Drezner gets results from the Washington Post
The management of bureaucratic politics that I touched on in my last TNR essay is the subject of a page one story in yesterday’s Washington Post (link via Patrick Belton). Greg Djerejian and Atrios have additional commentary. Everyone interested in U.S. foreign policy should read the whole thing, but I’ll highlight two sections from it. ...
The management of bureaucratic politics that I touched on in my last TNR essay is the subject of a page one story in yesterday's Washington Post (link via Patrick Belton). Greg Djerejian and Atrios have additional commentary. Everyone interested in U.S. foreign policy should read the whole thing, but I'll highlight two sections from it. First, on the process:
The management of bureaucratic politics that I touched on in my last TNR essay is the subject of a page one story in yesterday’s Washington Post (link via Patrick Belton). Greg Djerejian and Atrios have additional commentary. Everyone interested in U.S. foreign policy should read the whole thing, but I’ll highlight two sections from it. First, on the process:
Rice has focused more on her role as a presidential adviser and less on using the NSC to set policy. Bush prefers to assign specific tasks to different agencies to carry out his decisions, turning, for example, to Rumsfeld and saying, “Don, you take the lead on this.” When new staff members join the NSC, Rice outlines four key roles for her staff: preparing the president for meetings and phone calls; ensuring that presidential foreign policy initiatives are carried out; coordinating policy on matters that do not fall logically to a particular agency; and trying to interest different agencies in ideas developed at the NSC. Rice’s position on most issues is a mystery to many people within the administration, and she prefers to keep it that way. In meetings with Bush’s principal foreign policy advisers, she usually does not tip her hand, saving her advice for the president when he asks her in private…. “Condi has a somewhat idealized and noble view of how the interagency process should work: You should get the best out of everybody involved and in the end forge it into an effective policy,” [former NSC executive secretary Stephen] Biegun said, adding that it is important to remember that “the president makes the decisions. It’s not Condi who makes the decisions. It’s not Powell who makes the decisions. It’s not Rumsfeld who makes the decisions.”…. In one sign that Rice is trying to address the problem, she recently appointed Robert Blackwill, a mentor and former ambassador to India, to run a new committee that will seek to plan the administration’s response to possible crises and help the NSC reach consensus on a huge backlog of unresolved policy questions. As the administration enters an election year, the situation has become worse, several officials said, because everyone understands that no one will be fired no matter how far they stray from policy. (emphasis added)
Three thoughts on this:
The second part of this story sends a shiver down my spine:
These managerial questions have been especially acute on the administration’s policy toward the three countries identified by Bush as the “axis of evil”: Iraq, Iran and North Korea. In each case, officials said, the NSC has been unable to bridge gaps in ideology and establish a clear and consistent policy. From the start, top administration officials have waged a bitter battle over policy toward North Korea. Powell has led a group seeking to engage with the secretive and isolated communist government; Rumsfeld and Cheney believe talk is useless and have sought to destabilize and ultimately topple the government. Neither side has gained the upper hand, resulting in a policy stalemate that has left allies and North Korea perplexed. The two factions, convinced they had the backing of the president, have pursued contradictory policies, often scheming to undermine each other. Insiders said that Rice rarely kept on top of the intramural bickering, though she seemed to lean more toward the Rumsfeld/Cheney group, and at times recommended policies to the president that he later rejected…. “All too often what you’ve had in the last two years is diametrically opposed views between OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] and others, and then no decisions being made. A lot of stuff gets papered over,” said a State Department veteran.
If I was oh, let’s say, a Democrat running for president, this would be my angle of attack on the President’s foreign policy. Forget the WMD question — ask the president to articulate U.S. policy towards the other members of the Axis of Evil. Oh, wait….. Bob Blackwill is the man for the job, but he’s got his work cut out. UPDATE: Josh Marshall links to a Washington Post story from today that suggests the issue of foreign policy management is worrying Republicans as well:
“The president has to be president,” Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “That means the president over the vice president, and over these secretaries” of state and defense. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice “cannot carry that burden alone.” In the first week of the administration’s public relations campaign to explain its Iraq policy and highlight its achievements, Lugar noted that Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Rice had given speeches whose tone “was distinctly different” and that senators were rightly concerned about “the strength, the coherence of our policies.”
Nor is Lugar the only one making this point. Last week Bill Kristol noted the foreign policy “disarray within his administration” and said the “administration [was] at war with itself.” Clearly, Kristol doesn’t agree with Lugar about a lot, and even less with me — less and less every day, it seems. And he’d like to see the conflict won by different folks than I would. But the objective reality of disarray at the highest levels is impossible to miss or ignore.
For a cogent rebuttal, check out Jonathan Rauch’s latest in Reason. I think Rauch is making a virtue out of a clear vice, but I hope I’m wrong and he’s right.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
More from Foreign Policy
Can Russia Get Used to Being China’s Little Brother?
The power dynamic between Beijing and Moscow has switched dramatically.
Xi and Putin Have the Most Consequential Undeclared Alliance in the World
It’s become more important than Washington’s official alliances today.
It’s a New Great Game. Again.
Across Central Asia, Russia’s brand is tainted by Ukraine, China’s got challenges, and Washington senses another opening.
Iraqi Kurdistan’s House of Cards Is Collapsing
The region once seemed a bright spot in the disorder unleashed by U.S. regime change. Today, things look bleak.