Blackwill Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for European and Soviet Affairs.[3]

Academic Career

Professor at Harvard University

From 1983 to 1985, Blackwill was on sabbatical from the State Department and served as associate dean and faculty member[3] at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.[1]

Associate Dean and Belfer Lecturer

In 1987 Blackwill rejoined the faculy after two years as Representative to the Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions Negotiations and served the Kennedy School as Associate Dean and the Belfer Lecturer in International Security[7] for fourteen years until 2001.[3][8] During his tenure Blackwill taught foreign and defense policy and public policy analysis. Blackwill was also Faculty Chair for executive training programs for business and government leaders from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Palestinian Authority, Israel and Kazakhstan, and military General Officers from Russia and the People's Republic of China.[9]

Books and Articles

While at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Blackwill contributed to the following books and articles:

* Conventional Arms Control and East-West Security (1989, nonfiction, co-editor)[8]
* A Primer for the Nuclear Age (1990, nonfiction, co-editor)
* New Nuclear Nations (1993, nonfiction, co-edited with Albert Carnesale)[8]
* Damage Limitation or Crisis? Russia and the Outside World (1994, nonfiction, with Sergei Karaganov)[8]
* Arms Control and the US-Russian Relationship (1996, nonfiction)[8]
* Engaging Russia: Arms Control and the U.S.-Russian Relationship, Report of an Independent Task Force (Council on Foreign Relations Press, with Rodric Braithwaite and Akihiko Tananka, 1996)[8][7]
* Allies Divided: Transatlantic Policies for the Greater Middle East (1997, nonfiction, with Michael Sturmer)[8][7]
* The Future of Transatlantic Relations, Report of an Independent Task Force (Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1999)[8][7]
* America's Asian Alliances (2000, nonfiction, co-edited with Paul Dibb)[8]

US Ambassador to India

Advisor to Bush Campaign

Blackwill, a republican,[8] along with Condoleezza Rice was part of a group of foreign policy experts who advised Bush during his Presidential campaign in 2000 and Blackwill was rewarded after the election with the ambassadorship to India. Rice had previously worked for Blackwill during the first Bush administration when they dealt with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet empire.[2] Blackwill had never been to India prior to his appointment as ambassador but he sought the assignment because of President Bush's designation of India as a "rising great power of the 21st century."[2]

Stronger Ties with India

Blackwill was appointed US ambassador to India in June 2001.[10] Blackwill was committed to taking India seriously as an American ally as a counterweight to China's growing power. Blackwill promoted perhaps the closest ties between India and the United States since India's independence in 1947. "The Bush administration perceives India as a strategic opportunity for the United States, not as an irritating recalcitrant," Blackwill said.[2]

Blackwill said that before he arrived, India was considered "a nuclear renegade whose policies threatened the entire nonproliferation regime."[2] To promote closer ties, the United States lifted economic penalties applied against India for its 1998 nuclear tests.[10] American military forces also conducted completed six major joint training exercises with India while Blackwill was ambassador.[10]

Relations with Pakistan

One of Blackwill's major concerns while ambassador was terrorism in India and relations between India and Pakistan. After a series of terrorist attacks that India blamed on Pakistan, the two countries nearly went to war. Blackwill ordered the evacuation of embassy staff members which was seen as a pressure tactic and partly credited for drawing India back from war. Blackwill encouraged India to resume dialogue with Pakistan. In a statement on his departure as ambassador, Blackwill said that the fight against international terrorism would not be won until terrorism against India ended. "There can be no other legitimate stance by the United States, no American compromise whatever on this elemental geopolitical and moral truth."[4]

Others thought that Blackwill damaged US relations with Pakistan. Pakistani analyst Ershad Mahmud of the Institute of Policy Studies called Blackwill "Delhi's front man rather than U.S. ambassador to India" and said that Blackwill "even encouraged India to take [a] hostile stance against Pakistan."[2]

Appreciation of Indian Civilization

Blackwill had a very high-profile tenure as ambassador to India[10] and displayed a strong appreciation for Indian civilization. Upon his departure as ambassador, Blackwill wrote an article for the Financial Times called What India Means To Me and wrote that "As has been said, the world is divided into two parts - those who have seen the Taj Mahal, and those who have not. I am proud to be in the first, still too exclusive group. The Shatabdi Express transported me there and back in great comfort. A wonderful train. All of Rajasthan entrances me. The noble Rajput legacy. Jaipur. Udaipur. Jodhpur. And perhaps my favourite, the medieval walled city of Jaisalmer, land of the Bhatti princes, born of the moon. Parapets into the sky. On some nights, there must be stars nowhere else above the planet because they all seem to be over Jaisalmer. I am surprised some city in northern Europe has not sued Jaisalmer for stealing all the stars. Be sure and take your sunglasses along when you go there — to deal with the starry nights. Standing in Jaisalmer, close your eyes for a moment and see the camel caravans coming through this desert town a thousand years ago, which I now realise by India’s civilizational standards is only yesterday - a fellow on the street might have said to me, 'yes, they came through Jaisalmer, just a little while ago.'"[4]

