October 06, 2005

Detainee abuse redux

I see Tom Donnelly and Vance Serchuk (the latter of whom was an acquaintance and sometimes mentor of mine during my time as an intern at the American Enterprise Institute) have a good primer up in the Weekly Standard on the subject of Congress codifying the Army Manual interrogation guidelines as the uniform standard for interrogation. The Senate has now voted 90-9 on the subject and I think it's for the best. Readers interested in my previous thoughts on the topic of detainee abuse can read here.

The 12 points (and yes, I know the Good Lord had only 10) on this issue for me are as follows:

1. I don't want to have to deal with this topic. Period. There are a lot more important issues that need to be discussed and a lot more important things that need to be done that are not because of this controversy. Its continued existence continues to sap domestic support for the war, provides inadvertent aid and comfort to both the enemy and the US anti-war movement, and makes it difficult to curb the rise of anti-Americanism among the general populace our oh-so-superior European allies. I also think that many of the bloggers who have touched on this subject have become far too hysterical and in so doing discredited the much broader and more important issues at hand.

2. All of the above might be tolerated if there were some kind of real, tangible benefits derived from the procedures that have been documented in various government reports. As noted in my previous piece, I am well aware that interrogating a terrorist to the point where they will supply useful information is not a pretty thing, which is why they call it "breaking." However, I do not see how any useful information that can be obtained from utilizing the various abuses documented to date, nor do any number of individuals who know far more about the practice than I up at my hometown of Fort Leavenworth. What good is interrogating a subject if they die in the process, for example? One of the options I am sympathetic to is that of narco-interrogation, but as I understand it no one has raised it as a serious alternative to date, leaving me wondering if it has either been dismissed as ineffective or is simply being ignored. From a purely utilitarian perspective, the key issue here for me is effectiveness and I do not see how what happened at Abu Ghraib or Bagram according to the military reports on the subject are effective interrogation techniques.

3. As noted above, I do think that many (but by no means all) of the individuals involved in this have been overly hysterical, have a political axe and/or vendetta to grind, et al. I also think that if you take many of the more hysterical arguments on this subject to their logical conclusion that you can't help but come to the point of view that US troops, at least when serving under a Republican administration, are serial human rights abusers. That's a personal judgement call and one I'll happily make. But that does not remove their concerns from the area of merit and I think that the Donnelly/Serchuk piece helps to put this issue in its proper perspective as far as what the issue is here ("it's apparent that confusion and lack of training--more than premeditated malice or moral failing--have been the determining factors in the misconduct of American soldiers"). Conservatives who have for many months now defended American troops against what they regard as a sickening smear campaign against them by elements of the anti-war left should not shrink from adopting this measure, as it clearly defines right from wrong as far as interrogation techniques are concerned. From a purely political perspective, it serves to separate those who are genuinely concerned over the issue of detainee abuses from those who regard this as just another political vendetta.

4. Al-Qaeda prisoners will almost certainly continue to claim abuse or torture before a jury, military tribunal, or upon release. It is a part of their training curriculum and serves as an effective propaganda tool, which is one of the reasons why it's so necessary to counter for the broader PR battle that the US is now facing in the Muslim world. In order for this campaign to work, we must be able to contrast our own civilized nature to the abject barbarism practiced by Zarqawi and his allies. Conservatives (in my opinion correctly) bemoaned the tabloid-esque media sensationalism that occurred following the release of the first round of Abu Ghraib photos as nothing less than a recruiting commercial for al-Qaeda. Those photos played directly into bin Laden's hand and from the perspective his Middle Eastern audience confirmed the truth of everything he said about the US. We cannot afford to have a disaster on that scale happen again, period.

5. I do not believe that either international human rights organizations, the international media, or the loonier segments of the anti-war movement are going to dampen their criticism of the United States or the administration because of this measure. Keep in mind, many of them tend to regard the very idea of designating al-Qaeda detainees as enemy combatants an act against international law every bit as bad as the detainee abuses themselves (which in my view demonstrates more the skewed moral paradigm that such individuals operate under than anything else). You don't undertake correct actions like this to gain the praise of your enemies, however.

6. The idea that this act plays into the hands of the enemy is misplaced, in my view. It certainly does not extend the rights enjoyed by US citizens to the likes of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, Abu Zubaydah, Abd Rahim al-Nashiri, Tawfiq Attash Khallad, or Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, for example. Rather, it codifies US interrogation policy so as to make sure that there are unambiguous distinctions between what are and are not acceptable conduct under American law. If these abuses are indeed the exception or the result of confusion and a lack of training as I believe to be the case, then what exactly is the problem?

7. Armchair psychoanalysis assessments linking prisoner abuses to either the US (correctly) labeling Iraqi insurgents as terrorists are horridly off-key, in my view. Or to state it better, these are arguments that sound brilliant to pundits but completely fall apart once you expose them to the harsh light of reality. As anyone who has ever taken an introductory class in psychology will tell you, human beings have a natural tendency to abuse authority, particularly when the rules are confusing or seemingly ambiguous. There have been a number of famous sociological studies demonstrating ample potential for prisoner abuse quite removed from anyone calling their prisoners (who were their classmates in one such study if memory serves) "terrorists" or even being in the middle of a war.

8. I understand well the argument that prisoner abuses, like the poor, will always be with us. No policy is going to be perfect in this respect, but if there is room for improvement I see no reason not to take that step whenever possible.

9. The administration, as I understand, argues that bill in question would intrude on the power of the executive branch to conduct war. That's a reasonable concern and I'm all for separation of powers, so if in fact they're correct in this regard the solution seems simple to me - have the administration implement a directive doing exactly what this bill argues for and then remove it from the floor.

10. The administration is threatening a veto on this particular bill, just as it has threatened a veto on another bill aimed at rescinding its earlier policies with regard to embryonic stem cell research. As a Catholic whose views on this subject are in line with the Magisterium (an issue that I am not going to get sidetracked on in the comments), I accept arguments in favor of the latter on the grounds of preserving human life. Given that adopting the former measure will serve to assist in the preservation of the lives of current and future US soldiers for all the reasons noted above, is it not then equally worthy of support?

11. On the issue of how to handle truly hard-core al-Qaeda members and leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, I think there are a variety of interrogation options available, though I'm still more than a little fuzzy as to whether or not the Field Manual regulations even apply to the CIA operatives charged with his interrogation or whether they have their own internal interrogation guidelines. Whether or not they do, I think it goes without saying that the interrogation techniques that can be used against absolute monsters like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be quite different in terms of both order and degree from those employed against the normal Iraqi or Afghan detainees who are often taken up in periodic "sweeps" of hostile territory, questioned, and in most cases released afterwards. Simply put, what you do to someone you know is a mass murderer in a controlled environment like Diego Garcia (you guys do know that's where they're housing KSM, right?) is and should always be different from what you do with regular detainees.

12. One final point that hasn't been discussed but needs to be is how we deal with the interrogation of juvenile detainees. As I noted in an earlier discussion with Eric, al-Qaeda doesn't adhere to Western ideas like the belief that you become an adult at 18 and has no problems fielding fighters, runners, or spotters as young as 16 or even 12. A number of African armies do this as well and it's not a pretty thing, but it is a reality that is going to need to be addressed at some point as far as how we deal with them upon capture.

That's all I plan on writing on this for now and barring any unforeseen developments, I really don't plan on addressing the topic again. Just wanted to bring this to the attention of readers and let them know where I stood on it.

Posted by at 08:42 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

September 29, 2005

DeLay

Kind of a sad statement, isn't it, that the travails of the Majority Leader of the party B.D. ostensibly gravitates towards leave me with a good measure of schadenfreude. I suppose it's no secret I've never liked DeLay, and while I am not an expert in TX electoral law and he deserves a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise, rest assured I won't be losing any sleep as this sordid saga plays out. Of course, on the other side of the aisle, the Nancy Pelosis and such are abject train-wrecks too, so there you are. I guess--despite moments of policy wonkdom withdrawal--B.D's happy to be in NYC and not Washington DC. Sad times in the Beltway, with enough cronyism, mediocrity and ass-covering to repel all but the heartiest souls. Back a little later this evening on other subjects du jour.

Posted by Gregory at 02:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 07, 2005

Department of Beltway Machinations

Er, is it just me; or does someone want to keep his bona fides with POTUS on the up and up so as to be well positioned to replace Rummy?

Well, it's not just me (see point No. 3)...

P.S. I'd ship Bolton up to USUN as a trade for Armitage replacing Rumsfeld. Any. Day. Of. The. Week.

Posted by Gregory at 02:20 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 26, 2005

Poor Prognostications Watch

I'm a big fan of Laura Rozen's excellent War and Piece blog (and we even share the same site designer!). But her Beltway prognostications, over the past election seasion, have, er, been pretty 'out of touch' (to use a phrase she likes). We were ominously warned by Laura that Danielle Pletka might (gulp) run Middle East policy at State. But, and as B.D. predicted, David Welch (the current US Ambassador to Egypt) is set to get the job. Laura strongly suggested that John Bolton was going to get Deputy Secretary of State (or even National Security Advisor, that is, if Wolfy didn't get it first!). But Bolton didn't get DepSec, Zoellick did. As for NSA--that's Steve Hadley, not Wolfowitz, of course. And too, lest we forget, Laura wasn't above intimating Doug Feith would be staying on through Bush's second term. He's not. Now, however, Laura's speculating that Lewis 'Scooter' Libby is perhaps to replace Doug Feith (he won't).

It's always like this with Laura, isn't it? The neo-cons are coming! Really! Run for the exits! But no judicious observer can now deny that the neo-con ascendancy, especially strong just after 9/11, is in abeyance. We are witnessing a Thermidor, of sorts, and the new fulcrum of foreign policy power in this new Administration will be Condi's State Department--which will be mostly realist in practice (if more idealist in tone than during Powell's stewardship). No, Zeollick isn't some uber-realist who doesn't give a damn about democratization--but he's not of the chest-beaty school that thinks we can afford new adventures in Syria and Iran right now (though U.S.-Syrian relations are going through a quite prickly patch just now and Iran, perennially, remains A Big Deal).

I know a lot of this is kinda inside baseball and may not interest too many non-Beltway types. But it matters, as individuals set policy direction, and it bears repeating that evil Straussians haven't taken over the apparatus of government--hoodwinking a bovine Bush in the process. That's the story Laura's been selling for a while now--but it's just not how the narrative is playing out.


Posted by Gregory at 06:09 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

January 21, 2005

Rumsfeld Out In Not Too Distant Future?

How President George W. Bush fills the key post of secretary of defense will be one of the pivotal decisions defining the second term he inaugurates with pomp and pizzazz in Washington Thursday, January 20. Much as he may praise Donald Rumsfeld for his “excellent job”, the secretary is believed by...Washington sources to be on his way out. The timing of his resignation – certainly not before Iraq’s January 30 election - depends on a choice of successor, for which the White House has been holding discreet contacts for weeks. That choice in turn depends on the president defining his end-game for Iraq and laying it out in clear policy guidelines.

A Democrat might be appointed to the post, in the same bipartisan way in which Republican William Cohen served as President Bill Clinton’s defense secretary.

