11/13/06: A discussion of what Robert Gates "would bring to the job and what his nomination signals for the future of the U.S. in Iraq."
Guests: Amb. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and former director of policy planning for the Department of State. Author of "The Opportunity: America's Moment To Alter History's Course." Melvin Goodman, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, author of the forthcoming book "The Decline and Fall of the CIA." He served at the CIA from 1966 to 1990. Jeff Stein, national security editor and SpyTalk columnist for Congressional Quarterly. Former Army Intelligence case officer in Vietnam.
Diane Rehm: Whatever direction the US takes in Iraq, the military aspect of that policy will likely take place under the direction of former CIA director, Robert Gates... Jeff Stein, if I could start with you, what does the selection of Gates suggest about the direction of the Department of Defense or the hoped-for direction?
Jeff Stein: Do you mean to the reforms that Donald Rumsfeld began?
JS: I think these reforms began in terms of the kind of army -- the kind of military we would have. The reforms began many, many years ago in the Carter administration. I don't see any quick change in that because weapons systems take a long time to develop as well as reconfiguring the forces to the light and lethal units that Donald Rumsfeld wanted -- that's going to continue. I don't see that's going to change at all. Certainly not in the next two years.
DR: Are you surprised that he accepted the position, considering that he had committed himself to serve as president of Texas A&M until 2007?
JS: Well, he's had a lot of time to think about it because he's been offered previous positions -- running CIA and then running the new National Intelligence Directorate. He turned those down. So I think what's going on is that Bush Sr.'s advisors are all rallying around trying to get the car out of the ditch and back on the road. They prevailed on Mr. Gates to take this position as a patriot -- to help the country and help, of course, the Administration for the next two years as we run up to the election. I'm not surprised at all. I don't think he was enthusiastic about it. Running the Pentagon is a pretty heady job...! You have a lot of hardware underneath you and a lot of troops to move around. On the other hand, the Iraq situation is quite dire and it's going to be a very, very hard job for him.
DR: ...Turning to you, Richard Haass: as you just heard, Jeff Stein says there's been some pressure put on Robert Gates. Some have described the pick as reflecting the younger President Bush falling back on his father's team. Others say it's a lot more complicated. What do you think?
Richard Haass: Well, in terms of Bob Gates' motivation, he himself has talked quite openly about public service. His career has been dedicated to public service and he said this is a time of war and he felt the necessity of serving. I know it's an odd thing in Washington, but sometimes you've just got to take people at their word! I would think it's both understandable and sincere. In terms of the larger administration/policy question, I think there has been something of a re-emphasis on what you might call more traditional internationalism, a greater emphasis on multilateralism. I think this is simply born of necessity. The United States is militarily bogged down in Iraq. We're economically stretched, to say the least. We're now politically divided. The US is now simply facing a whole raft of international challenges from North Korea to Iran to Iraq to Darfur to Venezuela and you name it! We don't have the means to do it all by ourselves. So the idea that the Administration is becoming somewhat more multilateralist or internationalist, I would think is both necessary and understandable.
DR: What does Robert Gates' work on the Baker-Hamilton commission tell us, if anything, about what kind of perspective he'll bring to the job?
RH: What it tells me, or at least suggests strongly, is pragmatism. The entire thrust of the Baker-Hamilton study group is to come up with a third approach. I think the whole idea of more of the same was roundly rejected by the American people the other day. The idea of simply pulling the plug... I think there's a broad consensus that it would be unwise and would lead to tremendous mayhem or worse. People are looking for some kind of in-between, practical option, and that seems to be consistent with the sort of person Bob Gates is, which is essentially looking at the options in front us to make the best of an unfortunate situation.
DR: ...Turning to you now, Melvin Goodman, I know you have some concerns about Robert Gates. Spell them out for us.