Upon returning to the United States, the only item on Blackwill's desk at the National Security Council was a tiny figurine of Ganesh, the Hindu elephant-headed god of wisdom and success while a huge map of "Mother India" adorned the walls of his office.[2]

Controversy over Management Style

On April 22, 2003 Blackwill announced that he was resigning as US ambassador to India to return to his academic career at Harvard University. The New York Times reported that there had been complaints about Blackwill's management style from embassy staff members that led to a review by the State Department's inspector general although after the review the complaints died down.[10] "He's extremely bright. He has a very penetrating intellect that produces great ideas," said one official who worked with him. "He's also utterly charming and has more energy than anybody around him. He never sleeps. He's a double-A type. But he's also a prickly demanding personality who can become impatient with others who don't keep up with him. He's hard on people because he's smart. He wants things now." [2]

National Security Council

Coordinator for Strategic Planning

Upon his return as ambassador to India, Blackwill was originally planning to return to Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government until he got the call from National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice asking him to come to Washington.[2] Blackwill was appointed deputy assistant to President George W. Bush on August 16, 2003 and coordinator for strategic planning under Rice. Blackwill's assignment was to undertake a new White House assignment to help develop and coordinate the direction of America's foreign policy.[11] In his new post on the National Security Council, Blackwill quickly became the alter ego to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and was given free rein to track global trends and predict unintended consequences of U.S. foreign policy decisions anywhere in the world by providing long-range planning for a foreign policy team under stress from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. [2]

Envoy to Iraq

One of Blackwill's jobs on the National Security Council in 2003 was to coordinate between Washington and Baghdad working with Paul Bremer to achieve a political handover to Iraq. Blackwill and Bremer had worked together in the State Department in 1974 and shared a conservative view of the world. "Both are basically conservatives," said one mutual friend. "But it is a 19th-century conservatism -- focused on national interest and power -- not neoconservatism." He said Bremer and Blackwill "are focused on getting things done. They are not ideological dreamers."[6]

Bob Woodward in his book State of Denial reports that in 2003 Blackwill sent a lengthy memorandum sent to National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice warning that more ground troops, perhaps as many as 40,000, were desperately needed in Iraq. The book reports that Blackwill and Bremer later briefed Rice and her deputy Stephen J. Hadley about the pressing need for more troops during a secure teleconference from Iraq but that the White House did nothing in response. President Bush is quoted in the book as saying of the situation in Iraq at that time: "I don't want anyone in the cabinet to say it is an insurgency. I don't think we are there yet."[12]

Departure from the Administration

On November 5, 2004 Blackwill announced his resignation from the administration. Blackwill had been mentioned as a possible successor to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. Blackwill told associates that he spent six years working for Bush -- two years as a foreign policy adviser to his first presidential campaign, two years as ambassador to India and two years at the White House -- and that the presidential election seemed like a natural end to this cycle in his life.[13]

On November 12, 2004 Glenn Kessler and Al Kamen reported in the Washington Post that Condoleezza Rice had interviewed Blackwill and taken action to ensure that Blackwill dealt with his colleagues and subordinates appropriately after reports in September 2004 that Blackwill appeared to have verbally abused and physically hurt a female embassy staffer during a visit to Kuwait. The incident took place when Blackwill was returning from a visit to Baghdad and arrived at the Air France counter at the Kuwait airport to learn he was not on the flight manifest. Blackwill turned in fury to an embassy secretary and demanded that he be given a seat on the flight, grabbing her arm at one point, an official said. [14]

A spokesman for the National Security Council said the incident was not the reason Blackwill quit his job. "Ambassador Blackwill has served the country with great distinction, including in tense and dangerous situations in Iraq," the NSC spokesman said. "The president and Dr. Rice hold Ambassador Blackwill in the highest regard, and the decision to leave was Ambassador Blackwill's own."[14]