A changing of the guard at the Pentagon amid the ferocious guerrilla war in Iraq will give the Bush administration a chance to review key policy goals....(Hat Tip: Reader Bret Eagan)

Yeah, it's Debka. So take it with, er, a pretty big grain of salt. [ed. note: Does this mean some Israelis want Rummy out too? Well, most Israelis, I'd think, want us to win, really win, in theater, right? So maybe. I continue to quite firmly believe his removal could prove a boon to the war effort there--for reasons I've extensively blogged previously]. Anyway, here's hoping this story has some legs. To repeat (and I've blogged this before too), I don't think Rummy will still be in his job by latter half of '06--and there could be an exit well earlier. You'll have heard it here first.

Posted by Gregory at 01:13 AM | Comments (7)

January 20, 2005

Notes From The Condi Hearings

Listening to (or, rather, reading the transcripts of the Condi hearings) John Kerry and Joe 'the Blowhard' Biden question Condi Rice was kinda like hearing Fat Joe and Ashanti chanting "Who the Mack Now" (from "What's Luv")--over and over and over.

Paraphrasing (when language isn't in quotes): Kerry: See, Mubarak told me that.. ("Every Arab leader I asked, do you want Iraq to fail, says no")....Biden: "That's not what Qadhafi told me" about why he gave up his WMD...Kerry: Just back from Fallujah ("haven't been as many times as Joe"), and lemme tell you...Biden: Wait, in Erbil the Kurds told me (after a seven hour ride into the hills!) "the mountains are [their] only friends"...Kerry: Kirkuk! Mosul! (merely letting these cities names roll off one's lips, it appears, make all the senatorial oratory somehow, um, studlier). Or, Kerry: "The Germans say they could do more." Biden: What about the "5,000 European paramilitary police types"? And then, Biden: Hell, did I mention I'm almost not going to vote for you? Kerry: Well, I'm not voting for you. I'm the Mack. No, you're the Mack. [ed. note: What a team these guys would have made!]

Well, as it turns out, someone else was the Mack (apart from Condi, who performed more than adequately). So, who asked the best questions of Condi, rather than tiresomely showboat (Biden) or display encroaching symptoms of Gore-itis (Kerry)? Barack Obama, that's who. [ed. note: What's Gore-itis? Er, not dealing too elegantly with loss (though, and I say this sincerely, I can emphatize with what a crushing blow 2000 must have been for someone who wanted the job ever since St. Albans days].

Some snippets:

OBAMA: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, members of the committee, Dr. Rice. First of all, let me say how grateful I am to have the opportunity to serve on this committee. I know that it has a wonderful reputation for bipartisanship. And that, I think, is partly due to the excellence of the chairman and the ranking member and the degree to which you both work together extremely closely. So I'm looking forward to my service here. Dr. Rice, it's wonderful to see you here. And I've been very impressed, obviously, with your mastery of the issues. Since it's the day after King's birthday, obviously, 20 or 30 years ago, it's unlikely that I'd be sitting here asking you questions. And so I think that's a testimony to how far we've come, despite how far we still have to go. And I think everybody rightly is extraordinary impressed with your credentials and your experience in this field. I've got three areas I'd like to explore that have already been touched on to some degree. I want to try to see if I can knock out all three of them with the time that I have remaining. The first has to do with the issue of nuclear proliferation, which has already been discussed. But I think it's important to note that in the midst of what was sometimes a very divisive campaign, there was strong agreement between President Bush and Senator Kerry that our number one priority, that our single greatest challenge is keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. And there has been enormous leadership on the part of this committee, and Senator Lugar in particular, working with former Senator Nunn, to move the process forward of securing nuclear material in the former Soviet Union. I am still concerned that less nuclear material, as I understand it, has been secured from the former Soviet Union in the two years after September 11th than the two years prior to September 11th. Now, it may just be that there was low-hanging fruit initially and it starts getting harder as time goes by. But I'm also concerned of the fact that we've never fully funded, it appears to me, the Nunn-Lugar program. I know that Senator Lugar is going to be presenting an amendment that gives your office more flexibility in this area. I'm hopeful that I'm going to have the opportunity to work with him and my colleagues on this piece of legislation. I guess my question is: How are you going to use this flexibility? Number one, are you going to be seeking full funding? Number two, beyond the existing mechanisms to lock down existing nuclear material, what else are we doing, for example, to make sure that Pakistan has a mechanism in place to ensure that those nuclear weapons or that technology is no longer drifting off into the hands of hostile forces?

First, kudos for talking about the nuclear proliferation issue. There is no more critical foreign policy challenge impacting our national security. But, of course, everyone knows that. It's the part about the "low hanging fruit" that got me. Obama's obviously thought through these issues--he's not just going through the motions and scoring cheap points. We can quibble about the stats and methodology behind deeming nuclear material secured and such. But Obama was gracious, and showed he knew what he was talking about, by making the important point that it gets harder and harder going forward to secure nuclear materials after the "low hanging fruit" have already been accounted for (don't miss Obama's good follow up question on this issue either).

Next, Obama turns to the "train and equip" effort in Iraq--another immensely important issue. He concludes:

OBAMA: Mr. Chairman, I know my time up. I would just make this note, that if our measure is bring our troops home and success is measured by whether Iraqis can secure their own circumstances, and if our best troops in the world are having trouble controlling the situation with 150,000 or so, it sounds like we've got a long way to go. And I think part of what the American people are going to need is some certainty, not an absolute timetable, but a little more certainty than is being provided, because right now, it appears to be an entirely open-ended commitment.

Well, he's right. And he strikes the right notes. The American people can't tolerate an open-ended committment, of course, without feeling the government is playing it straight and has a real plan to train and equip Iraqi forces. But, unlike many in his party (Kerry all but did this in the campaign), he wisely states we can't expect an "absolute timetable"--ostensibly for either withdrawal of U.S. troops or an Administration declaration regarding when the "train and equip" effort would be finalized (we just can't know yet).

Next issue Obama broaches? AIDS--but with a twist.

Dr. Rice, I appreciate your stamina. I've got one very specific question that I'd like maybe a brief answer to so that -- even though it's a large question, and then maybe I want to engage with you a little bit on this public diplomacy issue.

You know, I think that you've done a commendable job in helping the United States rethink its international aid and development programs. So I know the Millennium Challenge Account, you were very active in.

I understand the president pledged $10 billion by fiscal year '06. To date, 2.5 (billion dollars) has been appropriated; my understanding is very little has been spent. The president also pledged, in 2003, $15 billion for HIV/AIDS, something that all of us care deeply about. But to date, only around $2 billion has been appropriated for HIV/AIDS, leaving $13 billion to be appropriated and spent over the next three years.

So my very specific question is, are you planning, and would you pledge here to make full funding of these commitments a central priority of the administration in its budget request for Congress?

MS. RICE: The MCA is a very important initiative for us, and we have been trying to get it right, and so it takes some time to negotiate compacts with these countries and to make sure that they are prepared to take on the obligations of receiving MCA funding. And so -- and we were also about a year late in -- not a year late, but a year in getting the Millennium Challenge Corporation up and running.

And so what we will do is we will make sure that the funding is there for the program that is before us. And we will, over time, certainly fulfill the president's obligation to, by 50 percent, increase American spending on development assistance.

SEN. OBAMA: Okay. The reason I make this point I think is not that I want us to spend money willy-nilly, and in the same way that -- on social programs if programs aren't well thought through and you throw money at them, it may be a waste of money, and we don't have money to waste, the same is certainly true on the international stage.

On the other hand, when we publicly announce that we're making these commitments, and if it appears that we're not following through, then that undermines our credibility and makes your job more difficult. And so I would urge that there is a clear signal by the administration in its budgeting process this time out that we're moving forward on this. And if in fact it turns out that the spending on this money was overly ambitious because we don't quite know how to spend all of it wisely, then that should be stated publicly and clearly and the time line should be extended. But there should be a clear signal sent by the administration on that. So that's the relatively narrow point. [emphasis added]

Again, no cheap soundbites about "where's the other 13 Bil"? Instead, a sophisticated understanding about how aid monies much be disbursed with care, not "willy-nilly," and the cogent apercu (if somewhat obvious but under-appreciated as an issue) that no follow through means no street cred on these issues.

Finally, Obama turns to public diplomacy:

The broader point I think draws on a number of themes that have been discussed earlier. The issue of public diplomacy, some of it is technique, it's technical. Do we have the equivalent of a Radio Free Europe in the Middle East that's effective?

You know, what are we doing with respect to exchange students and visas? I mean, I think there are a whole host of technical questions that we can deal with.

But you know, effective public diplomacy, at least from my perspective, isn't just spin; it's substantive. Part of the problem we have overseas is not just a matter of presentation; it's profound disagreements with our approach to certain policies. And I think that one area that this comes up, and I think Iraq highlighted, and I see in your statement I think it may highlight it as well -- when I read in the third paragraph of your testimony or opening statement today, it says, "Under the vision and leadership of President Bush, our nation has risen to meet the challenges of our times, fighting tyranny and terror, and securing the blessings of freedom and prosperity for a new generation." Part of, I think, the concern that I have here, and this has been a concern for critics of the administration for some time, is the conflation of tyranny and terror. And that may be where the mixed signals or the lack of consistency that Senator Chafee and Senator Boxer and others were alluding to arises.

We are unanimous in wanting to root out terror. It appears that even within the administration there's ambiguity with respect to our views on tyranny. Tyranny is problematic, but if engaged in by an ally of ours or a country that's sufficiently powerful that we don't think we can do anything about it doesn't prompt military action. In other cases it does. Part of the, I think, debate and divisiveness of Iraq had to do with the fact that it appeared that the administration sold military action in Iraq on the basis of concern about terror and then the rationale shifted or at least got muddied into an acknowledged desire to get rid of a tyrant....

...I think that's fair. And if that's the case in the -- again, I don't want to belabor this, but -- I'm just trying to give you a sense of where I think our public diplomacy fails. There is certainly a link between tyranny in Saudi Arabia and terrorism. And yet we make a whole series of strategic decisions about accommodating the Saudi regime. And I'm not saying that's a bad decision. But what I am saying is, is that the degree to which you as the spokesperson for U.S. foreign policy is (sic) able to articulate greater consistency in our foreign policy, and where those links exist between tyranny and terror you are able to apply those not just in one or two areas but more broadly, then I think your public diplomacy is going to be more successful.[emphasis added]

Yes, the public diplomacy initiative cannot be unmoored from more substantive changes in our policies. Matt Yglesias makes this point well here--and you should definitely go check it out (unlike Matt, I guess, I think Condi's smart enough to get this and, further, will be empowered, as and when appropriate conditions allow, to make substantive policy adjustments too--particularly on Israel-Palestine and treatment of Gulf Arab autocracies).

I haven't followed Obama much, and I will have to keep more of an eye on him to form a fuller view, but I think it's fair to say that he's a real star. Who knows? Will America be ready for such a post-racial, cerebral HLS grad for the big job circa. 2012 or 2016? We'll see. One thing is for sure. There's a bigger chance B.D. would vote for a more seasoned Obama than the sometimes insufferably self-aggrandizing Kerrys and Bidens.

P.S. Is it just me, or is it a testament to a certain meritocratic grandeur we have in this country, that the two people at the top of their game during these hearings (a star freshman senator and the first minority female Secretary of State) were both African-Americans?

