Saturday, February 05, 2005

Condoleezza’s choices

There are inherent tensions in Bush’s new foreign
policy team writes Walter Andersen.

Quotes :

"The writer is associate director, South Asia Studies
Programme, School of Advanced International Studies,
Johns Hopkins University

George W. Bush was sworn in as president in 2001 with no
intention of focusing on foreign policy. The second
inauguration of George W. Bush on January 20 was quite
the reverse. In his inaugural speech, he laid out one of
the most expansive manifestos ever offered from an
inaugural platform as he dedicated his presidency to
spreading democracy and freedom. He portrayed the US as
a beacon for the subjugated and promised to
confront despots who enchain them. The catalyst for this
about-face in foreign policy, of course, was 9/11 and
the subsequent Global War on Terrorism.

It was the military activity in Afghanistan and then
Iraq that provided an opportunity for Secretary of
Defence Donald Rumsfeld to assume the dominant role in
the fight against terrorism, America’s major foreign
policy engagement. In this, he was ably assisted by Paul
Wolfowitz, his brilliant deputy secretary who is the
intellectual father of the notion of pre-emptive
military action that was employed against Saddam
Hussein, and by Douglas Feith, the under secretary of
defence policy. Vice President Richard Cheney’s support
for Rumsfeld guaranteed the victory of Rumsfeld and the
Department of Defence against the Department of State
headed by Colin Powell, in the bureaucratic battle for
control of Iraq policy. The Defence Department’s
preeminence was revealed when it asserted control over
the postwar reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

The botched reconstruction efforts, the emergence of
Iraq as a centre of terrorist activity and the
continuous killing of American soldiers in Iraq have not
been held against Rumsfeld and his team. Not only was he
asked to continue in office soon after Bush’s November 2
victory. his chief deputies, Wolfowitz and Feith, appear
to be remaining in place as well. Given the Bush
campaign’s refusal to admit any mistakes in Iraq, it was
inevitable that the Pentagon leadership that managed US
policy in Iraq would remain. Any other course would have
reflected badly on the administration’s policy line.
Powell, however, was expendable and he was not invited
to stay on. His loyal deputy, Richard Armitage, too has
left. Armitage had played a major role in the US
formulation of policy toward South Asia that witnessed
the effective end of nuclear related sanctions on India
and Pakistan, the revival of military ties with the two
countries that was shaped by larger counter-terrorism
objectives, and US efforts to reduce tensions between

Taking Powell’s place will be Condoleezza Rice, the
president’s national security advisor during his first
term. Looming foreign policy challenges such as nuclear
weapons programmes in Iran and North Korea, the
Palestinian issue, and a post-election Iraq will test
her bureaucratic skills against rivals, especially in
the Department of Defence, and will determine how
effectively she can rebuild international alliances to
address these issues. At least on the bureaucratic
politics, Rice has several advantages over her
predecessor: she is personally close to the president;
she goes into her job with a wealth of knowledge about
the issues and the complicated bureaucratic policy
formulation process; her loyal deputy at the National
Security Council, Stephen Hadley, has been appointed her

At her January 18-19 confirmation hearings, Rice said
the State Department would be the “primary instrument�
of foreign relations. She stressed the importance of
alliances in fighting the war on terror and encouraging
the spread of democracy and asserted that the “time for
diplomacy is now.� She made specific reference to the
creation of an office at the Department to handle
reconstruction in crisis situations, a not-so-subtle
reminder that State will not abdicate this traditional
diplomatic responsibility to the Department of Defence,
as it was forced to do two years earlier. Her initial
appointments suggest the continuation of a
non-ideological approach to issues at the State
Department. Her first personnel action was the choice of
a deputy and she selected Robert Zoellick, the US trade
representative and a moderate, an appointment that also
points to a more focused approach to economic issues.
Bush gave his personal blessing to this team, stating in
their presence that the two “will form one of the really
strong, capable foreign policy teams our country has
ever had.� Rice bypassed John Bolton, the under
secretary of state for arms control and international
security, a hardline ideologue who is widely believed to
have lobbied for the position. Bolton’s likely
replacement is Robert G. Joseph, who worked closely with
Rice on non- proliferation issues at the NSC. These
appointments would represent a victory for foreign
policy realists in the Republican Party over
neo-conservatives who dominated foreign policy in Bush’s
first term. The pragmatic thrust will be further
strengthened by the likely appointment of NATO
Ambassador Nicholas Burns, a skilled negotiator and
career diplomat, in the number three position at State,
the under secretary for political affairs. Informed
opinion in Washington predicts that most assistant
secretaries in charge of the regional and functional
bureaus at the State Department will be her appointees
and not ideologues thrust on the Department to curb
dissent, as was once widely rumoured would be the case.

Regarding South Asia, Rice has an opportunity to build a
strategic relationship with India, a stated US goal that
has lacked momentum, in part due to the focus on Iraq. A
tentative start was taken in the decision to work
closely with key Asian powers of India, Japan and
Australia on tsunami relief. While this coordinating
function was turned over to the UN, it is a sound model.
These are democracies with no expansionist ambitions and
share the fundamental security views of the US. The
president in his inaugural address dedicated his second
term to the spread of democracy and the curbing of
tyranny. A good place to begin is to seek the
cooperation of the world’s largest democracy, India. Key
to this happening will be the appointment of a forceful
and politically well-connected assistant secretary for
South Asia."

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