Foreign policy “realists”–the folks I call “Right Arabists”–are taking plenty of shots at Bush administration foreign policy ahead of the mid-term elections. By my latest count, it’s getting to the point now where there are eight-, nine-hundred attacks a week. That’s more than 100 a day. That is four an hour.
Well… that may not really be accurate. The passage above that begins “it’s getting to the point” is actually a line used by Bob Woodward in an upcoming CBS News 60 Minutes interview to describe the level of insurgent attacks on US forces in Iraq.
I would propose, however, that Woodward’s new book–State of Denial, published by Simon & Schuster, part of Viacom’s CBS Corp.–is the tactical equivalent of an IED in the beltway insurgency of “realists” against administration “neocons.”
Can we acknowledge that Woodward’s social function–whatever his own personal politics may be–is to “channel” internal rivalries within the Republican party? Woodward’s insurgents are Republicans, not Democrats.
It has ever been thus, since Watergate and the Nixon administration. Woodward books since 9/11–Bush at War and Plan of Attack–have chronicled the battles of Bush administration “realists” against Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the Neoconservatives.
So, too, it seems with State of Denial. The factionalism angle is played down by the official CBS line which emphasizes Bush administration “denial” regarding the level of insurgent activity in Iraq.
But those reporters who skipped the press release and grabbed a retail copy (did on-line book retailers blow Viacom’s embargo on the sale of the book before its official release?) suggest that Woodward has once again delivered up a chronicle of beltway insurgency.
From the New York Times:
The book says President Bush’s top advisers were often at odds among themselves, and sometimes were barely on speaking terms…
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is described as… so hostile toward Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, that President Bush had to tell him to return her phone calls…
The American commander for the Middle East, Gen. John P. Abizaid, is reported to have told visitors to his headquarters in Qatar in the fall of 2005 that “Rumsfeld doesn’t have any credibility anymore”…
Robert D. Blackwill, then the top Iraq adviser on the National Security Council, is said to have issued his warning about the need for more troops… [T]he White House did nothing in response…
Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff…made a concerted effort to oust Mr. Rumsfeld at the end of 2005, according to the book…
Two members of Mr. Bush’s inner circle, Mr. Powell and the director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet, are described as ambivalent about the decision to invade Iraq.
De-Baathification in Washigton?
A lot of the factionalism described in Woodward’s new book is old news. And it appears that Woodward may, in some respects, have chronicled the “last throes” of the beltway insurgency. Powell is long gone. So is Tenet. So is Blackwill. Card, too.
Lower level insurgents–like Paul R. Pillar, the CIA’s national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005–have also left the administration, although they have hardly been disarmed or neutralized.
Insurgent Infiltration of the Government
Much to the chagrin of Right Zionists, however, there beltway insurgency has not yet been completely purged from the administration itself.
Zalmay Khalilzad runs the show on the ground in Iraq and he–along with the military commanders–draw regularly from the Right Arabist playbook, tilting toward a new political and military accords with Sunni Arab forces and ex-Baathists.
Traditional State Department Right Arabists like Robert Zoellick, Nicholas Burns (number 2 and 3 at State, respectively) and David Welch at Near Eastern Affairs still give Right Zionist Elliott Abrams at NSC a run for his money in Middle East diplomacy relating to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran.
Within the National Security Council, Abrams may have the Israel portfolio, but not Iraq. That honor goes to Meghan L. O’Sullivan, deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan–and, according to the New York Times, the most senior official working on Iraq full time at the White House.
Meghan O’Sullivan is no Right Zionist. She is, rather, a protégé of Richard Haass, the Right Arabist head of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Lawrence Kaplan, in a profile of Haass in the March 26, 2001 issue of The New Republic reported:
“[I]n recent weeks [Haass has] been peddling to administration officials recommendations gleaned from a policy paper titled, aptly enough, “Iraq: Time for a Modified Approach.” Written last month by Meghan O’Sullivan, who worked for Haass at the Brookings Institution, the brief for softening the sanctions regime neatly anticipates almost every utterance Powell has made recently about Iraq–from his insistence that loosening the embargo will dispel Arab anger to the old canard that “there is linkage to the situation between the Israelis and Palestinians.” Bush, of course, inherited Haass from his father’s Middle East team. And, with him, he’s inheriting its worst inclinations.”
