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April 04, 2005

A Second Term Dream Team?
Posted by Derek Chollet

For weeks DA and others in the blogosphere -- as well as the old fashioned media -- have been fuming about some of President Bush’s more troubling appointments, especially John Bolton at the UN.

But what’s been interesting to me is how Bolton’s appointment, as disturbing as it is, has been the exception rather than the rule. Let’s face it, many of the President’s recent second term national security appointments give reason for hope.  Ok, I know, railing against the Administration is more fun, but I believe in giving credit where it is due.

In many cases, Bush and his Cabinet Secretaries have stacked senior positions (especially at State, but even at the Pentagon) not with neo-con ideologues or raging right-wingers, but with sensible, smart, tough-minded professionals – who believe in diplomacy and institutions and agree with progressive internationalist ideals more than they (and we) might like to admit.

I’ve pointed out before that this is especially true at the State Department, where Secretary Rice has surrounded herself with folks like:

Robert Zoellick, her Deputy Secretary. He’s a politically loyal Republican, to be sure, but a direct descendant of the pragmatic Baker school (along with Dennis Ross, he ran the Department under Baker). He’s tough and has some faults (just ask the Japanese), but is one of the Administration’s best diplomats – in fact, as USTR during the first term, he was the Administration’s only effective diplomat. He also believes deeply in international institutions – it was Zoellick, working under Baker and then Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, who engineered the creation of APEC in 1989-1990.

Nick Burns, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, State’s number three official. A career foreign service officer, he was a top aide and spokesperson for Clinton’s first Secretary of State, Warren Christopher. He just served as U.S. Ambassador to NATO, where he was superb – he did a great job with a very bad brief. He worked on Zoellick’s staff, and later as Rice’s deputy, during the first Bush Administration.

Philip Zelikow, Rice’s Counselor. Recently served as executive director of the 9-11 commission (where there were grumblings about his partisanship), and has been assigned with troubleshooting and overseeing State’s counter-terrorist and intelligence bureaus. Chapter 12 of the 9-11 commission report is practically a playbook for progressive internationalism – and an inherent indictment of Bush’s first term – and let’s hope that Zelikow works to put into practice what he preached. He co-authored with Rice a chronicle of a major U.S. diplomatic triumph, the unification of Germany during 1989-1990, and along with Nick Burns, was a Zoellick staffer in the Baker State Department.

Chris Hill, the Assistant Secretary of State for Asia (he's not confirmed yet, but will be).  Another career official, he rose through the foreign service under the tutelage of Richard Holbrooke, played a decisive role at the Dayton negotiations to bring peace to Bosnia and during the Kosovo crisis, and was a senior NSC official during the Clinton Administration responsible for the Balkans.

Stephen Krasner, Rice’s Director of Policy Planning. Kranser is an old Rice confidante from Stanford, and she is said to trust him completely. So far he is traveling with her full-time. While relatively unknown in Washington, he is a major figure in political science circles (PoliSci grad school quiz: name the other “two K’s”). If his academic writing is any guide, he promises to come up with interesting ideas – he has written an entire book on sovereignty, arguing that it has never really existed as a single concept (now that would be news to John Bolton!).

Importantly, similar choices have been made elsewhere – including, crucially, at the Pentagon. Late last week, the President announced that Wolfowitz and Doug Feith, two of the Pentagon’s top three civilian officials, would be replaced by:

Gordon England, the former Navy Secretary. England is highly regarded in defense circles, and many have hoped that he would replace Wolfowitz. He has done a good job as Navy Secretary, and his reputation is as a straight shooter, easy to get along with, and non-ideological.

Eric Edelman, currently U.S. Ambassador to Turkey. Edelman is one the finest foreign service officers of his generation, and his selection to replace the less-than-beloved Feith as the Pentagon’s lead civilian policy official was widely anticipated inside the building and throughout Washington policy circles. A former top aide to Vice President Cheney, Edelman was also one of Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott’s closest aides during the Clinton Administration, and helped shape the U.S. approach toward Russia and NATO enlargement during the 1990’s.

So what’s all this inside baseball mean? Will such officials shape the second Bush term? Maybe that's why Bolton is being exiled to New York. Or at least let's hope so.


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Steve Johnson as the head of the EPA was also a
welcome surprise: see Grist Magazine at

Yes, all good choices. Now if they can just refrain from lying to our allies and stop "acting like a colonial governor," I'm sure this 2nd term will go much smoother.

Talk about hope over experience!

I'd add David Welch for Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs - another solid pro. Especially considering the early buzz for Danielle Pletka for that job...

Correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't Zoellick (who you described as a "pragmatist") a founder or major contributor to the Project for the New Anerican Century (PNAC)? PNAC is hardly what I would describe as an ideologically neutral place.

I thought Colin Powell was a good guy when he was picked. He fell on his sword when he went to the UN to justify the war in Iraq. What would make you think that any of these folks wont have to do the same? They may be excellent nuts and bolts people, they are not making the final decisions.

You are only dreaming if you think this radical right administration will allow any their toadies to drift from the foreign policy agenda it was established. Even Colin Powell was forced, against his better judgement, to tow the neocon line. Until a new administration is in place, expect more of what we have been seeing.

My entry in the Poli Sci grad school quiz: The other two K's are Peter Katzenstein and Robert Keohane. Is that right? Its what I remember from my days at Cornell ...

I think Derek has the general portrait quite right. Bolton's pick was an aberration, something of an exile post, rather than demonstration of where the Bush Administration is this time around. Perhaps we've got a more sensible, centrist Reagan II-like administration that will now start to consult more broadly and cease to be careless with their diplomacy and rhetoric. Early portents are heartening. Even policy wonks sympathetic to the neocon's like Bob Kagan seem to be chastened somewhat by the missteps of the administration last go around in squandering the post 9/11 empathy by excessive bashing of our friends, international institutions, and treaties. The jury is still out yet, and we'll have to see if we can come to some resolution on Iran without having an instant replay of the Iraq debate.

The interesting thing is how the U.S. and Europe fudged differences on the International Criminal Court over Darfur and the Security Council referral of Sudan. We opted to abstain rather than veto, put some pressure on the Chinese to do the same I believe, and the Europeans gave Americans an opt-out from prosecuation.

Another good solid pick that appears to be roundly praised in bipartisan circles is former NSA director Mike Hayden as Negroponte's deputy intelligence director. Here is a posting of the NYTIMES story on Hayden.

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