Incidentally, methinks Boxer and Kerry looked pretty low with their no votes, no? Especially the latter, as it smelled of sour grapes, and his background of privilege is in sharp contrast to Condi's. Underwhelming display, I'd say, all told. But they'll tell you it was all about "principle" or such. I don't buy it. With Boxer, it was faux indignation (with a good dose of foreign policy cluelessness thrown in--her attempted analogizing of the Milosevic and Saddam situations particularly sad). For Kerry, a hodgepodge of conflicting impulses (wasn't it always?), but in the main: looking more Dean-y (the better to get the Kos-troops and such underwhelming gaggles all giddy in case a "New" Kerry is to be trotted out in '08), the aforementioned Gore-itis harming best judgment and mitigating the usual, if very practiced, noblesse oblige, and all this with some good ol' fashioned showboaty theater thrown in after the Big-Euro-Middle East-Tour (but Gerhard and Hosni say...!).

UPDATE: Heh.


Posted by Gregory at 02:55 AM | Comments (39)

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 02:27 AM | Comments (5)

January 07, 2005

Zoellick Gets DepSec; Bolton Exits

Story here:

Zoellick's expected appointment provides the first insight to the team Rice hopes to assemble at the State Department, which has often been a dissenting voice within the administration on Iraq and other key foreign policies. Outgoing Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other State officials have promoted diplomacy and cooperation with the United Nations, clashing with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and administration neoconservatives who have often favored a more unilateral approach on foreign policy.

What is striking about Zoellick and others being talked about as candidates for top jobs at State, foreign policy analysts said, is that most of them are professional diplomats. Zoellick is considered an internationalist attuned to the need for building coalitions, which he has had to do as trade representative.

The roster of others officials have said are in the running for the new State Department team are NATO Ambassador Nicholas Burns, who worked with Rice at the National Security Council during the first Bush administration, and Philip D. Zelikow, director of the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs and co-author with Rice of "Germany Unified and Europe Transformed." Zelikow was also staff director for the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Both men are personal friends with whom Rice holds working dinners. As U.S. trade representative and NATO ambassador, Zoellick and Burns also come with expansive contacts globally.

Oh, and Bolton looks set to go:

Undersecretary of State John Bolton, a leading hard-liner on nuclear nonproliferation who has raised hackles among America's allies as well as its adversaries, is expected to quit the Bush administration, sources said on Thursday.

His departure may signal a shift in U.S. diplomacy to a less confrontational approach as President Bush begins a second term in which he has pledged to reach out to allies estranged by the Iraq War and other policies.

Bolton, an outspoken and controversial policymaker, often provoked strong negative reactions from European allies and was identified more with the sticks than the carrots of U.S. diplomacy when dealing with countries like North Korea and Iran.

He had hoped for a promotion in Bush's second term, perhaps to deputy secretary of state, but the word went out that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick would get the No. 2 spot under Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state designate.

P.S. You heard it was going this way here first.

P.P.S. Laura, I told you so....

MORE: From the FT:

Mr Zoellick, 51, regarded as a tough, effective negotiator, has had wide experience dealing with multilateral institutions. He served in the Treasury in the 1980s and was the chief US official handling the unification of Germany and the cold war aftermath, when he worked closely with Ms Rice under President George H.W. Bush.

It is rare for a serving cabinet member to take a lesser ranking job as a deputy. But people close to the discussions said on Thursday that President George W. Bush and vice-president Dick Cheney were keen to restore the State Department as an effective voice in the administration.

“The president had a transformational foreign policy . . . now we are looking for a transformational diplomacy in his second term,” said an official [emphasis added].

Make no mistake. Rumsfeld's Pentagon is on the mega-defensive (big-time, as they say); while Condi's State on the rise (she's got the all important direct channel to POTUS and is in honeymoon mode--while Rummy is busy saving his job)--trust me, she won't be taking her marching orders from Don 'So-Called Occupied Territories' Rumsfeld (he can't try to play both SecState and SecDef this go-around and will shut up on things that, er, affect the Middle East peace process, say--or Bush/Condi will rein him in might quick). That's good folks, that's good.

Posted by Gregory at 04:33 AM | Comments (6)

December 15, 2004

And Now....Kristol

McCain. Hagel. Now Bill Kristol joins the Rummy-must-go crew. May they grow and prosper...

At least the topic of those conversations in the Pentagon isn't boring. Indeed, Rumsfeld assured the troops who have been cobbling together their own armor, "It's interesting." In fact, "if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up." Good point. Why have armor at all? Incidentally, can you imagine if John Kerry had made such a statement a couple of months ago? It would have been (rightly) a topic of scorn and derision among my fellow conservatives, and not just among conservatives.

Perhaps Rumsfeld simply had a bad day. But then, what about his statement earlier last week, when asked about troop levels? "The big debate about the number of troops is one of those things that's really out of my control." Really? Well, "the number of troops we had for the invasion was the number of troops that General Franks and General Abizaid wanted."

Leave aside the fact that the issue is not "the number of troops we had for the invasion" but rather the number of troops we have had for postwar stabilization. Leave aside the fact that Gen. Tommy Franks had projected that he would need a quarter-million troops on the ground for that task -- and that his civilian superiors had mistakenly promised him that tens of thousands of international troops would be available. Leave aside the fact that Rumsfeld has only grudgingly and belatedly been willing to adjust even a little bit to realities on the ground since April 2003. And leave aside the fact that if our generals have been under pressure not to request more troops in Iraq for fear of stretching the military too thin, this is a consequence of Rumsfeld's refusal to increase the size of the military after Sept. 11.

In any case, decisions on troop levels in the American system of government are not made by any general or set of generals but by the civilian leadership of the war effort. Rumsfeld acknowledged this last week, after a fashion: "I mean, everyone likes to assign responsibility to the top person and I guess that's fine." Except he fails to take responsibility.

Rummy's abdications of responsibility are becoming breathtaking in their gall and frequency. What is leadership divorced from real responsibility and being held to account? Cowardice, really.

Oh, on the 'we have enough troops in Iraq' crapola don't miss this either:

MR. RUSSERT: General Meigs, Senator Biden also reported the following: "We were in Fallujah spending time with the operational commanders in there. As I'm leaving, they're putting us on a Black Hawk helicopter. One of the commanders...with stars on his shoulder, waited until the noise was loud enough from the helicopter, leaned up and he said, `Senator, anybody tells you that we have enough troops here, you tell them they're a G.D. liar.'"

GEN. MEIGS: I kind of agree with that. Look, let me talk you through a little sequence here. There were originally three battalions planned as part of the Marine task force that went into Fallujah. Things went hot in Mosul. They had to pull the Striker battalion out, the one most suited to urban combat. They couldn't start the operations in the triangle of death until they finished Fallujah. What that tells you is that General Casey does not have enough force on the ground, enough reserves to deal with more than one thing at a time.

The problem, Tim, is that you're going to have an election in January, you're going to write a constitution, you're going to have another election. The time to make hay is now, and if you don't have enough troops on the ground right now to establish the conditions for an election, which is to play chicken with the Sunnis that aren't in the game and get them to agree to take part in that election and create a safe and secure environment that allows people to walk to the polls, it's not going to work. And I think that's exactly right, and I think General Downing's right about people getting the message, but it's not clear that that's gone to the approval process for deployment of forces to Iraq.

This is worth reading too:

MR. RUSSERT: Forty percent to 45 percent of the troops on the ground are reservist or Guard.

GEN. McCAFFREY: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: What happens when we run out of reservists and Guards when they serve their 24 months?

GEN. McCAFFREY: Well, I'll tell you thank God for the National Guard and reserves. It's astonishing the job they've done. You know, they came as they were. You never see a story of people deserting or refusing to come to the colors. I mean, the individual ready reservists, we've had some problems, but basically these kids are over there to fight. They're doing a terrific job. The next rotation OIF5 breaks the bank.

MR. RUSSERT: What does that mean...

GEN. McCAFFREY: At that point...

MR. RUSSERT: ...OIF5?

GEN. McCAFFREY: Excuse me. Operational Iraqi Freedom--the fifth rotation will use up our National Guard and reserve. We have called up a couple of hundred thousand of these troops. By law, you can't keep them on active duty more than 24 months. At that point, the inadequate size of the active Army and not just combat battalions, the logistic structure to make it work, at that point, we're going over a cliff. A year out from now we're in trouble.

MR. RUSSERT: You won't have the Guard or reservists to fill the gap.

GEN. McCAFFREY: I don't see how we're going to continue it. At that point, you've got to tell General Abizaid just bring in CENTCOM commander--"Hey, we'll fight this war with two and a half Army divisions. That's probably what we can sustain."

MR. RUSSERT: Realistically speaking, do we need a bigger Army? General McCaffrey said we need 80,000 more Army, 20,000 more Marines. General Downing, do you agree with that?

GEN. DOWNING: I do. I think that the Army just cannot take on the missions that they have now and that we can foresee for the foreseeable future. I mean, Tim--and we've seen this thing probably for clearly for over a year. People like Barry have suggested this, that probably two years out that the Army was too small. And there's a lot of resistance to it inside the Pentagon because of the transformation ideas. And those ideas are good ideas and we need to modernize, we need to do things in better ways, but, you know, Tim, the world has changed and you can't make the world into what you want it to be. You've got to accept the world for what it is and you've got to anticipate the missions that you have. The only prudent thing to do is plus up the Army. Now, what should that number be? Certainly 100,000 rings fairly true with me.

Of course, Rumsfeld doesn't get any of the above. He's in denial, he's become bovinely bull-headed, he's taken transformationalist projects (some of which are indeed critical) to an irresponsible degree (the ability to put large amounts of boots on the ground still matters mightily Mr. Secretary). Which is why John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Bill Kristol (and doubtless more people coming out of the woodwork soon) have lost confidence in this Secretary of Defense. I've too, as my regular readers doubtless well know, and I fear I'm likely boring them by returning to this theme so often. But so be it--as I think Rumsfeld's continued presence at the Pentagon is increasingly imperiling the successful prosecution of the war effort.

To close:

MR. RUSSERT: General Meigs, are we winning the war in Iraq?

GEN. MEIGS: I think we are breaking even, which is not where you want to be. I think General McCaffrey and General Downing are right that we don't see a lot of the really great things that are being done on the ground by battalions and brigades. And the feedback you get from folks you know on the force is that they are very positive about what they're doing. But let me mention a minute--take a bit of Bill's answer here. Let's do the simple math. In the QDR process, the secretary of defense agreed with the Army argument, says you need five units rotating and keep one in the field all the time. That was out of our Bosnia experience. The 3rd Infantry Division is going back online after about 15 or 16 months home. That is less than a 3:1 ratio, and 40 percent of those soldiers in that division were in the last tour in combat.

That is telling you that in order to maintain the types of commitments we have in this world today, the Army and the Marine Corps are just too small. Now, if you can't maintain the rotation of the type that Barry is talking about, even if it went down to two and a half divisions, clearly you have got a problem with force structure. The reason the people in OSD don't want to have a larger Army and Marine Corps, it comes right off the top of your budget out of your discretionary spending. But that's a price we're going to have to pay if we're going to have this kind of a foreign policy.

Indeed it is. Why can't the Secretary of Defense see this? Because he has a too myopic transformationalist agenda, is hubris-ridden and stubborn in the extreme, and is running around his fiefdom in overly cocksure manner because POTUS too rarely reins him in. Still, let's keep the heat on. It's in our national interest (and Iraq's) that he go within a year or so. Bush, whom I supported, won and gets to pick his Cabinet, of course. But Bush, imho, needs to reappraise whether Rusmfeld should indeed continue in his post once we've gotten past the Iraqi elections. Here's hoping he decides to move this (quite elderly) Secretary of Defense off stage by '06 at the latest.

