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Policy Communiqué

Expect Status Quo from Rice at the State Department

 Joel P. Rutkowski, Ph.D., President 
The American Voice Institute Of Public Policy  

Contents:

Is Dr. Rice The Best Selection For Secretary of State?  
Though Loyalty Is Utmost Credibility Is More Important  
End Notes

The United States (US) Department of State is a global government bureaucracy that employs 47,000 employees.  It is no surprise that the State Department views U.S. Presidents as the “summer help” and is an insular institution that operates from one administration to the next.   

During the past four years, this has never been more apparent.  The State Department is one of the most disloyal agencies to the Bush administration.  For example, US embassy employees in Paris, France as well as elsewhere, fanned out to assure nervous Europeans that the President did not mean “axis” and he did not mean “evil” after President Bush gave his “axis of evil” speech.  Also, the State Department was busy keeping open a program called Visa Express, which allowed 15 of 19 terrorists from Saudi Arabia to come into this country that applied at travel agencies for visas. (1)  And particularly in Iraq and the Middle East, State Department officials routinely demean the President's foreign policy anonymously in newspapers.  Yet the Bush Administration has yet to discipline one rampant insubordination at the State Department.  

The State Department's substantive positions are staffed by careerists who have no particular loyalty to any President and only a small number of the positions are political appointees.  A glorified figurehead position is the Secretary of State.  For example, panels comprised of members of the Foreign Service do all the hiring, firing, transferring and promoting, not the Secretary.  In fact, the Secretary of State cannot even fire a convicted felon, which includes a felony for defrauding the State Department.   

Real reform could prove to be illusionary, since the bureaucracy at the State Department is entrenched almost to the point of being impregnable.   

Is Dr. Rice The Best Selection For Secretary of State?  

The President has selected as his replacement for Secretary of State Colin L. Powell his most loyal adviser Dr. Condoleeza Rice.  Much of President Bush's basic worldview is shared by Dr. Rice, and for a chance to reform the Mideast she see a historic chance. (2) To run a critical department that the White House had come to view with suspension, her appointment as Secretary of State means an unquestioned Bush loyalist.  However, one should be troubled by the makeup of Dr. Rice's National Security Council (NSC) staff which is comprised of members of the Foreign Service and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and foreign policy elites whose worldview is strikingly different than the President's.  In terms of managing interagency conflicts, Dr. Condoleeza Rice is considered one of the weakest national security advisers in recent history.  Often, when running the NSC her managerial skills were called into question.  For example, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage privately complained to Rice that her interagency process was dysfunctional indicates Bob Woodward's book, Plan Attack.  Furthermore, according to former and current officials along with David Rothkopf, who has written a forthcoming history of the NSC entitled Running the World, Dr. Rice's management of the interagency process has been lagging. (Ibid) The reason for this in part is because Dr. Rice has had to deal with a player distinctive to the Bush administration: Vice-President Richard Cheney, who weighs in on every major foreign policy question and has had to manage two powerful Cabinet members with sharply different views, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.  Since President Bush has allowed  Vice-President Richard Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld to operate outside the control of the NSC, he has undermined Dr. Rice's running of the interagency process said David Rothkopf.  

Coherent policies on such critical issues as dealing with North Korea and the Iranian nuclear programs had remained mired in disagreement throughout the first term and Dr. Rice never seemed to drive the process to a resolution.  She had been faulted for failing to fashion a coherent approach to dismantling North Korea's nuclear program by officials on both sides of the administration's debate.  And in October 2003,  the President announced that Condoleezza Rice would head a task force on Iraq reconstruction which has been mismanaged and is marred by waste and inefficiencies.  

Furthermore, portraying Dr. Rice as failing to act on repeated warnings in the first part of 2001 about the likelihood of a major terrorist attack on the US was the 9/11 Commission Report. For example, the report stated that on January 25, 2001 a few days after President Bush took office, Richard A. Clarke, who had been held over from the Clinton administration as the counter-terrorism coordinator for the NSC, wrote to Rice stating, “We urgently need…a Principals level review on the al Qaeda network.” (7) Dr. Rice did not respond directly to Clarke's memo, and no such meeting of principals, or top officials, was held on terrorism until September 4, 2001, although they met frequently on other issues, such as the Middle East peace process, Russia and the Persian Gulf.  In the spring and summer of 2001, several more specific warnings from Clarke to Rice were also detailed in the report: (8)  

1.      Clarke told Rice on March 23, that he thought terrorists might attack the White House with a truck bomb and also that “he thought there were terrorist cells within the US, including al Qaeda.”

2.      Clarke wrote Rice on May 29, and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, about possible assaults by a Palestinian associate of al Qaeda adding that, “When these attacks occur, as they likely will, we will wonder what more we could have done to stop them.”

3.      The report said Clarke informed Rice and Hadley on June 25, that “six separate intelligence reports showed al Qaeda personnel warning of a pending attack.”

4.      He added, three days later, that the pattern of al Qaeda activity indicating preparation for an attack “had reached a crescendo.”