Similarly, AEI’s Michael Rubin has nothing nice to say about O’Sullivan. In a December 2005 National Review article, he described clashes she had with Right Zionist ally, Ahmed Chalabi:
“Chalabi agitated for direct elections and restoration of Iraqi sovereignty. He clashed with Meghan O’Sullivan, now deputy national security adviser for Iraq, when she worked to undermine and eventually reverse de-Baathification.”
Also, Michael Rubin in a February 2005 “Jerusalem Issue Brief” reports on O’Sullivan and Iran policy:
“New National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley’s decision to remove Richard Haass protégé Meghan O’Sullivan from the Iran portfolio (she retains her position as senior director for Iraq at the National Security Council) also bodes well for a more activist policy, especially as the new National Security team again reviews Washington’s policy – or lack thereof – toward Tehran. O’Sullivan had long been both dismissive of Iranian dissidents and a proponent of engaging the Islamic Republic.”
Over at State, there is Condoleezza Rice. Whatever the tension between Rice and Rumsfeld during the first term, Rice’s move to “foggy bottom” has convinced some Right Zionists–like Richard Perle–that the Secretary of State has subsequently been captured by insurgents there.
Then there is John Negroponte, the Intelligence czar. When an insurgent Intelligence underling leaked passages from the NIE report suggesting that the war in Iraq was fueling terror, the White House worked hard to smack down the idea.
Here is how Bush responded to the charge that the war in Iraq has fueled terror:
Some people have, you know, guessed what’s in the report and have concluded that going into Iraq was a mistake. I strongly disagree. I think it’s naive. I think it’s a mistake for people to believe that going on the offense against people that want to do harm to the American people makes us less safe.
Negroponte’s response, courtesy of a Washington Post article entitled, “Iraq Just One Factor, Negroponte Says“:
“The Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives”…
Finally, somewhere in all this lurks the figure of a “Right Arabist” Godfather, James A. Baker, III and his Iraq Study Group. Baker’s group is officially independent of the administration, but the White House went out of its way to formally “welcome” the formation of the group.
Among Right Arabists who contintue to “infiltrate” the administration, the well-timed leak remains the preferred IED.
Which Side Are You On?
Right Zionists know when they are getting hit. They are sitting ducks. And they don’t really have any way of protecting themselves.
Hence the complaint of Michael Rubin at the National Review blog “The Corner.”
[T]he real problem is within the intelligence community. Selective CIA leaks are the equivalent of intelligence officials running information operations on the American public. John Negroponte and Pat Kennedy, how long are you going to allow these leaks to continue? Do you really think it healthy in a democracy for the CIA and DIA to stray from intelligence collection and analysis into politics? How many investigations have you launched? How many have concluded?
Intelligence officials–along with military officers, diplomats, etc.–are running “operations,” but the target is not only the American public, but the administration itself.
Bush himself said as much, suggesting that the recent NIE leak was “politically motivated.”
Right. But the politics are intra-mural, within the Republican party.
Are the Beltway Insurgents willing to go so far as to directly support Democratic party efforts to win control of Congress? In some instances, Yes.
In other instances, the insurgents probably hope to use election-cycle leverage to press the administration to change its policies in order to appease the insurgency.
In 2004, some Right Arabists–including those closest to Bush Sr.–retreated from a direct confrontation with the administration if it meant handing victory to the Democrats (not altogether surprising if they fear that foreign policy under the Democrats would be at least as Zionist as it has been under Bush).
This was surely the case with Brent Scowcroft whose retreat was quite public.
In an October 14, 2006 interview with the Financial Times, Scowcroft suggested that during the first term, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had Bush “wrapped around his little finger.”
However, Scowcroft assured his allies, Right Zionist influence might diminish in a second term, once free from domestic (read, pro-Zionist) electoral considerations:
“There has been some pulling back of the extremes of neo-cons…,” he said.
Mr Scowcroft said he hoped that if Mr Bush were re-elected he would change course more fundamentally.
“This is a man who’s really driven to seek re-election and done a lot of things with that in mind,” he said. “I have something of a hunch that the second administration will be quite different from the first.”
The implicit swipe at the power of the “Israel Lobby,” notwithstanding, the interview was surely signaled that Scowcroft a company would rather battle Zionists within a Republican administration than within a Democratic one.
Will Right Arabists begin to pull their punches as the mid-term elections approach?
Scowcroft waited until October 14. We still have a few weeks to go.
Or maybe this time, the Right Arabists are prepared to pull the trigger.