India's Nuclear Program

Blackwill joined Barbour Griffith & Rogers (BGR) in November 2004.[9] On January 5, 2005 the Telegraph of India reported that Blackwill was traveling to India on a trip linked to India's $600,000-a-year contract with the Washington lobbying firm, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld that had expired in April, 2004.[15] On March 23, 2005 the Deccan Herald reported that Blackwill had spoken to the Confederation of Indian Industry in Bangalore saying that the US should enter into a long-term program of space co-operation with India and lift restrictions on the assistance given to civilian nuclear industry and hi-tech trade. "We should sell India civil nuclear reactors, both to reduce its demand for Persian Gulf energy and to ease the environmental impact of India’s vibrant economic growth." [16] On August 31, 2005 the Daily times of Pakistan reported that Barbour, Griffith and Rogers had won a contract to help get a Indo-US nuclear deal through Congress.[17]

Contract with Ayad Allawi

On August 28, 2007 Newsweek reported that Blackwill is handling the $300,000 lobbying contract at Barbour Griffith & Rogers International to destabilize Iraqui Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and replace him with the firm's new client, Ayad Allawi. Allawi disclosed that Blackwill — whom he described as a "dear friend" had raised the idea that the former Iraqi prime minister hire his firm. "He contacted me," Allawi said. “We were having lunch … He spoke to me and he said … there is a vacuum in Washington, and we will be able to help and assist. We know your views. We know the views of your people and we are ready to help in getting your message across to the United States."[18]

Memberships, Honors, and Awards

Blackwill is a member of Executive Committee[8] of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.[3]

Blackwill is a member and Counselor[8] to the Council on Foreign Relations.[3]

Blackwill is a member of the Aspen Strategy Group of the Aspen Institute.[8]

Blackwill is a board member of the Nixon Center.[8]

Blackwill was awarded the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit, by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1990.[7]


Blackwill is married to Anne Heiberg[8] and has five grown children.[2] His favorite book is Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner and he is a self-described jazz fanatic and classic-movie buff.[2]


1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q University of Texas. "Appointment of Robert Dean Blackwill as United States Representative to the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction Negotiations, and Nomination for the Rank of Ambassador" March 29, 1985.
2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Washington Post. "Foreign Policy Guru Tapped To Aid Rice, a Former Employee" by Robin Wright. December 23, 2003
3. ^ a b c d e f g The American Presidency Project. "Appointment of Robert D. Blackwill as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs." March 13, 1989.
4. ^ a b c Financial Express. "What India Means To Me." July 29, 2003.
5. ^ Rediff News "I am honoured to be called a friend of India." An Interview with robert Blackwill. June 27, 2006.
6. ^ a b Washington Post. "Rapport Between Bush, Bremer Grows." November 23, 2003
7. ^ a b c d e Council on Foreign Relations. "Robert D. Blackwill"
8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Notable Names Database. "Robert D. Blackwill"
9. ^ a b Barbour Griffith & Rogers International "Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill "
10. ^ a b c d e New York Times. "U.S. Ambassador to India Resigning Post After 2 Years." April 22, 2003
11. ^ New York Times. "New Job for Former Envoy." August 16, 2003.
12. ^ New York Times. "New Woodward Book Says Bush Ignored Urgent Warning on Iraq." September 29, 2006
13. ^ Washington Post. "Bush Adviser On Iraq Policy To Step Down" by Glenn Kessler. November 6, 2004.
14. ^ a b "Ex-Adviser Reportedly Hurt Embassy Aide" November 12, 2004
15. ^ The Telegraph. "Blackwill back, on business" January 9, 2005.
16. ^ Deccan Herald. "Blackwill moots Indo-US co-operation in space tech" March 23, 2005.
17. ^ Daily Times. "India rewards faithful supporter Blackwill in US." August 31, 2005.
18. ^ Newsweek. "Behind Allawi's Bid for Power." August 29, 2007

External links

* Biography of Robert Blackwill, U.S. Department of State, January 14, 2002.
* Counselor, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
* Member of the Board; International Council Member, Belfer Center for International Affairs, Harvard University.
* Barbour Griffith & Rogers, a lobbying firm.
* SourceWatch profile of Robert Blackwill
* News clips about Robert Blackwill
* State Dept Mum on Blackwill; morale hits rock bottom at U.S. Embassy, Times of India, May 16,2002.
* Andrew Grotto. Who is Robert Blackwill?, Center for American Progress, August 23, 2004.
* Robert Blackwill at a Sikh temple.
* Report on Robert Blackwill by South Asia Analysis Group
* Bush Adviser On Iraq Policy To Step Down, Washington Post, November 6, 2004.

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Headlines: September, 2007; RPCV Robert Blackwill (Malawi); Figures; Peace Corps Malawi; Directory of Malawi RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Malawi RPCVs; Diplomacy; RPCV Hugh Pickens (Peru); Wikipedia; Creative Commons

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