Posted by Gregory at 05:06 AM | Comments (78)

December 10, 2004

The Soi Disant Rogue Agency

Is it just me, or does does Larry Kaplan have a lil' case of Newt Gingrich p*n@s-envy? Sometimes it really feels that way.... He needs to get around more and knock on a few more doors at the State Department. His depiction of Foggy Bottom as some nefarious rogue agency is so tiresome in its hyperbole and predictability. I mean, it feels like he's written this same article ten times before. Get a new shtick already. Yawn.

UPDATE: As a commenter points out, this is a tad snarky. I owe a bit more by way of explanation. Just give me a day or two given time constraints.


Posted by Gregory at 11:53 PM | Comments (5)

December 08, 2004

Out of My Control

The big debate about the number of troops is one of those things that’s really out of my control. I mean, everyone likes to assign responsibility to the top person and I guess that’s fine [ed. note: what happened to the buck stops here?]. But the number of troops we had for the invasion was the number of troops that General Franks and General Abizaid wanted, the number of troops we have had every day since has been the number of troops that the field commander thought appropriate. They have not been increased or decreased over the objection of any of the field commanders and, indeed, I don’t believe that there’s been a request by Abizaid or Franks or General Casey that has not been agreed to. So those who go around constantly saying that there’s too few troops or too many troops are saying basically that they believe they know better than the people on the ground who are responsible for deciding the number of troops. My personal instinct is to go with the people in whom I’ve got great confidence, or they wouldn’t be asked to do their jobs. And I think that what the debate and discussion ignores is the reality that there is a tension between not having enough troops and having too many troops. By having too many troops, you have to provide force protection for the troops. There are that many more targets that can be shot at. There’s that many more troops that could be hit by an IED and you very clearly have to have a darn good reason for having them. You have to have support for them, the force protection for them. And so, you need to know precisely why you want them and what it is they’re going to do because it puts a very heavy footprint and it creates much more an impression of occupation. This is a poor analogy, but in Afghanistan, the Soviets had somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 troops and lost and we have 17,000 and won. So a fixation with sheer numbers, it strikes me as a 20th century phenomenon more than it is the 21st century phenomenon.

Perhaps a fitting epitaph for Don Rumsfeld--once he finally exits stage left (hopefully in under four years). It was "out of my control." Sh*t, stuff happens.

Don't miss this depressing snippet either:

Well, the last analysis, the Iraqi people are going to have to do it. And it’s pretty clear for all the people fussing about the Iraqi security forces, it’s reasonably clear to me that the extremists have decided that the Iraqi security forces are a danger to them. Else wise, why would they be running around trying to kill so many of them. They have to have decided that they’re effective. They have to have decided that that’s a threat and therefore, they make it a point to try to kill policewomen and Iraqi soldiers. And the Iraqi security forces have lost considerably more people killed in action than have the coalition forces in recent months.

Hey, it's almost good news that the insurgents are killing scores and scores of new Iraqi security forces we need to train, for several years and in large number, if we are to have any hope of a viable and morally justifiable exit strategy! So stop "fussing." Goodness gracious. After all, it's "reasonably clear" that the insurgents think the Iraqi troops are a danger. Well, hot damn then! All is just swell. Oh, woe that Rumsfeld might express some regrets to the families of the hundreds upon hundreds of Iraqi forces slaughtered like lemmings by the insurgents--in large part because of our failure to provide for secure conditions because of inadequate manpower inserted into theater (a quaint 20th Century concept in mondo Rummy). Instead, ugly hubris and the same faux-macho talk--peppered with this trademark insouciance that makes his fans swoon (how big and tough he is!)

Sad, really. But there is some comfort in all this. History will have the last laugh--not Donald Rumsfeld. And it will not be a pleasant verdict. Abu Ghraib and his dismal stubborness in not providing adequate manpower in Iraq will ensure that. And, yes, that verdict is "out of your control" too Mr. Secretary.

Posted by Gregory at 05:20 AM | Comments (44) | TrackBack

December 06, 2004

No Confidence

WALLACE: I want to pick up on this because you're saying that we've been reactive, that we allowed this sanctuary to be in Fallujah in the first place for far too long.

You, at one point, said about Donald Rumsfeld that you felt that he had been, quote, "irresponsible" in not putting troops into Iraq — more troops, sooner. You've also been critical of his roll in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

What are your feelings about the decision to allow him to stay on at the Pentagon?

MCCAIN: I respect the president's decision. The president was re-elected. And I respect his right to do so.

WALLACE: And your feelings about Don Rumsfeld?

MCCAIN: Well, I have to say that I want to work with Secretary Rumsfeld because he will be the secretary of defense for an undetermined length of time. And I want to work with him. And I want to do the best that I can for the country.

WALLACE: That's not a vote of confidence.

MCCAIN: No, it's not.

WALLACE: You'd like to see somebody else now, don't you?

MCCAIN: I respect the president. The president of the United States was re-elected by a majority of the American people, and I respect his right. And I will work with the president, obviously, and with the secretary of defense.

McCain, on Fox News Sunday.

And no, 150,000 troops isn't enough.

WALLACE: The Pentagon announced this week that it's going to increase the American military presence by 12,000 to 150,000 in time for the elections in January.

Given the fact that these troops, the American troops, are going to have to protect thousands of polling places, continue the fight against the insurgents and help rebuild cities like Fallujah, is 150,000 enough?

MCCAIN: It probably isn't. But the problem that we have here is that the Pentagon has been reacting to initiatives of the enemy rather than taking initiatives from which the enemy has to react to.

Many of us, as long as a year and a half ago, said, "You have to have more people there. You have to have more linguists. You have to have more special forces. You have to have" — and the Pentagon has reluctantly, obviously, gradually made some increases.

And the problem, when you react, you have to extend people on duty there, which is terrible for morale. There's a terrific strain on Guard and reservists. If you plan ahead, then you don't have to do some of these things. The military is too small.

The good news is we went into Fallujah and we dug then out of there. And I'm proud of the work. These men and women are magnificent. Their leadership is magnificent. The bad news is we allowed Fallujah to become a sanctuary to start with.

So, yes, we need more troops. Yes, we have to win. Yes, the elections have to be held at the end of January.

Yes, we are busier reacting to the insurgents then proactively stamping them out via overwhelming force. Because we don't have enough resources on the ground to do so. Kerry would have, in all likelihood, drawn-down our force posture in Iraq. Bush, at least, has increased it. But extending tours is devastating to morale. And relying so heavily on relatively inexperienced Guard and Reserve units is far from ideal. Taking Fallujah but allowing insurgents to flee to parts south of Baghdad (because we didn't have enough troops to blanket both areas simultaneously) is evocative of what McCain is getting at when he says we are in something of a "reactive" posture. We took the fight to the enemy in Fallujah, yes. But not having enough troops to keep the bad guys who escaped from getting to new sanctuaries has mitigated the success of the Fallujah offensive. It was an important victory, to be sure. But not an overwhelming one. Put differently, it's not that we are losing so much as we aren't decisively winning. If such a situation is allowed to fester for too long, of course, there will be a tipping point. We aren't there yet. But it's clear that, going into a period of heightened violence with elections looming, it wouldn't hurt (to say the least) if we could have more non-Guard, non-Reserve troops on the ground. Grown-ups like Chuck Hagel, Richard Lugar, and John McCain get this. We must hope the President does too. But I'm concerned. The lack of accountability at the Pentagon is a somewhat worrisome sign. But the Kerry alternative was even bleaker. So here we are. Who will have the courage to say what is so obvious and act on it? Our military is too small for the tasks it currently confronts. We are simply too stretched.

The new pressures on the Army recently led a bipartisan group of 128 members of the house to call on President Bush to increase the Army's overall size, called end strength, and to reduce the time reservists must spend on active duty. Republican Heather Wilson of New Mexico is a leader of the effort.

REP. HEATHER WILSON, R-N.M.: I think all of us are concerned that we're going to see back-to-back combat deployments for American military personnel. And you can't sustain that for very long without acknowledging forthrightly that we need to increase the end strength of our active duty people in order to meet the needs of the continuing war on terrorism.

More here. Rumsfeld believes increasing our "end strength" is perhaps prohibitively expensive (given other defense funding needs) and might not be necessary as the overstretch is temporary. But how temporary is it? In my view, we need to remain in Iraq for at least another half-decade. Will the world sit back and wait for that chapter to be neatly closed before new crises emerge necessitating dispatch of highly trained troops, in good number, to other theaters besides? Probably not, unfortunately.

MORE: Related to the above, don't miss this John Burns dispatch. After Fallujah, we are, to a fashion, re-taking the initiative with respect to counter-insurgency efforts. But do we have the requisite muscle to really get the job done?

American forces moved into this area as Baghdad fell, but a shortage of troops, and command decisions that limited offensives, led early this year to a situation in which much of the region became a rebel stronghold. Journeys through it became a deadly lottery, with daily bombings, ambushes and kidnappings.

Just as the assault on Falluja last month signaled a turn to a more aggressive posture by the United States command, so too has the evolution of American tactics here. Under the 2/24 marines, the policy since September has been to go after the insurgents. New forward bases have been opened in Yusufiya and Latifiya. The marines have conducted regular foot patrols through the towns, making contact with the population. Raids on insurgent hide-outs and weapons caches have become routine.

The marines have fought pitched battles, including one on Nov. 12 at Mullah Fayyad, west of Yusufiya, that began with an insurgent ambush and developed into a fight that lasted more than four hours. Lt. Col. Mark A. Smith, the 2/24's commander, said the rebels were trying to open lines of retreat from Falluja.

"This is where the leadership of the insurgency have always lived, and now that they can't be in Falluja, they've got to come home," he said. "But our rule is, 'You ain't comin' home.' "

Colonel Smith, 40, an Indiana state trooper in civilian life, is the embodiment of the new, more aggressive approach - muscular, salty-tongued and impatient. "We're going out where the bad guys live, and we're going to slay them in their zip code," he said.

"People around here are beginning to believe that the Americans are going to stay and go after the bad guys, and they're not going to leave until the job's been done," he added. "As that sinks in, opinion is swinging to our side."

But wouldn't the local residents believe we were going to "stay and go after the bad guys" even more if we had a more robust force presence through this entire region? If the main airport road to Baghdad was secured? If we had soldiers staying back during the Fallujah offensive waiting for the bad guys to flee back home (rather than have to rotate British forces into the area)?


Posted by Gregory at 02:07 AM | Comments (29)

December 03, 2004

A Vacancy at Turtle Bay

Who will (or should) replace outgoing UN Ambassador John Danforth? Comments welcome.

Posted by Gregory at 03:59 AM | Comments (11)

December 02, 2004

AIPAC Investigation...

...seems to be heating up again. Laura's hot on the trail. MORE: Recent NYC transplant Josh Marshall (wise man--but will the Dupont Starbucks ever be the same?) has more too.

Posted by Gregory at 05:57 AM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2004

Langley Watch

Who you calling a rogue? The view from Langley.

Posted by Gregory at 12:32 PM | Comments (3)

November 23, 2004

Do Policy Wonkdom and Good Prose-Writing Mix?

Or, put somewhat differently, what happens when "wonks go wild"?

