"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Hawks and pragmatists to mix on Rice's team

By Guy Dinmore in Washington
January 17 2005

A shake-up of the US foreign policy team under Condoleezza Rice will see the emergence of younger rising stars as well as seasoned negotiators, bringing together a combination of pragmatists and "hawks".

While analysts and diplomats are focusing on whether the second Bush administration will see a loss of influence for the ideologically driven neoconservatives, Ms Rice appears to be choosing a mix of career professionals and experts noted primarily for their loyalty and commitment, as well as a willingness to challenge conventional wisdoms.

Ms Rice, nominated by President George W. Bush as secretary of state, will have her Senate confirmation hearing tomorrow. Before leaving the National Security Council she has led for the past four years, Ms Rice is ensuring that trusted aides remain or are promoted under the new leadership of Stephen Hadley, her present deputy.

One of the young climbers cultivated by Ms Rice in the council is Meghan O'Sullivan, senior director for strategic planning with responsibility for Iraq and Iran. "She is rising quickly through the ranks," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ms O'Sullivan, who is in her 30s, in effect replaces Robert Blackwill, a veteran diplomat who ran the Iraq Stabilisation Group as deputy national security adviser. He has joined a lobbying firm after resigning last year following colourful press reports about his personal life and an altercation with a State Department employee.

Formerly on the staff of the State Department policy planning unit before a stint in Baghdad, Ms O'Sullivan raised the ire of neoconservatives early in the first Bush administration for advocating a softer line towards Iran and Cuba while supporting continued, but modified, sanctions against Iraq.

Her ideological rivals sought to undermine the credibility of her research at the Brookings Institution think-tank, where she wrote the book Shrewd Sanctions before entering the State Department, contending that she had been sponsored by US oil companies seeking to do business with "rogue" states.

There had been speculation that Elliott Abrams, one of the most controversial neoconservatives in the administration, would fill Mr Blackwill's shoes. But an official said it appeared he would stick to his current job focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where he has developed a close working relationship with the government of Ariel Sharon.

Mr Abrams is one of several seasoned officials in the administration who had been embroiled in the Iran-Contra scandal of the mid 1980s. He admitted to withholding information from Congress - what commentators have described as a polite term for lying - but was pardoned by Mr Bush's father, then president, in 1992.

Sweeping changes are under way at the State Department, where Ms Rice has already won plaudits from Europeans by appointing Robert Zoellick, the trade representative known as a tough but pragmatic internationalist, as her deputy.

Stephen Krasner, a professor of international relations at Stanford University, where Ms Rice was previously provost, is tipped as the new head of policy planning. In 2001 he spent a year in the State Department, working on the Millennium Challenge Account, an aid programme for developing nations that meet criteria of good governance.

At a time when the future of the United Nations is under scrutiny, it is interesting that Ms Rice is believed to have chosen a specialist on the shape of future institutional forums. Mr Krasner has challenged conventional notions of sovereignty. He is also strongly opposed to the International Criminal Court as lacking in democratic accountability.

In an interview a week after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Mr Krasner said prudence was what counted in international relations. "The notion that you can create an ideal world is what walked us into Mao's China, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia. If you want a decent life, what you need is a political system which is prudent and limited. I think that the United States has actually done pretty well in that regard."

Ms Rice is replacing seasoned diplomats with the same. James Kelly, assistant secretary for Asia and chief negotiator with North Korea, is expected to be replaced by Christopher Hill, a veteran negotiator during various Balkan conflicts who was appointed as ambassador to South Korea just last July.

The State Department is also losing one notable hawk - John Bolton, undersecretary for arms control - to be replaced with another - Bob Joseph, a trusted aide to Ms Rice at the National Security Council.

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Milton Frihetsson, 02:36


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