November 16, 2004

Cabinet and Sub-Cabinet Going-Ons

OK, so Powell is out; Condi is in; Hadley to replace Condi; Rummy appears (alas) to be sticking about; and Porter Goss is cleaning up house at the CIA (ostensibly pleasing McCain; with Chuck Hagel somewhat concerned).

Aside from these principals; one wonders: Is Armitage going to leave (I'd think so, he's Powell's best friend) What happens to Grossman? Does Bolton get promoted to DepSec (I'd think not; but I'm beginning to get too much of this wrong of late)? And, what of Wolfy and Feith? [UPDATE: Armitage indeed out, Grossman out, Feith rumored out, Wolfy still unclear].

Oh, and who will run this Bureau? Pletka?

Lots of this seems quite grim, no? But permit me to focus on some silver linings.

1) The Condi Factor: Regular readers of this blog know I have mixed feelings about her. She was lousy in brokering disparate policy positions into unitary, cohesive policies--a key function of the NSC advisor. But hey, she had to deal with Beltway behemoths Don "so-called Occupied Territories" Rumsfeld and Powell sparring endlessly! My point? Never an easy job; it was particularly hard this go around. Give her at least a little bit of a pass given the open trench warfare between State and Defense these past three and a half years--worse than any I've seen in recent memory.

On the positive side of the ledger? She shined against Clarke during her 9/11 Commission congressional testimony. She can be a strong advocate, she's intensely disciplined, she's pretty damn smart (though she's not a visionary foreign policy thinker--but name me a SecState since Kissinger who was...) Also a positive? Foggy Bottom can be consoled that they will have someone very close to the President to defend the building's interests. That's important as Powell was hugely popular at State (after Madeline Albright's so depressing tenure) so good to have someone replace him that is likely to protect the building too.

A big Q: will there be some Porter Goss style purge of the 6th Floor, ie. the Assistant Secretaries? I doubt it--but if Pletka gets NEA--all bets are off. Look, I've worked for prominent neo-cons and think AEI is a damn good think-tank. But let's get a reality check, OK? Pletka at NEA, Abrams at NSC on Middle East--does this a resucitation of the peace process make? Don't think so--unless countervailed by a significant outside player as Special Envoy. Let's stay tuned and see how this plays out--but Pletka at NEA would be just shy of FUBAR, in my view.

Oh, for the record, I agree with Dan that Blackwill's departure is a "shame"--unless he was truly physically abusive of staff (lightly grabbing someone's arm doesn't count).

2) Whither the NSC? Er, who is Steve Hadley? A former lawyer at Shea & Gardner (since merged with Goodwin Procter). There was also a stint working on arms control issues over at Defense in the late '80s/early 90s. OK, so like many Beltway lawyers, Hadley is a generally sensible fellow. But he must share some responsibility, along with Condi, for not getting a better handle on the inter-agency process. Here's a rather revealing look at his management style--if from a partisan source. Soundbite--expect competence; but no mega-sparks.

3) Defense: Still a question mark. Is Rummy around for four more (still doubt it; but he'll doubtless stick around for another year)? Whither Wolfy (status quo)? Feith out? Should we view Rummy as the great survivor--with direct links to Cheney--running circles around Condi and Hadley? Who knows, really. But note that I have a sneaking suspicion that Rummy will cut out in a year or so and get replaced by a McCain or Lieberman type...

Anyway, my fearsome prediction! Condi is going to spearhead a major push on the Arab-Israeli peace process. She may, just perhaps, prove more effective in this than Powell as people will know she has Bush's ear and full confidence. The Israelis won't risk back-ending her by running to the Pentagon or NSC (like they reportedly often did with Powell). It would majorly piss Bush off and people like Dov Weisglass well know it. Important early indicators of her Middle East policy will include, of course, whether a) she sacks current Asst Sec Bill Burns and, if so b) who she replaces him with.

