Daniel W. Drezner

Scott McConnell could use some evidence

Scott McConnell has an article in The American Conservative rebutting the Lawrence Kaplan thesis of a few months back that the realists have triumphed over the neocons within the Bush administration’s foreign policy apparatus. Well, it’s an attempt at a rebuttal. Well, actually, it’s little more than an assertion. Here’s McConnell’s key evidentiary paragraph: At ...

Scott McConnell has an article in The American Conservative rebutting the Lawrence Kaplan thesis of a few months back that the realists have triumphed over the neocons within the Bush administration's foreign policy apparatus. Well, it's an attempt at a rebuttal. Well, actually, it's little more than an assertion. Here's McConnell's key evidentiary paragraph:

At this writing, the staffing of a new foreign-policy apparatus is not complete. But the broad strokes are plain. At CIA, there is a new emphasis on loyalty to the president over readiness to provide objective analysis; Porter Goss will ensure that the agency provides information that the White House wants to hear. At the cabinet level, the direction is clear. Colin Powell is leaving, exhausted by his losing tussles with the Pentagon, semi-humiliated by the president. His crime was that he was right about war in Iraq, right that we needed allies and more forces for the invasion, right that postwar Iraq would be chaos and quagmire. His caution about the use of force —the Pottery Barn rule—must have irked the president every time he saw him, so better to banish him. Promoted instead are those who were consistently wrong. Rumsfeld remains, though his neocon aides “stovepiped” phony intelligence about Iraq’s WMD capacity, he botched the post invasion, and was responsible for the Abu Ghraib torture. Stephen Hadley, who “forgot” to remove the false claims about Iraq’s yellowcake purchases from the president’s 2003 State of the Union speech, is the new National Security Adviser. Condi Rice, whose TV musings about “mushroom clouds” helped frighten a nation into an unnecessary war, becomes the nation’s top diplomat.

Objectively, the problem is that this paragraph says pretty much nothing about the realist/neocon debate. Rice -- a realist -- is replacing Powell -- who was the administration's only liberal internationalist. I've never heard Porter Goss described as a neocon. Rumsfeld is a neocon only in the sense that he believes in the revolution in military affairs. Hadley is generally described as a neocon, so that's a point in McConnell's favor. Now, I had my problems with Kaplan's original thesis, but McConnell's rebuttal doesn't convince me that the neocons have remerged like a Phoenix to control foreign policy. Actually, that paragraph convinces me of only one thing -- Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay were right. Their primary thesis in America Unbound is that, despite what people say about neocons or realists, the person who's clearly in charge of American foreign policy is George W. Bush. The common denominator in all of Bush's foreign policy moves has been to expand the power of White House loyalists at the expense of everyone else -- regardles of ideology.

Scott McConnell has an article in The American Conservative rebutting the Lawrence Kaplan thesis of a few months back that the realists have triumphed over the neocons within the Bush administration’s foreign policy apparatus. Well, it’s an attempt at a rebuttal. Well, actually, it’s little more than an assertion. Here’s McConnell’s key evidentiary paragraph:

At this writing, the staffing of a new foreign-policy apparatus is not complete. But the broad strokes are plain. At CIA, there is a new emphasis on loyalty to the president over readiness to provide objective analysis; Porter Goss will ensure that the agency provides information that the White House wants to hear. At the cabinet level, the direction is clear. Colin Powell is leaving, exhausted by his losing tussles with the Pentagon, semi-humiliated by the president. His crime was that he was right about war in Iraq, right that we needed allies and more forces for the invasion, right that postwar Iraq would be chaos and quagmire. His caution about the use of force —the Pottery Barn rule—must have irked the president every time he saw him, so better to banish him. Promoted instead are those who were consistently wrong. Rumsfeld remains, though his neocon aides “stovepiped” phony intelligence about Iraq’s WMD capacity, he botched the post invasion, and was responsible for the Abu Ghraib torture. Stephen Hadley, who “forgot” to remove the false claims about Iraq’s yellowcake purchases from the president’s 2003 State of the Union speech, is the new National Security Adviser. Condi Rice, whose TV musings about “mushroom clouds” helped frighten a nation into an unnecessary war, becomes the nation’s top diplomat.

Objectively, the problem is that this paragraph says pretty much nothing about the realist/neocon debate. Rice — a realist — is replacing Powell — who was the administration’s only liberal internationalist. I’ve never heard Porter Goss described as a neocon. Rumsfeld is a neocon only in the sense that he believes in the revolution in military affairs. Hadley is generally described as a neocon, so that’s a point in McConnell’s favor. Now, I had my problems with Kaplan’s original thesis, but McConnell’s rebuttal doesn’t convince me that the neocons have remerged like a Phoenix to control foreign policy. Actually, that paragraph convinces me of only one thing — Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay were right. Their primary thesis in America Unbound is that, despite what people say about neocons or realists, the person who’s clearly in charge of American foreign policy is George W. Bush. The common denominator in all of Bush’s foreign policy moves has been to expand the power of White House loyalists at the expense of everyone else — regardles of ideology.

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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