In his new role as Robert Ludlum manque, [Joseph] Nye joins a long list of policy wonks looking for readers beyond the Beltway and the faculty lounge. Former senators Gary Hart and William (The Poet) Cohen were trailblazers in the Serious-People-Try-Pulp-Fiction genre with their 1985 page-turner, "The Double Man."In this torrid excerpt, Sen. Tom Chandler enjoys a working dinner with his aide, Elaine Dunham, who is actually working for the CIA, but that's not important here:

After dinner, they went dancing at Charlie's Jazz. Elaine felt detached form herself, floating in Tom's arms. The hell with [CIA director] Trevor, she thought. And when Tom pulled her close to him, she knew that for tonight at least, it would be just plain Tom and Elaine. Later, back at her house, they made love. It was fierce, two rivers of energy rushing together, gloriously, powerfully. No words were needed.

Heh. No words indeed.

Oh, and don't miss this heroic effort from Joseph Nye:

Alexa led me to the bed in the middle of the enormous room and pulled me down beside her. I kissed her breasts and ran my hand between her thighs. She gripped my shoulders tightly. Unlike the first time I made love to Alexa, when the ecstasy had been eroded by a sense of anxiety and uncertainty, I was sucked into this moment as quickly and completely as if I had placed my feet in quicksand. Memories from years ago blended with intense physical excitement in a driving, pounding torrent of passion.

Er, maybe better to stick to "soft power" going forward Mr. Nye!

(Hat Tip: High school buddy and ace-litigator Jeffrey Lang).

MORE: Somehow I just knew Dan Drezner would appreciate this...

Posted by Gregory at 02:54 AM | Comments (19)

November 20, 2004

Politburo Watching

OK, so not to get carried away--but it's all about this job right now.

Fred Kaplan:

If Rice is to be an active top diplomat, as opposed to an errand girl, she will want her own deputy, someone she knows and trusts, someone who's clearly working for her. With Bolton, she'd have to assume he was always talking, operating, maybe even sniping behind her back.

Ultimately, Rice's test is Bush's decision. The president is the one who will settle whether she can pick her own No. 2—or whether Cheney and Rumsfeld can hang on to their agent. Bush, in short, has to choose between his closest advisers. If Bolton goes no higher than his current post, it may mean Rice will be allowed some latitude in her work. If Bolton advances to deputy, she may wish she'd gone back to Stanford after all.

A tad exaggerated; but a pretty accurate analysis all told. Anyway, I'm pretty certain Bolton will not the get No. 2 job. (BTW, I'm not a Bolton-hater or anything--but do go here to read about some of my reservations about him.)

Laura Rozen, over to you. I'll bet you more than just a couple lattes (dinner at the restaurant of your choice!) that a) Bolton doesn't get DepSec and b) Pletka doesn't get Asst Sec for Near Eastern Affairs.

Laura: probably wrong about Bolton; in all likelihood wrong about Pletka. So whose operating under "IAEA standards of proofs" these days? An overwrought, hyper-AEI-phobic War & Piece, or yours truly over here at B.D.?

Oh, read this too:

Many Europeans, including Mr. Sandschneider, argue that it is far too early to make firm predictions about the kind of secretary of state Ms. Rice will be, though her nomination has been interpreted in two interrelated ways.

One is that she is being rewarded for her loyalty to a president who is not highly regarded in Europe, and that she will strengthen further the hard-line views of people like Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and the neoconservative group that is viewed by many people in countries like France and Germany as intellectually imperious and highly ideological.

"A lot of attention is being paid to who her deputy secretary of state will be," said François Heisbourg, director of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. "If it's John Bolton," he continued, referring to John R. Bolton, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security who is widely viewed in Europe as a conservative ideologue, "then a lot of people will assume that the next four years will be even worse than the last four years."

The other interpretation is that Ms. Rice is more pragmatic than ideological, and, with her sophisticated understanding of international affairs, particularly of Russia and Germany, will prove to be both close to President Bush and sympathetic to, or at least, cognizant of, European views. Among her books, some have noted here, is a highly regarded study of German reunification.

Speaking of Germany, there are more rapprochment maneuverings in the air of late.


Posted by Gregory at 06:31 PM | Comments (11)

November 18, 2004

Haass on Powell

Q: People have made a lot of assumptions about what Powell might have said or might have done if his way had been accepted. I guess Powell was the classic "good soldier." He never complained publicly, as far as I know.

A: I think Colin Powell has an old-fashioned but what I believe to be admirable approach to the definition of loyalty. Loyalty essentially means you tell your boss what you believe in private. And then, once the decision is made, in public you defend the decision as if it were your own, regardless of whether you got your way or not. I think that's essentially his code. In Washington, my experience has often been the opposite. By that I mean I have come across a lot of people who in private failed to give the president honest advice, and then, after a decision was made, actually went out of their way to undermine it. Colin Powell plays the game by the rules. That's one of the reasons I think he is such an admirable person.

That's about right. Link here.

Posted by Gregory at 05:59 AM | Comments (8)

More Foggy Bottom Scuttlebutt

My Washington spies tell me people at State are very much on edge re: what direction Condi will go towards. Will it be: A) the Baker/Albright model (bring in a gaggle of top advisors and cut out large swaths of the building from significant decision-making--Albright the worse offender on this score, both in terms of how much she cut out the building and the quality of her gaggle) or B) more George Schultz (tap into the building writ large for policy expertise)?

And, if "A"--will the gaggle be heavily neo-con; or more mixed? If Bolton gets DepSec and Pletka/Abrams NEA--it's ugly for those who want more of a neo-con/realpolitik mix.

Re: NEA, the building's candidate is rumored to be this guy--currently our Ambassador to Cairo. Worth noting, if that doesn't happen, it appears people at State would even prefer Eliot Abrams over Pletka for NEA slot.

My bet: Condi's first bid to signal her independence and Scrowcroftian roots has her picking an Arnie Kanter type over Bolton. And I'm pretty certain Pletka doesn't get NEA. But Abrams might trump Welch. Not sure what happens at European and Asian bureaus. Send me info if you've got it...

Er, developing.

Posted by Gregory at 05:19 AM | Comments (5)

November 17, 2004

W. 43rd St. Watch

In their masthead on Condi:

As secretary of state, Ms. Rice is going to be first and foremost a loyal servant of Mr. Bush's agenda and worldview, and that does not bode well for those who were hoping for a more nuanced approach to American diplomacy.

What breezy condescencion! And couldn't they have chosen a different word than, er, "servant"? How gauche and ungracious--particularly given her (inspiring) personal history and background.

Posted by Gregory at 12:30 PM | Comments (30)

The Hadley File

Kessler on Hadley here.

Some administration insiders have faulted Hadley for allowing Pentagon officials to rewrite the summary of decision meetings more to their liking -- or for permitting policy disputes to fester. For instance, on May 14, 2002, when the administration was debating what to say to the North Koreans at its first high-level bilateral meeting, State Department representatives, led by Deputy Secretary Richard L. Armitage, believed they had secured the approval of Hadley to adopt the middle-ground approach, known as option 2.

But during the meeting, Hadley announced he had looked at option 2 but really favored option 3, the more hard-line approach, according to the notes of one attendee. Armitage recovered and said he wanted what he called "2b" -- a combination of 2 and 3. The inconclusive result allowed the hawks on North Korea policy to build more support for their position, according to officials involved.

2(b). Heh. This little vignette kinda sums up the last four years, no? Powell would want "1" (or 1.5 or such). Rummy/Wolfy/Cheney would want "3". Rice/Hadley would signal, to Armitage, a "2" might be in the cards. But, when push came to shove, the 2 would veer towards the 3. You know, 2(b). Result--Powell would look smaller but keep the big wind out of the neo-con sails. Neo-cons would spin a victory but wouldn't really have one. So policy drift results. (Nor, incidentally, does any of this quite get the pulse racing either, eh? Regardless, bully for Armitage on the salvage job...there were quite a few more, I hear).

To be, or not to be: that is the question...Or, more apropos, the question is whether this cabinet rejuggling will have us getting coherent policies (hopefully the right ones!) or more drift, 1, drift, 3, drift, er, 2(b)! (Pity Kissingers come so few and far between, isn't it?)


Posted by Gregory at 04:30 AM | Comments (8)

Condi vs. Rummy

Some saw the departure of Mr. Powell as the moment for conservatives under the influence of Vice President Dick Cheney to assume an even larger role and seize key sub-cabinet posts.

But Ms. Rice is considered less ideological than many in the administration and more attuned to the president's own thinking.

The question is whether she will arrive at the State Department with an agenda known chiefly to her and the president. According to officials who have heard accounts of the case Mr. Bush made to Ms. Rice, he argued that their strong personal ties would convince allies and hostile nations like Iran and North Korea that she was speaking directly for the president and could make deals in his name.

"This is what Powell could never do," said a former official who is close to Ms. Rice and sat in on many of the White House situation room meetings where policy conflicts arose. "The world may have liked dealing with Colin - we all did - but it was never clear that he was speaking for the president. He knew it and they knew it."

Ms. Rice's brief acceptance speech gave few hints of what course she planned to set if confirmed, as expected. But several officials said that in recent days she has spoken of leaping at the opportunity created by the death of Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, and of deciding whether North Korea and Iran could be induced to end their suspected nuclear weapons programs....

But that leaves in place Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, a strong-willed hawk who often clashed with Ms. Rice. Most notably, she took over control of the occupation of Iraq, creating an Iraq Stabilization Group. Her aides had made no secret of her opinion that Mr. Rumsfeld had failed to devote enough planning, attention or resources to making a success of the occupation.

Their relationship worsened after the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib, the American run prison west of Baghdad, became publicly known. Ms. Rice, her associates say, had warned Mr. Rumsfeld to pay attention to detention issues, but the defense secretary often sent subordinates to meetings on the subject.

So there is no end of speculation about whether Mr. Rumsfeld will have the kind of relationship with Ms. Rice that he had with Mr. Powell: one of constant bickering. Mr. Rumsfeld tried to tamp that speculation down on Tuesday, telling reporters traveling with him in Quito, Ecuador, "I have known Condi for a good number of years," and adding that "long before this administration, we were friends."

"She is an enormous talent," he said. "She is experienced, very bright, and as we all know, has a terrific relationship with the president, which is a very valuable thing."

But he acknowledged that tensions would inevitably occur, and, he said, "It is the task, the responsibility, the duty of people who are participating in that national security process to make sure that the issues are raised and discussed," a process that he said "has worked very well in this administration."

Ms. Rice's associates said they expected that there would be fewer and less heated arguments in the future, partly because Mr. Rumsfeld would be more wary of Ms. Rice and her relationship with the president.

The task of defusing tensions between the departments will now fall to Mr. Hadley, a skilled lawyer who seeks the middle ground but in the past has been deferential to Mr. Cheney, one of his mentors, and to Mr. Rumsfeld. His loyalties, though, are clearly to Ms. Rice, who installed him as her deputy and entrusted him with a series of the toughest problems facing the administration: North Korea, managing the relationship with Pakistan, and coordinating the plan for Iraq after Saddam Hussein, to name several.

-- Sanger and Weisman writing in the Times.

Bush, perhaps wisely, didn't want to change horses over at the Pentagon in the midst of the Iraq war. But, regardless, Rummy's honeymoon is long over; and Condi's is just starting. She's got Hadley backstopping for her at the NSC--and Bush solidly in her corner. Yeah, bureaucratic blackbelts Cheney and Rummy will still be major players, of course. But don't expect Rummy free-lancing as SecState in Bush II. He will be sticking more to his side of the Potomac River...