Look, this wasn't how I wanted the cabinet re-shuffle to turn out (I wanted Rummy out before Powell). But we might be seeing the makings of a Bush-Condi-Hadley axis (yes, with Cheney still hugely influential, of course) with Rummy cut out of State's turf and focusing where he should--on the military aspects of the GWOT--particularly Iraq and Afghanistan. Yeah, I'd have preferred, all told, Powell to stay. But Condi might just provide a burst of new energy that could prove a net positive. Also worth noting, Condi's old Soviet expertise might prove more than handy at this juncture given Vlado's democracy roll-backs of late. Bottom line: on Russia policy, perhaps Middle East peace processing, relationship with POTUS--she could prove a tangible improvement over Powell. And on Iran and NoKo--she's basically on the same page as Powell--if a tad more assertive.

P.S. So I guess this article is going to get read, and re-reread, and read again--in a foreign ministry near you. Problem, of course, is that it's a pre- 9/11 document. Which explains such passages, doubtless:

The president must remember that the military is a special instrument. It is lethal, and it is meant to be. It is not a civilian police force. It is not a political referee. And it is most certainly not designed to build a civilian society. Military force is best used to support clear political goals, whether limited, such as expelling Saddam from Kuwait, or comprehensive, such as demanding the unconditional surrender of Japan and Germany during World War II. It is one thing to have a limited political goal and to fight decisively for it; it is quite another to apply military force incrementally, hoping to find a political solution somewhere along the way.

Heh.

UPDATE: Dan Drezner has more on all this well worth reading.

Posted by Gregory at November 16, 2004 02:35 AM
Comments

The good news is that Brezhnev and Andropov won't be kicking us around anymore.

BTW, Nelson report sez: If Rice is offered State, expect her to remove the entire top layer of Powell/Armitage career professionals.

Pauvre Mark Grossman. He seems like a good guy.

Posted by: praktike at November 16, 2004 04:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Your mention of Blackwill reminded me of something I saw in the WaPo gossip column...apparently Blackwill's Georgetown neighbors are hoping he'll go buy some curtains for his house now. They say they've seen entirely too much of him the past few months!

Posted by: Seafarious at November 17, 2004 01:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Peace Process?

Ye're outta yer mind.

There will be no peace process until the Pali civil war is over. It has barely begun.

It is a good thing Rummy is still Sec. Def. Some one needs to maintain contact with reality at least re: the coming of the Pali State.

I see a series of principalities. No state.

Posted by: M. Simon at November 17, 2004 01:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have mixed feelings about Colin Powell. On the one hand, he has credibility with a lot of the President's political opponents, both domestic and foreign. Hence, he could be a good advocate because he was perceived as being somewhat independent.

On the other hand, I never really forgave him or Norman Swartzkopf or George H. W. Bush for pulling back so quickly in Gulf War I. I've been suspicious ever since that Powell was too concerned about public relations and not enough about doing what is right first and worrying about public relations later. My take on the situation was that he, Powell, was the key ingredient in the decision not to decimate the Republican Guards in 1991.

Secondly, I have never liked the Powell Doctrine, which can be loosely paraphrased as "only go to war if you are guaranteed in advance that it will be short and successful." Well, that might work if War is only really a police action, and if the Wars we fight don't really have any bearing on our national security. But in the case of an existential threat, you must fight period - without the guarantees - because it is the right thing to do.

I think that the hyperfocus on "exit strategy" by Congress and the Press stems directly from the Powell Doctrine. And in the case of Iraq, if it is truly just a theater in the GWOT, seeking an exit strategy makes no sense. We should be seeking a permanent basing strategy so we can project force in the region for the foreseeable future, not obsessing on when the troops are coming home.

Bottom line, the Powell Doctrine seemed too parochial, placing the survival of and reputation of the Armed Services above the survival of the Nation. It stunk too much of a negative reaction too Vietnam - understandable, but still wrong.