Melvin Goodman: Yes, I have major concerns. I have a concern that Richard obviously doesn't have. I think it's very difficult to take Bob Gates at his word and that's my major concern -- that of integrity. In 1987, Bob was nominated to be CIA director and they had to pull his nomination back because David Boren, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said "Bob, I have bad news. The majority of the Intelligence Committee simply doesn't believe your disavowals about Iran/Contra." Boren had checked with Lawrence Walsh, the special prosecutor for Iran/Contra, and he knew what the facts of the situation were. in 1991, there were 31 votes against Bob Gates when he was confirmed as CIA director. That's more votes than against all other CIA directors in nearly six decades... If you go to the memoirs of George Schultz and Jim Baker, they had to brace and admonish Bob Gates in 1987 and 1989. So I have a very serious issue of integrity because this is not a man who's established he's willing to tell truth to power. He's been a servant for a master and now the master is the president and he will serve that master obediently. But if you think this is the man who's going to look deeply into the Pentagon, look for innovative ways to resolve this problem of Iraq, which is probably the most difficult foreign policy problem we've had since the end of World War II, I wouldn't expect it. Also I do have a problem of fitness. I part company a little bit with Jeff here. One thing that you can say for Donald Rumsfeld: he came into a Pentagon that had acquired too much power, particularly over the past few years of the Clinton administration when Bill Cohen was Secretary of Defense. What Rumsfeld was trying to do was to reform the defense acquisition process and get into real transformation. Bob Gates has no background in any of these issues. He doesn't have the military background. He doesn't have the industrial background. And frankly I think he's temperamentally unsuited to delegate authority. He is a micro-manager and I think he has some of the worst characteristics of Bob McNamara and Don Rumsfeld who failed in this job before him.
DR: ... Jeff Stein, how do you respond to the concerns about Robert Gates as expressed by Melvin Goodman?
JS: Well, I wrote about the same things last week... The record on Robert Gates is extensive because he's been through a confirmation hearing in which a number of analysts under him at the CIA said that he twisted intelligence. In fact, in my column last week I said he was sort of an odd pick in that way since the fabrication and misuse of intelligence has been a major theme for this administration. To pick a man who has a very well documented background of doing just that is extensive. So..
DR: Why do you think they did pick him? Why do you think he was the President's choice?
JS: The people I talked to who had worked with him in past administrations said he was a very good facilitator and conciliator. Milt Bearden, for example, who ran a number of Soviet operations for the CIA said, "Everyone was wrong at the CIA on Russia and Bob Gates got stuck with it." That's his analysis. But he and others I talked said said he was a very good facilitator of different positions so that right now when the requirements of this administration are to get people talking to each other... I mean, you have Condi Rice and Donald Rumsfeld who weren't even talking to each other. There's open warfare in the Administration and the idea is -- I'm not saying this is true, but the idea is that he will get them all on the same page and talking to each other. Having said that, this is a very big page to get on with Iraq! The options are dwindling very quickly and so he doesn't have a lot of room to maneuver.
DR: Melvin Goodman -- a good facilitator in Bob Gates?
MG: No. He's not a facilitator, he's not a conciliator. Everyone wasn't wrong about the Soviet Union. What's interesting about Bob Gates: in the 1980's he was wrong about all the Central Intelligence issues of our time. He was wrong about Gorbachev. He was wrong about what Gorbachev meant. He was wrong about the implications of Gorbachev for Soviet/American relations. He was wrong about the implications of Gorbachev...
DR: ...So why do you think they chose him?
MG: I think they chose him for one very simple reason: damage limitation. I think the Iraq Study Group is all about damage limitation. There is no way out of Iraq and Bush knows that and he's panicked.
DR:... Richard Haass, you've heard Melvin Goodman talk about some of the missteps of the management style, some of the critique he's made against Robert Gates including allegedly politicizing intelligence about the Soviet Union under Reagan. What's his record as you understand it?
RH: The record as I understand it is qualitatively different from what I've heard. I worked closely with Bob Gates for several years during the presidency of the previous President Bush, the 41st president. Bob at the time was the Deputy National Security Advisor serving under Brent Scowcroft. I was the senior person overseeing the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, and south Asia on the National Security Council staff. So we worked together literally hours a day particularly after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. I would say that Bob is someone who is willing to speak truth to power. He is someone I found of tremendous intellectual integrity. He is someone who works with rather than against bureaucracy. By that I mean he was willing, almost like the analyst he was trained to be, to build up the case based upon the evidence and then take it to the boss. In that case, obviously the president. I think this is what we need now, because we've reached a point in places like Iraq and Afghanistan where existing policy is clearly not on a successful trajectory. So we're going to need intellectual honesty, a willingness to look at options that have up to now been deemed unacceptable.
