December 01, 2005

A 7th Floor Meeting of Note

Passing through Heathrow I see this from Ignatius (via the indispensable aggregators at RCP):

Condoleezza Rice had an interesting office visitor on Monday -- none other than her old mentor and the nation's realist in chief, former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft. It was the first serious chat they've had after many months of strained relations, and it may be a symbol for a subtle shift that has been taking place at Rice's State Department.

After the Jeffrey Goldberg New Yorker article on Scowcroft there appeared a veritable mini-cottage industry of Scowcroft-bashing in various quarters (based on a couple really lame quotes in the piece, that presented easy straw-man style targets, like the '50 yrs of peace' line and such). This 'open season on Scowcroft!' moment was mostly borne of breezy over-simplifications and cheap shots, and I'll have more explicating why in the coming days. In the meantime, it's good a Condi-Scowcroft rapprochment appears in the works, at least imho. Grotesquely over-simplified missionary-style nostrums, and warmed-over faux-Churchillianism (think VDH-fare and myriad off-spring) are getting very tiresome indeed, and adult advice is desparately needed at the highest levels in Washington.

P.S. I've read the Bush Iraq plan now (it's a lightning fast read, the whole thing reads like an exec summary), and I'll have thoughts on it in the coming days. I think its existence is a net positive, all told, by the way--but will have critical comments too. But we see a more forthright approach to the state of the war effort peppering the bullet points sketching out the 'Eight Pillars', and that's better than cluelessness and denial, isn't it?

P.P.S. Coming soon too, we hope, reax to Krauthammer's lengthy discourses on torture in the Weekly Standard (mostly tweakage/variation on the Derschowtizian torture warrant theme, in the main when you get right down to it, but worthy of a response for a variety of reasons nonetheless).

O.K., off to boarding...

Posted by Gregory at December 1, 2005 02:58 PM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

i hope Condi meeting with Scowcroft doesnt mean shes given up on reform in KSA. If you have any evidence Scowcroft supports pressure on KSA for reform, Id love to see it.

And the 50 years of peace wasnt just a snipe. It got to an entire mindset about the mideast, and whats going on between Israel and its neighbors.

Posted by: liberalhawk at December 1, 2005 03:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I always wonder, when I read puff pieces on Sec. Rice like the one Ignatius wrote earlier this week, how they would be different if she looked like Madeleine Albright. They might be a little less credulous, for one thing.

I also have to point out that talking about a "Kissinger-Scowcroft realist tradition" in foreign policy, as Ignatius did, is a little like talking about a "Seaver-Trachsel pitching tradition" in baseball. Both Tom Seaver and Steve Trachsel pitched for the New York Mets, but Seaver is in the Hall of Fame and Trachsel is just a guy. Brent Scowcroft is one of a long line of former subordinate officials -- including Al Haig, Robert McFarlane, Tony Lake, and the elder George Bush himself -- who were competent to staff Henry Kissinger, take orders from Henry Kissinger, and advise Henry Kissinger, but not to replace Henry Kissinger as an architect of American foreign policy. Scowcroft's much-praised "realism" is mostly a reflection of his reflexive preference for the status quo and a quiet life. Its hallmarks are passivity and reaction; surrendering the policy initiative to other governments, a rarely-used tactic for Kissinger, is a positive virtue for Scowcroft.

If Scowcroft's counsel starts to look good now, that is not just a commentary on how badly the current Bush administration has handled foreign policy but an even sadder commentary on the state of American thought on that subject.

Posted by: JEB at December 1, 2005 03:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why is/was Bush so scared to get Bin Laden, that he risked the Iraqi debacle?

What is it about Saudi and Pakistani protection, Bush is freighted of?

Posted by: NeoDude at December 1, 2005 03:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Pakistani protection, Bush is freighted of? "

Well lets see, with 140,000 troops we only barely managed to keep "order" in Iraq (and some say we've failed). Pakistan is what, around 6 times the population? Could we manage 800,000 plus troops to occupy Pakistan?

Posted by: liberalhawk at December 1, 2005 06:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So Bush is scared of Pakistan?

Did they threaten us, if we decided to go after the man who killed 3,000 Americans?...and that's why they get to give Bin Laden sanctuary?

I don't get it...why does Bin Laden get a free pass?

Posted by: NeoDude at December 1, 2005 07:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Did they threaten us, if we decided to go after the man who killed 3,000 Americans?...and that's why they get to give Bin Laden sanctuary?"


If we went in to get OBL with American troops (overtly) and the Pakistani govt, consented, thered be a very good chance the Pakistani govt would collapse, and that Islamists would take over. In which case we'd either to have to live with it (and what then would we have gained?) or we'd have to go in with 800,000 troops to occupy the country, which we don't have.

So meanwhile we let the Pakistani forces pursue Bin Laden (perhaps with the assistance of covert US personnel). And the Pakis are of limited effectiveness, but they make some progress.