P.S. Laura is wrong that there will be no breathing-room as between a Secretary of State Rice and Rummy/Cheney.

Posted by Gregory at 03:33 AM | Comments (24)

November 16, 2004

The Triumph of Fealty in Bush II

Josh Marshall can't resist a pot-shot at the end of this post; but he makes a very good point.

Neither Ms. Rice nor Mr. Gonzales are the neo-cons' or the conservatives' choice for their respective offices-to-be. In each case they're acceptable; but no more.

What distinguishes each is their connection to the president, their loyalty and their fealty. Neither has any base in the city or standing anywhere else absent their connection to him.

Put differently, Chuck Hagel's needn't apply....

Still, I can understand Bush on this point. Loyalty does matter. Hugely. But you have to make sure your loyalists aren't mere courtiers. When they think you are full of s&%t; they should be able to so tell you. Can Gonzalez, he of the 'torture-is-constitutional' (as long as there is no organ failure!) memorandum? Can Rice?

We'll doubtless find out soon enough...

P.S. I suspect Rummy's influence might well wane in a Bush II. Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But Dubya and Condi are so tight. If Rummy tries to wear both hats again (SecDef and SecState) Bush will reel him in, I suspect, if only to protect Condi (to the extent she needs such backstopping).

The big question is, will she really go to bat on policy issues where Cheney and Rummy are aligning on another side of the issue? Or will they all be operating in lockstep, as this Glenn Kessler piece suggests?

MORE: Read this too.


Posted by Gregory at 05:58 AM | Comments (12)

Department of 'It's the Small Things'

Powell imbued "a sense of self-worth that's a rare commodity for the civil service and the foreign service that works here," a mid-level official said. "It hasn't sunk into folks around here that we're about to lose our lord and protector."

One female officer said she will be forever endeared to Powell's team for a minor, but telling, change. At the State Department, historically a male bastion, the female bathrooms still had urinals. Now, two on the first floor of the department's main building do not.

( Strobel over at Knight-Ridder, hat tip: Laura Rozen)

Posted by Gregory at 05:24 AM

Condi on Iran, Circa 2000

Finally, there is the Iranian regime. Iran's motivation is not to disrupt simply the development of an international system based on markets and democracy, but to replace it with an alternative: fundamentalist Islam. Fortunately, the Iranians do not have the kind of reach and power that the Soviet Union enjoyed in trying to promote its socialist alternative. But Iran's tactics have posed real problems for U.S. security. It has tried to destabilize moderate Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, though its relations with the Saudis have improved recently. Iran has also supported terrorism against America and Western interests and attempted to develop and transfer sensitive military technologies.

Iran presents special difficulties in the Middle East, a region of core interest to the United States and to our key ally Israel. Iranian weaponry increasingly threatens Israel directly. As important as Israel's efforts to reach peace with its Arab neighbors are to the future of the Middle East, they are not the whole story of stability in the region. Israel has a real security problem, so defense cooperation with the United States -- particularly in the area of ballistic missile defense -- is critical. That in turn will help Israel protect itself both through agreements and through enhanced military power.

Still, it is important to note that there are trends in Iran that bear watching. Mohammad Khatami's election as president has given some hope of a new course for a country that once hosted a great and thriving civilization -- though there are questions about how much authority he exercises. Moreover, Khatami's more moderate domestic views may not translate into more acceptable behavior abroad. All in all, changes in U.S. policy toward Iran would require changes in Iranian behavior.

-- Condi Rice, writing in Foreign Affairs, back in 2000.

Translation: Euro-troika gets 3-6 months to see how the, er, "deal" goes--if it flops--more policy muddle with potential sanctions regime in '06.

More Condi:

Foreign policy in a Republican administration will most certainly be internationalist; the leading contenders in the party's presidential race have strong credentials in that regard. But it will also proceed from the firm ground of the national interest, not from the interests of an illusory international community. America can exercise power without arrogance and pursue its interests without hectoring and bluster. When it does so in concert with those who share its core values, the world becomes more prosperous, democratic, and peaceful. That has been America's special role in the past, and it should be again as we enter the next century.

No arrogance, hectoring or bluster! Is Rummy listening?

Posted by Gregory at 04:54 AM | Comments (6)

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 02:35 AM | Comments (29)

November 04, 2004

Who Exits Stage Left (or Right) First?

By whatever mechanism, Bush needs to deliver a strong message that he is looking at the next four years differently. True in foreign policy as well, it is particularly true on Iraq. Bush stubbornly refused during the campaign to admit error, and before that he tolerated internal divisions, battles and confusion that handicapped the war effort. Not four more years of that, please.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are the symbols of these divisions. Each may be reluctant to award a "victory" to the other by leaving first. That possibility has been factored into the rivalry.

"Tell me how long Rumsfeld will stay, add a day, and Colin will be out of there," says one of Powell's friends. Rumsfeld also has reasons to spend another year, or less, in office to cancel out any impression of leaving in failure.

But Bush should avoid temporizing on such important appointments. Powell and Rumsfeld ought to be immediately reappointed for full terms or become part of a general turnover in the Cabinet by Inauguration Day. And Bush should begin now in a very visible way to consult with senior Democrats, including Kerry; with war critics within his own party, such as Sens. Chuck Hagel and Richard Lugar; and with foreign leaders who have limited their support and enthusiasm for Bush's policies.

Reelection should give him the confidence as well as the opportunity for this. So should the fact that his vision of moderate Islamic leaders taking on the burden of fighting Islamist terrorist networks is generally right, even if its implementation has been flawed. At the very least, Tuesday's result gives the nation a chance to know the ending of the story of George W. Bush's effort to remake the Middle East.

Jim Hoagland, talking sense, in today's WaPo.

So, who is going to leave first--Rummy or Powell? Or are they both heading out? Or neither? Thoughts and assorted scuttlebutt welcome in comments.

Question: Does the strong Republican showing in the Senate races enhance the chances of any of Lugar or Hagel (State) or McCain (Defense) entering the cabinet should Rummy and/or Powell leave?

MORE: A reader writes in:

Ref your post on State/Defense positions. My sources at State say Powell has made it an open secret he will be leaving. Likewise, I hear Rumsfeld likes his job and wants to see through the transformation/global rebasing he has started. Rumsfeld's love of the job and desire to stay were verified by a WJS reporter who covers the Pentagon that I spoke with earlier this year. BTW, Ambassador Coats in Berlin has made no secret over his desire to be SECDEF should Rumsfeld leave. However, I'm told his lobbying have had no traction in DC.

This is the CW, of course. Does anyone have contra info, namely that Powell is making noises he might stick around and Rummy that he might, about a year or so from now, leave?

Posted by Gregory at 01:45 PM | Comments (14)

October 31, 2004

Biden at State?

Oh no... say it ain't so!

THE man whose presidential ambitions were destroyed when he plagiarised Neil Kinnock is set to become America’s chief foreign policymaker if John Kerry is elected President next Tuesday. Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware has been asked by Mr Kerry to become Secretary of State in a Democratic administration, according to Kerry campaign aides. Mr Biden, the leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the past four years, ran for President in 1988. His campaign ended abruptly when it was revealed that a key element of his stump speech had been lifted directly from Mr Kinnock’s general election speeches in 1987.

But Mr Biden has since emerged as a leading foreign policy figure in the Democratic party and is expected to take the job offered by Mr Kerry unless political factors intervene. Were the Democrats to retake control of the Senate, he might prefer to remain as a lawmaker, but those who know him think that unlikely.

Mr Biden’s possible elevation is one of the thousands of permutations circulating in Washington in the final days before the presidential election. If Mr Biden does go to the State Department it will be a disappointment for Richard Holbrooke, the UN Ambassador during the Clinton Administration and the architect of the Dayton peace accords that ended the Bosnian war in 1995. Mr Holbrooke has lobbied hard for the Secretary of State ’s job. But in what will be seen as both an effort to conciliate the famously self-confident Mr Holbrooke, and as a signal change from Bush administration policy, Mr Kerry is likely to offer him the job of special Middle East peace co-ordinator, senior Democrats say.

Mr Kerry plans to announce both appointments soon after the election as a sign of the urgency he assigns to mending diplomatic fences.

President Bush has declined to appoint a senior level emissary to the Middle East and the Kerry move would delight European leaders, including Tony Blair, who have been urging a renewed US engagement in the region.

Other senior foreign policy positions in a Kerry administration are likely to go to three former senior officials who have been advising the senator’s campaign.

Rand Beers, who resigned from the Bush Administration’s National Security Council over the Iraq war, is likely to be National Security Adviser, although Wesley Clark, the former Nato commander, may also be considered.

James Rubin, President Clinton’s State Department spokesman and husband of the CNN star reporter Christiane Amanpour, is in line for a front line policy role, as is Susan Rice, another Clinton appointee, meaning that whoever wins next week, an African American female called Dr Rice will be a senior foreign policy figure.

One puzzle for the Democratic team is the Pentagon. Mr Kerry is understood to want his friend John McCain, the Arizona senator, to be Defence Secretary. But Mr McCain is believed to be reluctant. The confirmed maverick might fit uncomfortably even in his close friend’s administration. If the Republicans keep control of the Senate, the Arizona senator will take the powerful job of chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Another possibility is Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska senator, also a Republican. Mr Kerry is said to be intent on removing Porter Goss, who was confirmed as the head of the CIA only this month. A candidate to replace him is Bob Graham, the retiring Florida senator.

One problem with this lineup, however, for the Kerry team, is that it looks a little Senate-heavy.

Given the reputation of senators as windbags with large egos and an argumentative manner, Mr Kerry, a senator himself, may be reluctant to have former senators at President, Vice-President (John Edwards, his running mate), Secretary of State, Secretary of Defence and Director of Central Intelligence.

There is less clarity about what the foreign policy team will look like if President Bush wins, which seems odd, given that the Republicans are already in charge.

Though nothing is fixed, officials say, Colin Powell is likely to leave the State Department, as is his deputy, Richard Armitage. Both have been bloodied in the Administration’s infighting in the past four years and are not inclined to stay. But Donald Rumsfeld is eager to remain at the Pentagon and a newly re-elected Mr Bush may feel vindicated enough to keep him in place.

Possible replacements for General Powell include Condoleezza Rice, the current National Security Adviser, if she decides to stay in Washington at all, or Robert Blackwill, currently a senior director on the NSC and the man who has been in charge of Iraq policy in the past six months. Mr Blackwill is regarded as a pragmatist and problem-solver rather than an ideologue. John Danforth, the recently appointed ambassador to the UN, and former senator, is another name under consideration. There is much jockeying for the National Security Adviser post job if Dr Rice does leave. Stephen Hadley, her deputy, seems to be favourite. But other possibilities include Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defence, and leading light among the neoconservatives in the Administration, Mr Blackwill if he does not get the State job, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, and a key figure in administration policy in the past four years, who is also sympathetic to the neoconservative approach to foreign policy ends.

All of this is hugely speculative, of course. But a lot of it rings true which is why I've posted the whole piece. Can people in comments please point me to alternative sources on Bush II and Kerry I likely national security cabinet picks? I'm working on an analysis and need to game it with as much scuttlebutt as possible. Please post links in comments (I heard there was a lengthy National Journal article on this, for instance?) Thanks in advance for any help.

