Thursday, October 4, 2007

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The 2008 foreign policy wonk list

William Arkin does a public service and compiles a list of all known foreign policy wonks currently advising the major presidential candidates.

Arkin comments:

I think of these advisers as falling into two broad categories: Those providing legitimacy and those seeking legitimacy. The two camps aren't always mutually exclusive. But it's a useful framework for analyzing the list, and may help us sort out any conflict-of-interest charges that may arise in the course of the campaign.
Kevin Drum is unimpressed (hat tip: Ilan Goldenberg):
Of course, what would be more genuinely useful is a list of the people who actually have each candidate's ear on foreign policy, not a telephone book of every single foreign policy wonk who's made an endorsement. I want to know which ones are figureheads and which ones are likely to have West Wing offices in 2009.
It's tricky to do that, because a) wonks will often advise more than one candidate; and b) sometimes wonks from losing campaigns rise to success during the general election (see: Jim Baker).

This is a blog, however, so it seems like fun to take a stab at answering Drum's question. My answers are based entirely on scuttlebutt, half-assed speculation, and some simple rules of thumb. First, ambition goes up, not down -- i.e., Madeleine Albright's not going to be the NSC advisor when she's been Secretary of State. Second, the national security advisor position usually goes to someone who has a longtime relationship with the candidate.

Going through the list:

1) HILLARY CLINTON: Foggy Bottom would go to Richard Holbrooke. National Security Advisor: Lee Feinstein.

2) BARACK OBAMA: Foggy Bottom would go to Anthony Lake. National Security Advisor: Hmmm... interesting list, but I'd put money on Susan Rice.

3) JOHN EDWARDS: Foggy Bottom would go to.... no one on Arkin's list. Not enough name recognition/non-military experience. National Security Advisor: Derek Chollet.

4) RUDOLPH GIULIANI: Foggy Bottom would go to Norman Podhoret... BWA HA HA HA HA HA!!! I'm sorry, I couldn't get that out without laughing. Seriously, on this list, Robert Kasten is the only likely candidate. National Security Advisor: Ken Weinstein Charles Hill.

5) JOHN MCCAIN: Foggy Bottom would go to... well, this depends on whether McCain's contrarian instincts lead him to nominate someone who would constrain his interventionist impulses. If that's the case, then it's Brent Scowcroft or Richard Armitage. If not, then it's James Woolsey. National Security Advisor: Gary Schmitt.

6) MITT ROMNEY: Foggy Bottom would go to... someone on McCain's list -- there's no one on Arkin's list with sufficient gravitas. National Security Advisor: Mitchell Reiss.

Readers are strongly encouraged to disabuse me of any of these predictions with really good inside dirt.

UPDATE: Blake Hounshell informs me that, "Anthony Lake has said in no uncertain terms that he will not return to government and is happy as a Georgetown professor."

Assuming that this statement is genuine and not boilerplate, the only other name on Obama's list that might come up for Foggy Bottom would be Dennis Ross, though it's a major step up.

posted by Dan on 10.04.07 at 03:49 PM


yeah, I was very surprised at how unimpressive Romney's list is. For someone who was arguably the front-runner for a while and who's certainly a top-3 contender, Romney has managed to attract very few even-medium-weight hitters. You'd think *some* plausible future SecState would decide to bet on Romney, even if without any commitment or conviction.

posted by: Jacob T. Levy on 10.04.07 at 03:49 PM [permalink]

If Obama somehow rights his ship and wins this thing, look for Samantha Power to be some sort of special adviser to the president for something or other. Either that or head of policy planning at State (though that would take her out of the White House). The scuttlebutt is that she very much "has his ear."

posted by: anon on 10.04.07 at 03:49 PM [permalink]

Personally I think this is a moot point, but any of the Republicans would more probably try to pull Robert Zoellick back from the World Bank. He's an abler diplomat than any of the other people listed, has long experience with the State Department, and is not so closely identified with the worst Bush administration failures as is Armitage.

Brent Scowcroft? I don't really think the ability to put one's name above an occasional Op-Ed suggests the ability to run a Cabinet Department. The man is in his 80s, for Pete's sake.

posted by: Zathras on 10.04.07 at 03:49 PM [permalink]

When you mention Ken Weinstein, I assume you are talking about the CEO of the Hudson Institute?

posted by: dm on 10.04.07 at 03:49 PM [permalink]

I see Charlie Hill as a far more likely Foggy Bottom boy than any of the ones you mentioned for Rudy. And he was assistant to Schultz.

posted by: dm on 10.04.07 at 03:49 PM [permalink]

Funny that you focus on NSA and Sec of State, as the most important (most destructive?) foreign policy post during this administration has been Secretary of Defense. We could look at the list and figure that one out, I suppose, but I just wanted to suggest that a focus on these other positions might be missing the really big elephant in the room, particularly since the US will still be enmeshed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and other places with steep politico-military stakes in 2009.

posted by: Steve Saideman on 10.04.07 at 03:49 PM [permalink]

Dennis Ross would take a major step up in protocol rank if he were named Secretary of State. I have no doubt that he could handle the job.

With respect to the Democrats, it is worth remembering that the last five Republican administrations before the current one all had strong Secretaries of State. Democratic administration have tended to have weaker ones, beginning with Kennedy's administration. During Clinton's administration the role of the State Department in making and implementing foreign policy weakened dramatically, both in absolute terms and relative to the Department of Defense; the Department's foreign aid programs were cut, and its public diplomacy function decimated. This is one Clinton policy that the younger Bush did not repudiate.

Now, from my point of view what this means is that the next Secretary of State needs to make building the institutional strength of his department first, second and third on his list of things to do. But all three of the leading Democratic candidates are foreign policy novices -- they will all have domestic constituencies screaming for their attention, and the foreign affairs issues that will take up most of their time (Iraq and Afghanistan) will inevitably have State playing a supporting role to the Pentagon. In addition, Obama and Edwards are likely to be sensitive to the perception of being overshadowed, and will resist appointing a strong Secretary of State for that reason. Clinton would not have this problem to the same degree, and if she appointed Holbrooke would get a potentially strong Secretary. A second Clinton administration would face the temptations the first one (like Carter's, Johnson's and Kennedy's) yielded to -- the idea that different foreign policy issues can be farmed out to different power centers within the administration, with the public posture being that only the President is running the show. If Richard Holbrooke were to be Secretary of State -- to any Democratic President -- I expect he would either challenge this model successfully or leave within the first couple of years.

posted by: Zathras on 10.04.07 at 03:49 PM [permalink]

Obama is on the record about wanting to make bipartisan appointments in the senior fp positions just as JFK did. One of the Sec of S or Def Sec is likely to be a Republican.

Also significant but overlooked are those dem FP advisors who seem to be remaining neutral, incl Steinberg.

Finally, for Giuliani, it is not impossible that Foggy Bottom would go to John Bolton, who was named as a Giuliani advisor a while back.

posted by: dave on 10.04.07 at 03:49 PM [permalink]

I agree w/ Dave -- Obama has previously expressed explicit support for Lugar, Hagel, and John Warner, with the latter a long-shot in a a BHO administration. Hagel -- more likely. What about Rich. Clarke for running the NSC? Now that'd make sense.

posted by: Jaideep Dargan on 10.04.07 at 03:49 PM [permalink]

Dan, you forgot to tell us who Ron Paul's people would be. :)

posted by: David Nieporent on 10.04.07 at 03:49 PM [permalink]

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