5.      A briefing was given to top officials entitled “Bin Ladin Planning High-Profile Attacks'” on June 30.

6.      In July, the spike in reported al Qaeda activity ended.  However, the report noted that senior intelligence analysts continued to be deeply concerned causing them to include in the August 6 “President's Daily Brief” an article entitled “ Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.”

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Though Loyalty Is Utmost Credibility Is More Important  

There is no doubt that the President needs a trusted and loyal representative heading the State Department.  However, one can clearly see that as national security adviser to the President, Dr. Rice has a lackluster first term.  Preferring to keep it that way, Dr. Rice's position on most issues is a mystery to many people within the administration.  Usually, she does not tip her hand in meetings with the President's principal foreign policy advisers, but when the President asks her in private she gives her advice.   Dr. Rice will announce to the gathering that she is steeping out of her role as national security adviser if she states a position.  Unless the President has privately directed her to float a concept and see how other key players react to it, Dr. Rice generally will avoid driving an issue to a particular conclusion. (9)  Furthermore, it appears that Dr. Rice does not pay attention to details.  For example, on Iraq's weapons programs, she acknowledged that she had not entirely read the most authoritative assessment of prewar intelligence.  (10) Also, although her staff had received two CIA memos and a call from CIA Director George J. Tenet on the subject, Dr. Rice said the White House was unaware of CIA doubts about an allegation that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa.

Dr. Rice is weak at forging decisions, sometimes attempting to meld incompatible approaches that later fail according to many officials with firsthand knowledge of White House decision making.  Furthermore, prior to reaching the President she is also perceived as not resolving enough issues and in carrying out the President's wishes does a poor job.  

The situation has left many problems unresolved, especially at lower levels, and has led to frequent policy shifts said administration officials.  Feuding advisers have been emboldened to keep pressing their case or even ignoring policy guidance in the hope of achieving final victory as decisions have been made and then altered or reversed.  Unfortunately, as national security adviser Dr. Rice has lacked discipline to guide the process, to drive decisions to conclusions, and to enforce them once decisions are made.

Most evident in the aftermath of the war with Iraq is Dr. Rice's hands-off approach.  The postwar effort in Afghanistan is a diverse collection of nations doing assigned tasks that have been inefficient and ineffectual according to the belief of Administration officials.  As a result, the Pentagon has taken chief responsibility for the rebuilding of Iraq. The Bush administration had also not completely prepared for the aftermath in Iraq after former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his armies disappeared in early April 2003.  Stumbling over such basics as staffing, transportation, and communications, the early relief and reconstruction effort, assigned by President Bush to the Pentagon in January 2003 was ineffective.  Inconsistent messages about Iraq's political future and a clear vision to Iraqis and Congress of what the Bush Administration intended was sent by US authorities.  

The traditional role, as adjudicator between agencies, was not performed by the NSC.  In relation to staffing and management a very scattershot approach was taken that resulted in individuals not quite knowing what to do and with whom.

Until long after the Iraqi war ended, the NSC failed to make decisions about Iraq's postwar reconstruction and governance.  According to one US official who served in Iraq, decisions that some agencies thought had been settled were by the Pentagon reopened or reinterpreted. (11)  

One can clearly see from her past history that Dr. Rice lacks the personal as well as managerial skills to motivate the rank in file at the State Department to support the President's agenda that they otherwise will not.  At best, as Secretary of State Dr. Rice will be marginally effective.  As secretary, Dr. Rice will have to be disciplined in guiding the foreign policy process that clearly expresses this nation's aims in political and strategic terms once decisions have been made to enforce them.  And when insubordination occurs, she can't let it go but must discipline the individual (s) for such actions.

In world affairs America has a crucial role to play and is the best hope for this world.  However, the President as well as Dr. Rice falsely believe that democracy will bring peace and security to the world.   This false premise must be altered more towards that of President Theodore Roosevelt's view that believed that only mystics, dreamers, and intellectuals held the view that peace was man's natural condition and by disinterested consensus could be maintained. (12)  Peace was inherently fragile in Roosevelt's view and only eternal vigilance, the arms of the strong, and alliances among the like-minded could preserve it.      

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End Notes

 
  1. Joel Mowbray, “Will Condi reform the State Department?,” Townhall.com, November 24, 2004.
  2. Keven Whitelaw, Thomas Omestad, Kenneth T. Walsh, Bay Fang, “The new face at Foggy Bottom; Condoleeza Rice has Bush's ear, but can sell his ideas abroad?,” U.S. News & World Report, November 29, 2004, Vol. 137, Issue 19.
  3. Joel Mowbray, “Will Condi reform the State Department?,” Townhall.com, November 24, 2004.
  4. Glenn Kessler and Thomas E. Ricks, “Rice's NSC Tenure Complicates New Post,” The Washington Post, November 16, 2004.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Glenn Kessler and Peter Slevin, “Rice fails to repair rifts, officials say,” The Washington Post, October 12, 2004.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy, Simon & Schuster, 1994.

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