UPDATE: Thanks to reader ZH for sending in the National Journal article. Here it is. It's pretty comprehensive and well worth reading. Readers are invited to send in other sources too, however.



Posted by Gregory at 01:23 PM | Comments (7)

September 24, 2004

Muzzle Rummy

"Let's say you tried to have an election and you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country. But in some places you couldn't because the violence was too great." "Well, so be it. Nothing's perfect in life, so you have an election that's not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet."

Don Rumsfeld, testifying on the Hill yesterday.

Oh, Mr. Rumsfeld--you are such the anti-Girlie Man. You are so macho-swagger and straight, no-bullshit talk. You are, to a fashion, the very evocation of the Nietzschean ubermensch. You impress all of us so over here in London--the town is all atwitter with your latest barnburner of no-nonsense Congressional testimony. How impressive!

You can stand 10 hours a day ("However, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?)--making all those weak-kneed Gitmo detainees look like a bunch of wusses--what with their risible complaints about stress-positions and such. You are so very busy-- too busy, in fact, to read the Taguba report in its entirety. A report detailing one of the most horrific stains on the repute of the U.S. military in its long, illustrious history--a shameful episode that occured on your watch and arguably partly because of your arrogant insouciance and barely hidden denigrations of Geneva norms. (Rumsfeld: Yeah. You're -- I think you're talking about the executive summary. That's -- I've seen the executive summary, the Ð Q: Have you read through it, sir? Rumsfeld: I've been through it. Whether -- have read every page -- no. There's a lot of references and documentation to laws and conventions and procedures and requirements. But I have certainly read the conclusions and the other aspects of it.)

And now, all big-uncle-like, you want to clue all of us little kiddies into the fact that elections may not take place in one-fourth or one-fifth of Iraq come January. Fair enough, we need a reality check. We need straight talk (more from POTUS too, while we're at it). But don't, emiting such uber-hubris and a 'whatever' type vibe-tell us that "nothing's perfect in life." We already know that. After all, you're SecDef. How's that for an imperfection?

Memo to Rummy: Your awe-shucks 'I tell it like it is' schtick is running thin. You're not on the Princeton wrestling squad anymore. These impending elections are of the most immense importance. So, tell us, instead:

Having elections proceed in January is absolutely critical. To delay them would represent a victory for the Baathist dead-enders and terrorists who wish to scuttle the movement towards democracy in that country. We're simply not going to let that happen. We are pursuing a robust and sophisticated strategy, using all the tools in our arsenal, to ensure that as many populations centers are under Iraqi goverment control by the time of the elections as possible. As Prime Minister Allawi has indicated, we are succeeding in this strategy--despite the occasional setbacks. To the extent, if any, that the Iraqi government cannot exert effective sovereignty over all population centers by January--though we hope and trust they in large part will--elections will likely have to be postponed in those areas. We, of course, realize this issue is of utmost strategic import--and I am obviously treating the issue as one of my highest priorities. This is because--to the extent we may need to bypass some areas in January and not hold balloting there--our enemies and critics will be further emboldened to attack the legitimacy of the elections. These elections are a critical step in Iraq's political evolution--a "giant step"--as Prime Minister Allawi has put it. So, rest assured, this is topping our agenda. I will keep Congress apprised of our progress during the coming months.

Or, er, something like that.

Put differently, Rummy could have sounded more like Allawi during his wonderful speech of yesterday:

They are offering amnesty to those who realize the error of their ways. They are making clear that there can be no compromise with terror, that all Iraqis have the opportunity to join the side of order and democracy, and that they should use the political process to address their legitimate concerns and hopes. I am a realist. I know that terrorism cannot be defeated with political tools only. But we can weaken it, ending local support, help us to tackle the enemy head-on, to identify, isolate and eradicate this cancer. Let me provide you with a couple of examples of where this political plan already is working. In Samarra, the Iraqi government has tackled the insurgents who once controlled the city.

Following weeks of discussions between government officials and representatives, coalition forces and local community leaders, regular access to the city has been restored. A new provincial council and governor have been selected, and a new chief of police has been appointed. Hundreds of insurgents have been pushed out of the city by local citizens, eager to get with their lives. Today in Samarra, Iraqi forces are patrolling the city, in close coordination with their coalition counterparts. In Talafa (ph), a city northwest of Baghdad, the Iraqi government has reversed an effort by insurgents to arrest, control (inaudible) the proper authorities. Iraqi forces put down the challenge and allowed local citizens to choose a new mayor and police chief. Thousands of civilians have returned to the city. And since their return, we have launched a large program of reconstruction and humanitarian assistance.

But no, instead more of the predictable braggadocio and swagger. Don't get me wrong--there is a lot to praise in Rummy's stewardship of the Pentagon over the past three years. But the minuses materially outweigh the pluses. If I were Bush, I wouldn't give him a second bite at the apple. Calling John McCain...

Posted by Gregory at 10:50 AM | Comments (30)

September 20, 2004

Jaw-Dropping Fare Indeed

Via Sully, this (almost) unbelievable Novak piece:

Whether Bush or Kerry is elected, the president or president-elect will have to sit down immediately with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The military will tell the election winner there are insufficient U.S. forces in Iraq to wage effective war. That leaves three realistic options: Increase overall U.S. military strength to reinforce Iraq, stay with the present strength to continue the war, or get out.

Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush's decision will be to get out. They believe that is the recommendation of his national security team and would be the recommendation of second-term officials. An informed guess might have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, Paul Wolfowitz as defense secretary and Stephen Hadley as national security adviser. According to my sources, all would opt for a withdrawal.

Getting out now would not end expensive U.S. reconstruction of Iraq, and certainly would not stop the fighting. Without U.S. troops, the civil war cited as the worst-case outcome by the recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate would be a reality. It would then take a resolute president to stand aside while Iraqis battle it out.

I have grave doubts about the accuracy of Novak's story. I think it might be some Wolfowitz enemies leaking it so that the resulting firestorm forces people in the Beltway to see that Wolfy is radioactive and not confirmable as SecDef. (There are also doubtless people trial-ballooning Condi at the 7th Floor and Steve Hadley succeeding her at the NSC).

I'm also very dubious about Novak's reporting that Bush has pretty much decided he will pull out of Iraq in '05. Still, what makes me think there may be more than a smidgen of truth to it?

This part of Novak's piece (which you need to read in full):

This messy new Iraq is viewed by Bush officials as vastly preferable to Saddam's police state, threatening its neighbors and the West. In private, some officials believe the mistake was not in toppling Saddam but in staying there for nation building after the dictator was deposed.

I can see, just maybe, Bush falling for this line of argument, ie. that evil sonafabitch Saddam is gone--so we are leaving something better in our stead (and Iraq will be hobbled by internal dissension and not able to threaten neighbors like Saudi Arabia and Israel). What the hell--let Allawi sort it out with his new Army--we aren't a stabilizing factor over there anymore anyway.

What a massive, breathtaking and morally defunct abdication of American leadership that would be! I would have to hold my head in deep shame for having supported this Administration's Iraq war. Say it ain't so!?!

Well, I think not. If it were, why would Kerry be attacking Bush on supposedly hiding plans to send reservists to Iraq post-election?

As part of a strategy to sharpen differences with Bush, Kerry told voters that the president refuses to come clean about growing problems in Iraq and a hidden strategy for a post-election deployment. ``He won't tell us what congressional leaders are now saying: that this administration is planning yet another substantial call-up of reservists and Guard units immediately after the election,'' Kerry said. Bush is trying to ``hide it from people through the election, then make the move.''

Doesn't sound like a guy who is going to cut bait, does it? Meanwhile, back in mondo Kerry--it's pretty amateur hour:

The Kerry campaign, realizing that its only hope is to attack Bush for his Iraq policy, is not equipped to make sober evaluations of Iraq. When I asked a Kerry political aide what his candidate would do in Iraq, he could do no better than repeat the old saw that help is on the way from European troops. Kerry's foreign policy advisers know there will be no release from that quarter.

Yeah, Kerry is aiming to get out soonest--that's pretty clear.

But Bush too? If I see convincing evidence that this is true--I'll have to go all Dan Drezner on you and start fence-sitting. Or, more likely, abstain and hope and pray for real leaders with sincerity, honor and courage in '08.

As Powell told Bush--re: the Pottery Barn rule--you break it, you own it. And so we do. Now, and therefore, we damn well owe the Iraqis a real, full-blown effort to forge a viable state there. Let's not B.S. ourselves. If we leave that country (at least within the next 18 months) all hell is going to break loose. We need to guarantee that the Shi'a don't engage in massive score-settling with the Sunnis. That the Kurds and Turks don't get into a major firefight. That internecine warfare doesn't erupt between fundamentalists and more secular-minded Sunnis. And so on. This is generational stuff, people.

And does anyone really believe that a nascent Iraqi Army (probably busily being infiltrated by Iranian agents and radicalized Sunni fanatics as we speak) is going to do the trick? Er, no f'ing way. Bottom line: We need to be there for a while, folks--if we're serious. If we're not serious--well, why the hell did we go in the first place?

Commenters are invited, in particular, to evidence as much as possible why they feel comfortable that Bush will keep a significant troop presence in Iraq well into '06--only then beginning to gradually scale down our presence there. Or, alternately, to tell me the reasons Novak is right...Smart money is still on the former, I'd wager.

Posted by Gregory at 06:23 PM | Comments (41)

September 01, 2004

The Coach is Dropping the Ball

For someone who has often disagreed with TPM--I gotta say Josh Marshall is dead on on this one. Denny Hastert (aka the "Coach") should immediately put up or shut up. He can't do the former, of course, because his wild claims are totally bogus. So shutting up would be smart--before Soros starts getting some really good defamation lawyers teed up (yeah he'd likely be considered a 'public figure'; but proving malice might be doable under these circumstances).

Here's the language in question:

"You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where - if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from," Hastert mused. An astonished Chris Wallace asked: "Excuse me?" The Speaker went on: "Well, that's what he's been for a number years - George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot of ancillary interests out there." Wallace: "You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?" Hastert: "I'm saying I don't know where groups - could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know."

"Drug groups" is vague language (is he talking the Escobar Brothers or Merck?) And he ultimately says "we don't know." So he's got ample wriggle room in any defamation action.

But, legal parsing aside--it's certainly sleazy. Not what I'd like to see in a Speaker of the House. But, truth be told, I'm not that surprised. Rhetoric emitting from Congress (especially the House) is often deeply underwhelming, isn't it?

Posted by Gregory at 12:25 AM | Comments (16)

August 31, 2004

War and Piece

Laura's spruced up her site and is running something of a Franklin-Feith-Ghorbanifar-a-Rama over at her excellent investigative blog. I'll have some thoughts on all this (including the much ballyhooed Washington Monthly piece she co-authored) in the not too distant future.

Until then, don't miss all the D.C. intrigues she's keeping close tabs on. War and Piece is the Grand Central of the blogosphere on this story...whether you agree with her analyses or not.

Posted by Gregory at 04:34 PM | Comments (1)

July 30, 2004

Bush-Kerry

Check this out for a little pre-weekend levity (audio required).

Posted by Gregory at 11:51 AM | Comments (5)

July 22, 2004

The Berger Follies: The NYT Has No Shame

Rarely have I seen a major newspaper play a story in such brazenly partisan fashion.

It truly beggars belief.

