January 20, 2005

Holbrooke Digs Condi's Picks

Richard Holbrooke, my favorite foreign policy player on the Democrat side of the aisle, provides a preliminary handicapping of the Bush II foreign policy team (Hat Tip: Praktike):

With much of the world wondering what President Bush will do in his second term, perhaps the best place to search for early clues is personnel. Nothing is more revealing, and, in the long run, nothing may be more important.

In this context, it is interesting to consider the names that have emerged so far -- mostly in the form of unconfirmed but seemingly accurate leaks -- as Condoleezza Rice picks a new team at the State Department. So far, she has opted primarily for outstanding career diplomats and professionals, not ideologues or partisan political appointees, especially in the critical regional assistant secretary jobs. Robert Zoellick, a veteran Republican foreign policy hand who is currently the U.S. trade negotiator, has already been nominated for deputy secretary of state. Other names that have reportedly gone to the White House for final approval include several senior career diplomats: Nicholas Burns, currently ambassador to NATO, as undersecretary of state, the department's third-ranking position; Daniel Fried, now a senior National Security Council official, or Eric Edelman, now ambassador to Turkey and previously a staffer for Vice President Cheney, as assistant secretary of state for European affairs; David Welch, ambassador to Egypt, as assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs; and Chris Hill, ambassador to South Korea, to head the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs....

...Their nominations may offer an important indication of the kind of foreign policy that Rice (and George W. Bush) want to conduct: more centrist, oriented toward problem-solving, essentially non-ideological, and focused on traditional diplomacy as a way to improve America's shaky image and relationships around the world. These men believe in American values and a strong, even assertive, foreign policy -- but they are not what the right and neoconservative wings of the Republican Party wanted in a post-Colin Powell State Department; for years, Powell's critics predicted political appointees in a second term, especially for the regional assistant secretary positions. In a second Bush term, they said, they would not only get rid of Powell but would purge disloyal career Foreign Service officers from the building. Richard Perle even gave a certain ersatz specificity to the problem; only 15 percent of the Foreign Service, he said publicly, was loyal to President Bush. These men are neither weak nor, as Newt Gingrich charged in a brutal 2003 Foreign Policy article attacking the State Department, have they ever "abdicated values and principle in favor of accommodation and passivity."

No such purges are in the offing. And I'd previously addressed Gingrich's (quite silly) hyperbole, many months back, here.

As for Holbrooke's questions:

These putative appointments raise several key questions: First, do they foreshadow a major second-term movement toward, if you will, a kinder, gentler foreign policy? Second, will counterbalancing senior State appointments -- especially the high-profile ambassadorship to the United Nations -- be given to allies of Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld? Third, will there be continued internal warfare pitting State against Cheney and Rumsfeld, or will a more pragmatic, mainstream approach -- favored by Powell but never quite successful -- prevail under Rice? Finally, will President Bush, who tolerated (and often seemed to ignore) that internal conflict in his first term, allow it to continue?

B.D.'s two cents: 1) Yes. 2) No (and particularly not w/r/t USUN). 3) Some, but materially less so, partly as Rumsfeld is, truth be told, kinda just hanging on to his job right now (and Bush will browbeat him if he tries to scuttle Condi high-handedly). 4) See paranthese to answer 3 above.

Posted by Gregory at January 20, 2005 02:27 AM

The USUN position is particularly interesting (and perhaps even important). The administration has not really criticized Kofi Annan, despite the opportunity given them by the blossoming UNSCAM. It is possible that this is because they understand that Kofi is not really the problem, but that the UN is rotten, root and branch. In that case, Bush would appoint someone who would work for major change, trying to force the UN to improve or implode.

Posted by: Sammler at January 20, 2005 11:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

B.D.'s two cents: ...

Wishful thinking. But keep telling yourself the fairy tale of the Good Sultan and the Evil Viziers if it helps.

Posted by: Doug at January 20, 2005 12:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Heh ... you followed that discussion. On point three, are you so sure about that? On Bush tolerating interagency warfare, how sure are you that he has a handle on the full extent of it?

Posted by: praktike at January 20, 2005 01:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't see Condi being in any real sense "kinder, gentler" than Powell. In fact, I see the opposite -- Condi being more firm. But in the publicity sense, I can believe she will allow the Euro folk (wimps?) to portray her as less hard-line.

Because Condi will be able, in all likelihood, to deliver on deals that Powell could not, she is more likely to be more effective.

It may well have been the case that Condi was the main Bush influence on foreign policies (a black woman pulling Bush's strings??? Yowsa!), and tacitly supporting Rummy against Powell. I really do not know the extent of Rice Powell conflict, if any.

I'm sure Bush trusts Condi in a deeper, more significant way than he trusted Powell.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at January 20, 2005 03:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You know, the more I think about it, the more I think you're wrong about Rumsfeld. This is his war, and he's not going anywhere as long as Bush and Cheney are nos. 1 and 2 respectively. So all of your railing against Rumsfeld and embracing of the more reasonable Condi Rice is for naught, it seems to me.

Posted by: praktike at January 21, 2005 12:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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