So in a way, I am glad to see him go. But all the reasons I disliked him were the very things that gave him credibility with the President's political foes. Sometimes having an advisor who disagrees with you at a philosophical level helps bring fresh perspective, and sometimes they just obstruct real action. So it remains to be seen whether his departure will result in a more or less effective State Department.

I will say this, though. I think his loyalty to the President was admirable, and I don't think he stuck any knives in President Bush's back. He provided honest advice, and took it like a man when Bush decided against his advice. I hope that he doesn't feel the need to write a "tell-all" book that would embarass the President - at least not until after Bush leaves office in 2009.

Posted by: Scott Harris at November 17, 2004 02:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yeah, most of you pussies want Rummy out. He's got more balls than all you jerkoffs together.

Posted by: Sven at November 17, 2004 04:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

let's get a reality check, OK? Pletka at NEA, Abrams at NSC on Middle East--does this a resucitation of the peace process make?

(Caveat: I know nothing of Pletka.) A "rescusitation of the peace process" seems like the last thing to hope for. Getting someone in there who is not a process queen may be the only hope of actual peace, as opposed to the ever-receding, selfsustaining, blood-soaked "process".

Posted by: jaed at November 17, 2004 05:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'll use Feith as my marker. If he gets booted, I'll feel a little better.

If he gets promoted, I'm buying ulcer medicine and looking at a nice bunker in the countryside.

Posted by: Geek, Esq. at November 17, 2004 05:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can't let Rummy go just yet. Probably in a year or so. Need a strong hand to keep the generals from sinking the ship. They don't want to take any action without 400 to 500 thousand troops. Need to see if the post election security situation can be managed to acceptable levels with what we already have there. If not, throwing in more troops will not help unless their mission is to take out Syria and threaten Iran.

No Pali Roadmap until after someone is firmly in charge, no matter what Blair thinks. Opportunity knocks, but there's nobody there yet.

Goss should strip CIA down to rebuild level. No great loss. Hope Bush sticks with him. They haven't had anything right since what....... 1947?

Condi is perfect for SoS, strong support from the president, but it may not be doable to root out enough arabists to make any difference.

Posted by: Abu Qa'Qa at November 17, 2004 08:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Re Condi, I can't blame her for the mud-wrestling between CIA & State and Defense ... the only person who can shut that down is POTUS and he didn't seem to want to do that first term.

Part of Second Term is reminding State and CIA who they work for - they seem to think the elected officials are bumpkins they have to tolerate.

Posted by: BD at November 17, 2004 12:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just this once I have to disagree with M.Simon. The Peace Process is entering a new phase, but it must continue. Isreal and the U.S. need to just keep saying "Now that the nasty old Arafish is out of the way I'm sure we can come to a happy understanding" while the civil war continues. Once enough of the irrationals kill each other off, the transition from continuing to moving forward can begin.

Posted by: triticale at November 17, 2004 01:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The State-CIA-DoD three-way tag-team match has been going on for years, an obscure but salient feature of which is State's I&R (Intelligence and Research) bureau. Many other intelligence agencies feel that State I&R is tied so closely to the policy recommendations that their "analysis" is often colored in a way that supports the policy already decided upon by State. I suppose the same argument could be made about DIA, but there doesn't seem to be the same general consensus about them as there is about I&R.

Scott has very well summarized several of my thoughts, especially as they apply to the post-Vietnam effect. Without doubt Powell is a strong, intelligent, capable man of great personal integrity, but he is also extremely risk adverse, a characteristic no doubt born of his experience in SEA. Military leadership is going through a transition, as more and more senior members who developed their combat sense as junior members in SEA leave the ranks, our next echelon of combat experience comes from those who were spectacularly victorious in GWI. It will be a task to ensure these leaders moderate their experiences of crushing dominance with historical knowledge to avoid over confidence and adoption of a risk-ignorant policy.

Posted by: submandave at November 17, 2004 03:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The histrory of the Peace Process is all about process and nothing about peace.

Victory, judging from history, seems reasonably effective at creating peace.

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