Check out today's lead NYT story on the unfolding Sandy Berger scandal by Eric Lichtblau and Dave Sanger.

Boy, is it a whopper...

Let's take a closer look, graf by graf, because it is well worth the time.

Here's the lede:

The White House said Wednesday that senior officials in its counsel's office were told by the Justice Department months ago that a criminal investigation was under way to determine if Samuel R. Berger, the national security adviser under President Bill Clinton, removed classified documents about Al Qaeda from the National Archives.

Talk about a disingenuous lede!

You see, the main story here isn't mostly about whether/why Berger surrepetitiously stole away with classified documents from 9/11 committee chambers.

No, it's about whether the Justice Department should have clued in the White House regarding the investigation.

The White House declined to say who beyond the counsel's office knew about the investigation, but some administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they believed that several top aides to Mr. Bush were informed of the investigation. President Bush himself declined to answer a question Wednesday about whether he had been told, saying: "I'm not going to comment on this matter. This is a serious matter, and it will be fully investigated by the Justice Department."

Bush, not Berger, is not answering Qs right now!

I mean, you couldn't make this stuff up folks.

Howell Raines himself would blush.

Next:

The disclosure of the investigation forced Mr. Berger to step down as an informal, unpaid adviser to Senator John Kerry's campaign on Tuesday, and on Wednesday the campaign accused the White House of deliberately leaking news of the investigation and said that Vice President Dick Cheney was involved in strategies to divert attention from the Sept. 11 report to be issued Thursday.

"Informal." "Unpaid."

Certainly not one of three finalists for the job of chief diplomat in a prospective Kerry administration!

Just some random campaign flak...

Sandy, er, who???

And, of course, evil Dick Cheney might be trying to divert attention away from the 9/11 inquiry--the NYT helpfully showcases as well.

It wouldn't fit the W. 43rd St. narrative, of course, if Cheney didn't have some hand in the Washington scandal du jour (energy, Halliburton, 'Kenny Boy,' Iraq intel, and so on)...

More:

"The timing of this leak suggests that the White House is more concerned about protecting its political hide than hearing what the commission has to say about strengthening our security," a statement issued by Mr. Kerry's campaign said.

Scott McClellan, the president's press secretary, denied Wednesday that the White House had anything to do with the leak, or was seeking a diversion from the report.

Your baffled NYT readers might be excused, at this juncture, for thinking George Bush himself was stuffing docs down his socks and trousers....

The report is expected to criticize the Bush administration's handling of intelligence about terrorism, but it will also contain significant criticisms of the Clinton administration and the National Security Council that Mr. Berger ran, in the pursuit of Osama bin Laden.

Gee, ya think?

More:

The chief mystery surrounding the mishandling of the documents is the motive. Republican leaders and the Bush-Cheney campaign have suggested that Mr. Berger sought to pass classified information to Mr. Kerry. Ken Mehlman, the president's campaign manager, called on the Kerry campaign to provide "clear assurance to the American people that the Kerry campaign did not benefit from classified documents that were removed from the National Archives by one of their advisers, Sandy Berger, now subject to a criminal investigation."

But that's just a red herring.

The White House hasn't been going heavy on the theme that Berger did this to help Kerry.

Here's Scott McClellan yesterday:

Q The other partisan charges being leveled is that Berger, as an informal advisor to Senator Kerry, may have been using documents that would ultimately inform Senator Kerry's thinking on developing policy. That view has been expressed by the reelection campaign. Does the White House share that concern?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure that all those matters will be looked into by the people overseeing the investigation.

Q As part of the investigation?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure that they will look into all those issues that would be related to this investigation.

Q You just don't want to have a piece of this story, do you?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think it's -- Bill, you've asked me about other criminal investigations, and I've always said that, because it's an ongoing investigation, it's best that we let the investigation proceed, and that those questions be directed to the Department of Justice. I understand your desire for information, but this is a serious -- this is serious matter.

This is hardly mega-cheerleading that Berger did this on Kerry's behalf, no?

It's simply the standard, when someone is self-destructing, step aside and let the meltdown occur as the "investigations proceed(s)"...

But by making it look like the Republicans are going all helter-skelter on that front (Berger did it for Kerry!), the NYT adeptly defines the scandal up--allowing this next:

But Mr. Kerry himself, as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, would probably have access to any such documents, and the clearances to read them. On Wednesday evening, Mr. Berger's spokesman, Joe Lockhart, said: "Mr. Berger never passed any classified information to the Kerry campaign. Any suggestion to the contrary cannot be supported by any facts."

At the Kerry campaign, officials say they were taken by surprise by the accusation. It appears that Mr. Berger did not disclose the investigation to Mr. Kerry's aides. Mr. Lockhart said that was because "we were dealing in good faith with the Department of Justice on this matter for many months, and part of our agreement was that this was not to be discussed beyond Sandy's legal team."

"Taken by surprise"!

Is it just me, or are you more "surprised" that a former NSC Advisor stands accused, at least by some, of stuffing hugely sensitive documents down his socks?

That, at least, is what's got me all curious over here in London.

But the Times relentlessly churns on regarding, not what Berger did or didn't do, but the ginned up "who in the White House knew?!?" meme:

On Tuesday, after the information about Mr. Berger emerged, Mr. McClellan referred questions to the Justice Department and said, "What we know is what has been reported in the news media." That seemed to suggest no early knowledge of the investigation inside the White House.

On Wednesday, however, Mr. McClellan corrected himself, saying that the office of Alberto Gonzalez Jr., the White House counsel, had been informed about the case.

"The counsel's office is the one that is coordinating with the Sept. 11 commission the production of documents," Mr. McClellan said. "And since this relates to some documents, the counsel's office was contacted as part of that investigation."

Mr. McClellan did not specifically cite the Justice Department as the source of the information, but administration officials said it was the department that had informed the White House of the investigation.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Ominous, huh?

Ashcroft is stone-walling again....

Finally, towards the end of the article, we come to this:

The department is investigating whether Mr. Berger broke federal law on the handling of classified material by removing from a secure government reading room a handful of documents related to an after-action report on the 1999 millennium plots, as well as notes he took during his review.

In preparing for testimony before the Sept. 11 commission, Mr. Berger viewed thousands of pages of intelligence documents. He said he removed the documents by mistake, but Republicans accused him of stashing the material in his clothes on purpose. They have offered theories about what that purpose may have been, like an effort to withhold information that reflected badly on the Clinton administration.

Note the vivid language re: "stashing the material in his clothes on purpose."

That's, er, not a judicious portrayal of what Berger stands accused of by many.

There's the treatment of his notes, for instance, rather than the documents themselves.

Or he might have stashed them in his clothes, er, not on purpose (that credulity-straining careless thang).

What's my point?

That the NYT wants to make the Republican accusations look as dramatic as possible--so, in case Berger was merely careless, the GOP looks bad for all that slanderous talk about Berger doing it on "on purpose", "stashing" the docs, etc. etc.

The larger point?

The big issue in all of this, what did Berger do or not do, is just worth this slight, passing mention.

And this in the lead (at least on the web) NYT article on the matter today.

Moving on, we swiftly return to the Bushies role in all this, and end the article, thus:

Traditionally, law enforcement officials have sought to maintain a firewall of sorts between criminal investigators and political appointees on politically sensitive cases.

Several legal analysts said it would not be unusual or necessarily improper for the political appointees at the Justice Department to have let the White House know of the investigation's existence. But they emphasized that such communications should be closely held at the White House, should not involve criminal investigators and should not be allowed to influence the outcome.

"There may be a legitimate explanation here because the White House counsel had responsibility for handling these documents," said Beth Nolan, White House counsel under President Clinton.

"But the better path might have been not to provide the information to the White House at all,'' she said, "because of this exact situation - if you have information that was shared and was then leaked, it creates a whole set of political problems."

Talk about diverting attention away from the main show.

Breathtaking, really.

But, of course, not suprising is it?

Compare all this with the Washington Post's handling of the story.

The contrasts are, shall we say, vivid.

It's like they are covering two different scandals--which, in a way, they are--one real, one fictive.

Posted by Gregory at 10:50 AM | Comments (111)

June 30, 2004

All Mixed Up

Harold Meyerson:

Kerry is rightly concerned, of course, that his vice presidential pick have credibility in matters of national security. The mystery is that anyone still feels that Cheney, and his boss, have any. They invaded Iraq because they believed erroneous evidence (and may still believe it, all actual evidence to the contrary) or, more plausibly, because they could, because they knew they'd feel better afterward.

Wait, I thought that was someone else's line!

P.S. By the by, can't Meyerson do better than recycling old MaDo lines?

Posted by Gregory at 11:35 PM

June 23, 2004

Who Else Is In the Crowd?

In the midst of his swearing-in ceremony this quick aside from John Negroponte:

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, Ms. Rice, Minister Rend al-Rahim, other colleagues in the Diplomatic Corps who have already been recognized by Secretary Powell, distinguished guests and friends, I guess I would like, first of all, just to acknowledge the presence of one other person who is here today and with whom I look forward to working extremely closely in the months ahead, and that is General George Casey who has just relinquished his or is about to relinquish his duties as Vice Chief of Staff of the Army to come out to be the Commander in Iraq. So I just wanted everybody to know that George is here as well.

Yeah, not your typical Ambassadorship. George Casey is, indeed, "here as well."

And while Negroponte opened by mentioning the U.S. commander who will lead 130,000 U.S. G.I.s on the ground, he ended by addressing the U.N. community:

I would also like to honor our fallen colleagues from the United Nations, notably Sergio Vieira de Mello and to thank United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and his Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi for guiding the political process that has led to the interim Iraqi administration. I look forward to continued collaboration with UN colleagues in the months ahead.

Watch Negroponte pull off a degree of U.N. involvement, assuming the security situation materially improves, that well exceeds Nancy Soderberg's (a passionate and smart observer of the U.N. scene) somewhat pessimistic take.

P.S. Note too, per Powell's remarks, his mention of sitting Ambassadors that have stepped down to serve as "DCMs" or Deputy Chiefs of Mission under Negroponte.

Once you become an Ambassador, you normally don't downgrade back to DCM status.

But, of course, this is probably the most critical Embassy to serve at since Saigon in the late 60s and early 70s.

Posted by Gregory at 09:53 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2004

Sid Vicious

Sidney Blumenthal, writing in the Guardian:

I joined a boisterous reunion of more than 200 former cabinet members (a cabinet that looked like America), advisors, staffers, friends, and Harvey Weinstein, the movie mogul of Miramax. Hardly any of us had set foot in the White House since Clinton had departed. We felt completely at home, yet out of place. We had worked here every day for years and were now infidels in the temple.

The ceremony was like a Christmas truce in the trenches during the first world war. Bush, who had previously denigrated his predecessor, now graciously paid tribute, listing attributes that inevitably created comparison with himself, but different from Reagan: "A deep and far-ranging knowledge of public policy, a great compassion for people in need, and the forward-looking spirit that Americans like in a president."

Gosh, sounds like poor Sid Blumenthal was forced to hunker down with UBL himself in remote Baluchistan or such.

And doubtless Harvey Weinstein's presence added to the blush-cheeked, boisterous, apple-pie chomping American air...

Or, at least, this America.

P.S. Lighten up Sid; this wasn't a WWI Christmas Armistice--it was a portrait unveiling...

I mean, even MaDo thought Dubya was pleasant enough with Bill and Hillary!

Posted by Gregory at 10:51 AM