March 18, 2005

Don Rumsfeld Defenestration Watch

Can I just say that (with the exception of one nit I'll pick below) Dan's spot on in this analysis as he explicates the Rumsfeld Pentagon's major decline in influence in Bush II. And normally fair-minded and on the ball Kevin is, er, not (if you run a blog called Washington Monthly you gotta do a lil' better than this in gaming the Beltway fishbowl).

My Drezner nit? He writes:

At State, Condi Rice is now the secretary; She cajoled Bob Zoellick to leave a cabinet-level position at USTR to be her deputy, rejecting John Bolton in the process; highly regarded NATO ambassador Nick Burns will be the number three person as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; and Bush consigliere Karen Hughes just agreed to come back as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy. There's no comparison between this crew and the old Powell/Armitage team. The old group had gravitas and little else. This group has gravitas, bueaucratic infighting skills, and several people personally close to the President. [emphasis added]

Powell and Armitage only blessed with gravitas while the new crew has gravitas AND bureaucratic infighting skills AND closeness to POTUS? Hmmm. In my view Drezner is right only with respect to the closeness to POTUS being the distinguishing factor. Powell and Armitage were very adept bureaucratic warriors--and, often forgotten, they won some quiet victories here and there. Itís just that the neo-cons and Pentagon were in major ascendancy after the shocks and tremors of 9/11. From that day on, Bush's first term was basically one long war presidency--inherently weakening State's influence on many levels--particularly as Powell never really formed a real bond with Dubya. Now, of course, a Thermidor has set in and the pendelum is swinging back towards Foggy Bottom. In addition, of course, there is that most basic of Washington axioms that figures so prominently in all this Beltway handicapping. That is, the most important coin available in the Washington realm--having the ear of the President--will be Condi's (and Karen Hughes) ace in the hole over the next four years. Whoever is at Defense now or later.

P.S. Might Dick Armitage replace Rumsfeld in 2006? Developing, and not well for Rumsfeld (unless he's eager to spend more time chez home now that he's outlasted Powell, Abu Ghraib, and perhaps the worst of the Iraqi insurgency).

Posted by Gregory at March 18, 2005 05:17 AM | TrackBack (4)
Comments

I could support Armitage there. I like him a lot. I thought he would have been a good choice for Negroponte's new job. He'd also be a good Ambassador to Iraq, although I think Khalilzad will do a good job and he's the all-important channel to Iran. I heard that the Iraqis who were sounded out on Khalilizad were a bit miffed to be associated implicitly w/ the lowly Afghans, but they'll get over it.

Posted by: praktike at March 18, 2005 06:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It'll be in 2005, a short time after completion of the quadrennial review. I don't have a favored candidate, but would be looking at the legislative branch, rather than the First Term, for names.

Colonel Mustard, in the conservatory, with the rope.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at March 18, 2005 12:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Absurd to argue that Colin Powell, the Beltway insider's insider, did not have "bureaucratic infighting skills." No one in the foreign policy apparat has more skilfully leveraged his connections, survived longer, played his cards better than this man during the last thirty years.

Posted by: thibaud at March 18, 2005 01:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dan's analysis could have benefited from some context. Specifically, the State Department as an institution is not what it was even twenty years ago. American non-military foreign aid is encumbered by Congressional restrictions, USIA is no more (which means State has to shoulder more of the burden for public diplomacy), and State's internal organization has not improved that much since a blue-ribbon panel panned it four years ago.

The contrast with the Defense Department is striking. In this administration's first term policy making was about filling a vacuum, because of the President's weak background in national security affairs. Sec. Rumsfeld not only knew what he wanted to do, but had the Department to do it. Powell by contrast could only influence policy with the cooperation of other agencies.

As the second term begins, Rumsfeld and his team have done what they wanted to do in Iraq. There remains military transformation (incidentally, a subject that for Rumsfeld ranks right up there with terrorism in importance), a process that will take many years beyond the end of Bush's term no matter what is done now. Plus, Rumsfeld will turn 73 this year. To me, this adds up to a Rumsfeld resignation that will be submitted when he feels like it, but that will probably come in to the White House within the next year. Armitage, I think, is a likely successor off Bush's record of preferring familiar faces when they are available.

With respect to both State and Defense I think the angles of shifting balances of Washington power and developing White House policy strategy can be overdone. Two Cabinet Secretaries in the last quarter century have served out two complete Presidential terms: Samuel Pierce, Reagan's Housing Secretary, and Janet Reno as head of the Clinton Justice Department. The point is that Cabinet resignations happen all the time in any administration; it is more, not less, likely that the most influential department heads will leave before the President's term is up. I am, to be polite, skeptical of Dan's view that the new team at State means that Rumsfeld has fallen out of favor with Bush. Powell had telegraphed his intention to resign a long time before the first term's end; Bush wanted to reward Rice with a promotion, and Rice (very prudently) decided to bring in two highly effective people to support her. The one appointment that seems to me a signal of something specific Bush himself wants done is that of Karen Hughes to run public diplomacy efforts at the State Department. This is, coincidentally, the weakest appointment of any that Bush has made since the second term began.

Posted by: Zathras at March 18, 2005 06:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Armitage appears to have common sense, which means I doubt he'll be picked. Cheney will tap the next SecDef; any indication that Armitage & Cheney are buds?

Posted by: Anderson at March 18, 2005 10:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BD,
I think sometimes your analysis fails to consider domestic political factors.

Namely, it is clear Joe Lieberman will replace Rumsfeld. Not only does Joe not want to run again, but by moving to DOD before the 2006 elections, allows the Republican Gov of Connecticut to appoint Congresswoman Nancy Johnson to Liberman's seat. Plus one for the GOP before a single election. That's the type of thinking Bush engages in.

Posted by: singaporesling at March 19, 2005 03:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

'Sling,
Hah - brilliant. but you left out the part where he then puts him in as Secretary of the Army.

Think I'm kidding? Thanks for filling in, Mr. White:(http://www.army.mil/leaders/Secarmy/Secarmy.htm)

I can't wait.

Posted by: Tommy G at March 19, 2005 07:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Armitage?

A better guess would be a change agent, someone both Rumsfeld and Cheney would approve of as well.

Posted by: Tim at March 20, 2005 04:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Who would be a "change agent" likely to be approved by both Cheney and Rumsfeld, someone who would carry forward the policies in military transformation and other areas that Rumsfeld has pursued and Cheney approved of?

How about -- Dick Cheney?

I am only suggesting this to make trouble, not because I think a man with a heart condition wants to return to the most demanding job in the government. But if you believe in the "every move has a hidden purpose" theory of the Bush administration, surely a Rumsfeld departure followed by Cheney's resignation as Vice President, nomination as Secretary of Defense, and the nomination by Bush of a new Vice President he sees as a worthy successor would make sense, would it not?

Otherwise there is bound to be a brawl in 2008 among Republicans eager to show how completely they are owned by the GOP's various organized constituencies. It is bound to be an unedifying, even a degrading spectacle, and might even make it more likely that a Democrat could get elected. Nominating as Vice President someone sufficiently obsequious to Bush -- Bill Frist would be one possibility -- while Republicans have a large enough Congressional majority to confirm him would be one way of avoiding this.

Posted by: Zathras at March 20, 2005 10:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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