March 20, 2005

Bush II State Department

With the second term State Department shaping up, Washington has guessed that State will hold the prime spot for foreign policy in the next few years. This sort of internecine squabbling is important to the employees of the foreign policy establishment but what does the actual policy shift look like, if any?

1) Condi - She's a neo-realist, straight from Bush-41 and Brent Scowcroft. She is not someone that would normally press the benefits of expanding democracy, but she takes her cues from the President. It looks like she's going to try and take a more working-relationship approach to Europe, giving them the ball on Iran, for instance.

2) Bolton to the UN - Perhaps the most irascible and grumpy guy to work at State under Bush I, Bolton is a very tough, very opinionated, national-interest kind of conservative (sometimes identified as a libertarian). He got in scuffles with all sorts of foreign diplomats, especially when he called North Korea names before talks with them. If he's successful at the UN he can really hold the UN's feet to the fire just when it's in a succession of problems - sex scandals, oil for food scandal, and of course plaguing irrelevance for both military (Afghanistan, Iraq) and humanitarian (Tsunami) causes. The question is how much attention this sort of thing will get from a White House that wants to pull closer to Europe. Ultimately this will probably prove a leash on Bolton more than a license; he reports to Condi and Bush and doesn't have much of a staff or the right to do much of his own thing unless allowed to do so.

3) Zoellick to State - Dropping down from US Trade Rep to a deputy slot at State is essentially a demotion. Known as one of the more pragmatic in the Bush administration, without the association with the war, Zoellick fits in with a 'friendlier' policy toward Europe. He's also very qualified at what he does.

4) Wolfowitz to the World Bank - Although there's been an uproar about this selection, it's really different from being in the Cabinet. What's Wolfowitz really going to do at the World Bank? His job is to send money to developing countries and help them along, and it's not like he's going to turn that into war or something. The neoconservative ideology of democratic expansion can be more than compatible with the World Bank's mission. Moreover, again, he's not going to go to war and he won't be in the room for war-making decisions. Like Bolton, this is taking him out of the direct loop and will be more of a leash than a license.

5) Karen Hughes as Public Diplomat - This is going to be a pretty important position because Karen Hughes is so influential with Bush. It's supposed to sell our ideas to the Middle East and the world - something the existing State Dept structure seemed to avoid like grim death. This is going to involve a public relations approach and we're going to have to use a more toned down foreign policy so we don't do a whole lot of more things that need explaining.

Ultimately, the objectionable appointments, Bolton and Wolfowitz, are a way to use intelligent, experienced, controversial guys in the process of building a foreign policy - because they're very good at their jobs - but do so in a way where they won't cause additional controversy and animosity because they're removed from the process and put in positions that limit their involvement in the policy process.

Euros and Democrats who complain about these appointments as a sign of neoconservative strength are either ignorant or partisan. Anyone with a little bit of observational ability can tell that these five appointments move the controversialists outward and the diplomatic people inward.

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