Monday, January 17, 2005

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Rice reshapes the foreign policy apparatus

Last year I wrote in TNR Online:

[T]here are good reasons to believe that realists would trump the neocons during a second term. None of the neocons hold Cabinet-level positions (the most prominent is Paul Wolfowitz) and the rumored shift at the State Department from Colin Powell to Condoleezza Rice will probably strengthen the hand of the realists. (Yes, Powell opposed the neocons, but he also proved rather inept at winning influence with the president; Rice, by contrast, is a realist who will have Bush's attention.)

Continuing that vein of thinking, Guy Dinmore has a great story in the Financial Times on how Condi Rice is staffing both the State Department and the NSC:

A shake-up of the US foreign policy team under Condoleezza Rice will see the emergence of younger rising stars as well as seasoned negotiators, bringing together a combination of pragmatists and "hawks".

While analysts and diplomats are focusing on whether the second Bush administration will see a loss of influence for the ideologically driven neoconservatives, Ms Rice appears to be choosing a mix of career professionals and experts noted primarily for their loyalty and commitment, as well as a willingness to challenge conventional wisdoms...

One of the young climbers cultivated by Ms Rice in the council is Meghan O'Sullivan, senior director for strategic planning with responsibility for Iraq and Iran. "She is rising quickly through the ranks," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ms O'Sullivan, who is in her 30s, in effect replaces Robert Blackwill, a veteran diplomat who ran the Iraq Stabilisation Group as deputy national security adviser. He has joined a lobbying firm after resigning last year following colourful press reports about his personal life and an altercation with a State Department employee....

Stephen Krasner, a professor of international relations at Stanford University, where Ms Rice was previously provost, is tipped as the new head of policy planning. In 2001 he spent a year in the State Department, working on the Millennium Challenge Account, an aid programme for developing nations that meet criteria of good governance.

At a time when the future of the United Nations is under scrutiny, it is interesting that Ms Rice is believed to have chosen a specialist on the shape of future institutional forums. Mr Krasner has challenged conventional notions of sovereignty. He is also strongly opposed to the International Criminal Court as lacking in democratic accountability.

In an interview a week after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Mr Krasner said prudence was what counted in international relations. "The notion that you can create an ideal world is what walked us into Mao's China, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia. If you want a decent life, what you need is a political system which is prudent and limited. I think that the United States has actually done pretty well in that regard."

What O'Sullivan and Krasner have in common with each other -- as well as with Robert Zoellick, the new no. 2 at State -- is that they are really smart, and they are realists.

Full disclosure: I've known O'Sullivan for some time and am a big fan of her book, Shrewd Sanctions. And Krasner was my dissertation advisor, so you cam pretty much throw any claim to objectivity out the window on him.

UPDATE: Richard Holbrooke sounds some similar themes and discusses other personnel transfers in the Washington Post (Thanks to Zathras for the pointer)

posted by Dan on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM


"The notion that you can create an ideal world is what walked us into Mao's China, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia."

Forgive me if I'm reading this article wrong, but is the quote above supposed to be the Realist vision as opposed to that of the "ideological" neocons? If so, it is probably meant as a slur of neocons - because it usually is. But 'ideology' simply means coherent set of beliefs. Realists have that as much as neocons. Except that the Realist ideology is much more simplistic -and, in the long term- dangerous. Post WWII American Realism, more than anything else, helped to create the Middle Eastern mess.

But perhaps my reading of the article is uncharitable.

posted by: NeoCon on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM [permalink]

Interesting. O'Sullivan was a Brookings scholar, apparently.

posted by: praktike on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM [permalink]

Interesting... O'Sullivan is apparently pretty damn cute, too.

posted by: pig on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM [permalink]

can you comment on how you think this information (on foreign policy staff) plays into the article that seymour hersh just wrote for the new yorker? (

unlike you (???), my view of ms. rice is that she will bring state more in line with the ideology of bush (or, more, purge state of its ability to have an opposing opinion. like goss seems to be doing at the agency). and therefore will strengthen the hand of rummy and the other wack-jobs in defense. since you have such close relationships with these new people, do you think they are likely to push the type of agenda that hersh talks about in his article?

you say they are "really smart" and "realists", but what does that mean in the bush administration?