DR: So in your mind, Richard Haass, what are the realistic military options for Iraq that Robert Gates is likely to weigh?
RH: I would think that not just he but the entire Baker-Hamilton commission is going to look at a set of options that rejects both "more of the same," which I think is a non-starter, and "pulling the plug." I'd say it's going to involve three things. One is going to be some gradual reductions in the US presence. Secondly, some redeployments -- less American military presence in the center where sectarian is the most intense and moving it more towards, say, the north to make sure there's no Turkish-Kurdish problem, and towards the west to slow infiltration across the Syrian border. I think there will also be a reorientation of the US presence away from operational war fighting and towards more emphasis on training and advising. So this is what the "third way," at least on the military side, that it's likely to be about.
DR: You know, I hear that phrase "truth to power" a great deal. In your mind, Richard Haass, give me an example of how you believe Robert Gates has demonstrated his ability to do just that.
RH: I think at times he was willing to make clear his views on the Soviet Union to various presidents, whether they were comfortable or not. He had disagreements at times with Jim Baker in the previous administration about certain approaches to US policy towards the Soviet Union and then Russia in those transitional years when the Cold War ended. Throughout the previous Gulf crisis he was willing to say what he thought, or even most recently he, along with Zbigniew Brzezinski, co-headed a task force here at the Council on Foreign Relations on US policy towards Iran. One of the findings of the task force was that the US begin a dialogue with Iran. That's obviously something very different from what this administration has, up to now, maintained. So it seems to me you've a pattern here of someone who pretty much calls it as he sees it.
DR: Jeff Stein, do you believe the appointment of Robert Gates will demonstrate a change in philosophy on the part of this administration toward our actions, our current policy in Iraq?
JS: Yes, I think that's a fait accompli actually because the situation has gotten so bad that there's a bipartisan consensus rumbling beneath the decks that something had to be changed. Everyone agrees that policy has to change before it changes for us. That's the problem. The options are dwindling very quickly. So these ideas of having a timetable or not having a timetable -- these options are running out. Pretty soon we're going to be a garrison force in Iraq and have very little mobility outside the Green Zone. Though I think that's happening already and it began to be forced upon the Administration a couple of months ago when the Iraq Survey Group was set up under Mr. Baker and Mr. Hamilton. Now there's a study group at the Pentagon. General Pace has suddenly gotten new legs to confront Mr. Rumsfeld. So I think there's a general movement here toward exploring options, diplomatic solutions with Iran and Syria and other parties in the Middle East. That's a genie that can't be put back in the bottle.
DR: Melvin Goodman, James Mann of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies wrote a piece on Robert Gates the other day -- and I'm quoting from this -- he described Robert Gates as "an ardent Cold War hawk who did not shrink from moral judgments. The Soviet Union was an evil empire, Gates wrote, in the concluding chapter of his 1996 memoir." Mann goes on to say that "others in Washington, including former Secretary of State George Schultz, complained that Gates and the CIA had repeatedly tailored intelligence to fit the policy interests they favored." Is that how you saw it?
MG: Oh, there's no question of that. Jim is spot on. He was an ardent Cold War hawk. He tried to undercut Schultz in the policy of detente. He tried to undercut Baker -- Richard calls that a "disagreement" but I don't call it a disagreement. He was giving speeches that were undercutting Baker's efforts to undercut relations with the Soviet Union and improve the way to arms control. And also there's a terrible contradiction to what Richard was saying about Iraq. On the one hand he says we can't pull the plug... we're not going to pull the plug. And then he lists three steps that are obviously steps that will pull the plug -- gradually reduce our forces, redeploy to the north, reorient the mission of the troops. That is, indeed, pulling the plug! So Richard does want to cut and run! He does want to get out! And I hope he's right about Bob Gates moving in the same direction!
