Eliot Cohen to State

Reports are out today that Condoleezza Rice has hired neocon-turned-war-critic Eliot Cohen to be policy counselor at the State Department. Cohen will replace Philip Zelikow, who left the department earlier this year. Cohen was long one of the most-outspoken advocates for war in Iraq, but he surprised his neocon brethren when, in a 2005 piece ...

603588_Cohen5.jpg
603588_Cohen5.jpg

Reports are out today that Condoleezza Rice has hired neocon-turned-war-critic Eliot Cohen to be policy counselor at the State Department. Cohen will replace Philip Zelikow, who left the department earlier this year. Cohen was long one of the most-outspoken advocates for war in Iraq, but he surprised his neocon brethren when, in a 2005 piece for the Washington Post, he lambasted the way the war had been executed and discussed his conflicted feelings as his own son was being deployed to Iraq.

At the time, much was made of Cohen's harsh words on the handling of the war. But you have to be Dick Cheney to think the war is going well, so the only thing that's really surprising is that Cohen went public. He's now biting his tongue around reporters, but his paper trail over the last year suggests that his presence at State won't necessarily introduce much nay-saying on current policies, no matter how much Rice claims she wants opinions to be unfiltered. Cohen was vocal in his disdain for the Iraq Study Group and its recommendation to sit down with Iran and Syria. And a WSJ op-ed Cohen wrote last October shows mild enthusiasm for the surge (unsurprising since Cohen's famous treatise Supreme Command suggests that war is too important to be left to generals) and even greater enthusiasm for hunkering down. Cohen admits that Iraq can't be won in the way he thought possible in 2003. But it's clear that he still thinks it can be won, which is exactly what the West Wing wants to hear.

Reports are out today that Condoleezza Rice has hired neocon-turned-war-critic Eliot Cohen to be policy counselor at the State Department. Cohen will replace Philip Zelikow, who left the department earlier this year. Cohen was long one of the most-outspoken advocates for war in Iraq, but he surprised his neocon brethren when, in a 2005 piece for the Washington Post, he lambasted the way the war had been executed and discussed his conflicted feelings as his own son was being deployed to Iraq.

At the time, much was made of Cohen’s harsh words on the handling of the war. But you have to be Dick Cheney to think the war is going well, so the only thing that’s really surprising is that Cohen went public. He’s now biting his tongue around reporters, but his paper trail over the last year suggests that his presence at State won’t necessarily introduce much nay-saying on current policies, no matter how much Rice claims she wants opinions to be unfiltered. Cohen was vocal in his disdain for the Iraq Study Group and its recommendation to sit down with Iran and Syria. And a WSJ op-ed Cohen wrote last October shows mild enthusiasm for the surge (unsurprising since Cohen’s famous treatise Supreme Command suggests that war is too important to be left to generals) and even greater enthusiasm for hunkering down. Cohen admits that Iraq can’t be won in the way he thought possible in 2003. But it’s clear that he still thinks it can be won, which is exactly what the West Wing wants to hear.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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