Posted by: liberalhawk at December 1, 2005 09:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What's with Mr. Britt's hagiography of Kissinger? Kissinger was/is a pudgy academic who learned how to courtier to Nelson Rockefeller and then Tricky Dick Nixon - the true chessmaster if one has to be appointed. He also learned how to leak to/massage the media in a way that would make Paris Hilton blush. As far as raw talent I don't think he could shine the shoes of a Richard Holbrooke or Jim Baker.

Posted by: wayne at December 1, 2005 09:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But we see a more forthright approach to the state of the war effort peppering the bullet points sketching out the 'Eight Pillars', and that's better than cluelessness and denial, isn't it?

well, you'll have to convince me that the "bullet points" and "eight Pillars" (btw, don't you think that using "pillars in this sense is a little, shall we say, inappropriate) doesn't represent "cluelessness and denial".

Basically, Bush seems to me to be clueless and in denial in terms of the real dynamic at work in Iraq. Simply state, Bush has yet to acknowledge that both Syria and Iran have legitimate interests in what happens in Iraq, and that some sort of accomodation with those nations will be necessary for any US policy in Iraq to succeed.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 1, 2005 11:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is liberalhawk saying that Rice gets a "babe" pass? Sort of Clintonesqe, heh?

Posted by: rich at December 2, 2005 12:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

An accommodation with Syria and Iran will be necessary, when they accommodate themselves with democracy. Iraq is part of a much bigger picture. Europe is a solved problem/spent force, and Russia is off-stage for the moment. But China will be very large and powerful, and no one can predict or much influence how it will behave. The nightmare scenario is an aggressive, totalitarian China allied with an oil-rich Islamo-fascist Middle East in a world of WMD and world terrorism. China and Pakistan have been allies, and they could easily make common cause with the Mullahs and Assads of the world (and maybe the Russians). We could find ourselves fighting a real third world war in 20 years.

What to do? With China we can make nice and hope for the best. We can build an allliance of like minded and vigorous democracies to secure that part of the world - US, UK, India, Australia, Japan. We can give Pakistan incentives to see things our way. And we can bust up the status quo in the Middle East, ending up at least with something much less toxic than the Taliban and Saddam. We can make it clear that we cannot be defeated, and eventually that pluralist democracy and market capitalism is the succesful way of life in the 21st Century. It seems to me that this how the Bushies are thinking, and that it is considerably more "realistic" than Scrowcroftism.

Posted by: Mahon at December 2, 2005 12:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wayne, I doubt Baker or even Holbrooke would agree with you.

Posted by: JEB at December 2, 2005 01:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JEB,

Probably true, I was just venting my opinion that the most flamboyant is not usually the most competent. When I look at Kissinger's legacy in Greece, Asia, Chile, the West Bank, etc. I'm not as impressed as others.

Posted by: wayne at December 2, 2005 01:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Rice-Scowcroft reconciliation doesn't surprise me. What I got from Charles Man's book The Rise of the Vulcans is that Rice is basically a realist-pragmatist type who has a moderate interest in democracy promotion.

I think she went along with Bush when he was fully behind the neocons partly out of loyalty, and partly because she predicted it wouldn't work and Bush would eventually turn back to a more sensible foreign policy.

As it happened she was right, and so Rice is S of S and is following pretty much the sort of moderate, multilateral approach she herself believes in. Interestingly, it is probably not that far from what Powell wanted to do, if Bush had let him.

Posted by: Les Brunswick at December 2, 2005 03:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"When I look at Kissinger's legacy in Greece, Asia, Chile, the West Bank, etc. I'm not as impressed as others."

Isn't Chile the most functional country (socially and economically) in Latin America?

Posted by: lindenen at December 2, 2005 08:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is liberalhawk saying that Rice gets a "babe" pass? Sort of Clintonesqe, heh

I am not JEB. JEB is not me.

Posted by: liberalhawk at December 2, 2005 07:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Isn't Chile the most functional country (socially and economically) in Latin America?"

Yes, and Kissinger's buddy, Generalissmo Pinchot made the trains run on time as well!

Posted by: David All at December 2, 2005 07:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"As it happened she was right, and so Rice is S of S and is following pretty much the sort of moderate, multilateral approach she herself believes in. Interestingly, it is probably not that far from what Powell wanted to do, if Bush had let him"

I dont see that at all. You seem to equate being sensible, moderate, and multilateral with giving up on democracy promotion. I dont think thats right at all. The natioanl interests narrowly defined vs regime type matters dimension is a seperate dimension from the unilateral vs multilateral dimension, which is also not quite the same as the UN is worthwhile vs UN is worthless dimension. The fact that certain prominent individuals have combined a belief in unilateralism with a belief in democracy promotion does not mean everyone with a more moderate apporach to multiateralism is commited to the narrow definition of national interest.

Posted by: liberalhawk at December 2, 2005 09:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't really disagree with you. I was trying to distinguish her from, on the one hand, realists who dogmatically reject democracy promotion, and other hand, neocons who are fanatically for democracy promotion and are wildly unilateral.

I am doing this because for a long time she was identified with the first group (as you would expect for a protege of Scowcroft), and then was identified with the second group when Bush took his neocon turn. I was trying to make clear that she doesn't really belong in either group.


Posted by: Les Brunswick at December 3, 2005 03:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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