posted by: joe on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM [permalink]


if not push that type of policy, would they stand in the way of it? would they stick their necks out to stop this kind of policy? because, unless they overtly tried to stop the things hersh talks about (and if hersh is accurate in his reporting), they will account for no more then powell did in his "opposition" to bush policy...

posted by: joe on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM [permalink]

Trying to inject realism and pragmatism into this administration will be nearly impossible. What you're overlooking is the fact Bush leads with a stronger hand than many suspect. It is his instincts and notions of the world that will ultimately prevail in policy decisions. Considering he is likely insane, habitually cruel, a xenophobe, a pathological liar and a psychopath I'd say Ms. Rice is doomed should her mission be steering the U.S into calmer waters.

posted by: steve duncan on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM [permalink]

note the bizarre attempt at even-handedness in the headline and lead--as if her staffing represents a real balance of realists and "hawks." The only hawk mentioned is at the very end, Robert Joseph, and he's clearly the minority on the new team. This is nearly a neoconrein apparat, one that conforms to what people thought Rice would do before she first took office. Of course, it does make her look quite opportunist for having gone along so meely with the Bush Doctrine silliness for the last three years...

posted by: lamont cranston on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM [permalink]

A meme that is floating about tends to put at the feet of the neocons all the international flaws of the first Bush administration. But we should remember that realists can make their own mistakes too.

posted by: Factory on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM [permalink]

But I thought Rice had converted from a realist to a neo-con, as evidenced by her stances over the last 4 years.

posted by: flaime on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM [permalink]

I'm not sure what makes the Financial Times article "great." It seems to be simply an update on the changing personnel in the Bush administration.

The whole Rice thing is kind of confusing. Is she on course to radically redesign Bush foreign policy? Does she think first-term foreign policy was not pragmatic, not Realist enough, what? If a radical redesign is what she's interested in, and if her personal relationship with Bush gives her the power to make this happen, it begs the question of why Bush ever adopted a foreign policy Rice didn't like. Shouldn't Rice as NSA and Powell as SecState have been more effective blocking neocon strategy than Rice alone as SecState will be?

posted by: Andrew Steele on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM [permalink]

It may just be me, but the following blurb from the Financial Times seems incoherent.

"...Ms Rice appears to be choosing a mix of career professionals and experts noted primarily for their loyalty and commitment, as well as a willingness to challenge conventional wisdoms..."

It seems to me like often (perhaps most of the time?)the bosses may embody conventional wisdom. In that context, what does loyalty to the administration mean. Loyalty to the State Department softball team?

posted by: Kramer on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM [permalink]

Just as an academic matter, it seems that neoconservative ideology is much more clearly defined than its realist counterpart. Realism, evidently, can mean almost anything but neoconservatism. It can even refer to the absence of any previous thinking about foreign affairs, or to reputations established in academic life before one's public service. This is one reason I've found media commentary on what is on tap in the Rice State Department unhelpful.

The other is the whole question of jurisdiction -- where policy gets made and who is charged with implementing it. In the first term Rice was frequently in the room as to the first and was mostly not a factor as to the second. We don't know what will change in the second term, but something had better if Rice expects to get anything done. First term Bush foreign policy was largely made in the Pentagon, ratified by the White House, and carried out by the military (and occasionally, as in Afghanistan, by the CIA). State was often kept on the sidelines in the first and especially the third steps of the process. If Rice can't change that she won't have any more control over foreign policy than Powell did.

posted by: Zathras on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM [permalink]

A more useful analysis of changes being made at State is Richard Holbrooke's Washington Post column today:

posted by: Zathras on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM [permalink]

Well, you can put this down to jealousy, but really, should someone who has had strategic responsibility for Iraq be promoted?

Also, notice the caste developing, grad school weenies with absolutely zero military experience are choosing where to send our guys to die. At least back in the day, the caste had done their time.

Murry and Hernnstein proved right again!

posted by: stari_momak on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM [permalink]

How much new money has actually been disbursed from the Millenium Challenge Account?

Over on the left side of the aisle, they're saying it's pretty close to zero. All talk, no cattle. If so, not a very good advertisement for O'Sullivan's effectiveness. Unless of course one believes that empty symbolism is the purpose of foreign policy.

I think the realistic assessment is that Rice's State Department is going to do exactly what W wants, which will look an awful lot like what the US government has been doing for the last four years. Thinking otherwise is just repeating the fable of the good sultan and the evil viziers.

posted by: Doug on 01.17.05 at 04:24 PM [permalink]

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