DR: Richard Haass, what kind of relationship can Bob Gates expect to have with his commanders right off the starting block?
RH: I think that's one of the most interesting pieces of this as we move forward. We have this whole tradition in this country -- for good reason -- of civilian primacy over the military. But I'd actually say in the past few years that we've almost had -- this will sound odd -- too much of it. I think we haven't heard enough of an independent uniformed military point of view. Again, based on my experience with Bob Gates, this is someone who is comfortable with allowing the system to work. So I would expect that over the next few years the uniformed military is going to rediscover its voice and we're going to be hearing more of them as we're already seeing now about strategic options -- as to where we go with both Iraq and Afghanistan. I would think that's a welcome development.
DR: Would you agree with that, Jeff Stein?
JS: Again, I think the options are really narrow. And that the military men are really taking over control of policy right now along with -- in concert with -- the Iraq Study Group. There has to be a new "realism" in policy. The Republican policy of keeping going what we're doing is just not working.
DR: But the top brass of the military apparently was not too terribly fond of Donald Rumsfeld.
JS: They couldn't stand him!
DR: So -- are they likely to have a better relationship with Bob Gates?
JS: I think they are -- for the very reason that the policy options of the past are gone. Therefore, Mr. Gates has to work in concert with the military leaders, and new military leaders, to get us out of Iraq in one piece. This is the problem we've got in Iraq. This debate over "cut and run" or "stay the course" has an air of unreality to it. The options are dwindling very, very quickly in Iraq.
DR: Is Bob Gates, Richard Haass, likely to be more inclusive about who the US talks with. For example: on Iran. Is he not more likely to urge that Iran come into a conversation with the US?
RH: Well as.... Yogi Berra once said, Predictions are awfully tough, especially about the future. So I don't know if Bob Gates is going to explicitly say that, but all I can tell you is that 1) he's favored supporting a dialogue with Iran in the context of the task force report again, 2) I believe it's highly likely that the Baker-Hamilton group will propose some sort of regional forum, akin to existed, if you recall, at the time of Afghanistan where the neighboring countries, the US, and Russia had a standing regional forum. I think we're probably moving towards some version of that for Iraq with a half dozen or so neighboring countries along with the US, Russia, and Europe -- and perhaps others --would have a regular set of consultations about what can be done to prevent either the breakup of the country or the civil war getting even worse. So I would think this is likely to be US policy and I don't see where people who have not been part of the Administration would have problems, necessarily, with signing on to that.
DR: Now, is there any question that this lame duck Congress would delay confirmation and leave it to the 110th Congress that convenes in January?
JS: No. Mr. Gates is the morning-after-pill, he's the un-Rumsfeld. Everyone can't wait to get to the next leader of the Pentagon. So he's going to be confirmed very quickly. But there's going to be some noise made by, I think, Senator Levin and others about Bob Gates' reputation and track record with regard to Iran-Contra way back when he was accused of not being forthcoming (at best!) during hearings for his first nomination to be CIA director...
DR: ...which you think will simply come up and be passed over?
JS: I do. Because they want someone at the Pentagon now. They need some leadership at the Pentagon.
[Listeners calls and emails]
"Joe": My question is for Mr. Goodman. If Mr. Gates is unacceptable to you, who would be your choice and why?
MG: An excellent choice would be Sam Nunn. In other words, Bush should have done what Bill Clinton did for bipartisanship in naming Bill Cohen to the Pentagon in his second term. Sam Nunn has the credibility; he has the integrity; he has the military experience; he has the industrial experience. Sam Nunn knows the military. The military has tremendous respect for Sam Nunn and they treat him with respect. It's sad that we haven't used Sam Nunn since he left the Senate because he has all the skills that you want for Secretary of Defense.
DR: You're nodding your head, Jeff Stein. Would you agree as well?
JS: Absolutely! And one of the things that Sam Nunn has been doing over the last several years is very very important. He's been talking about proliferation of nuclear weapons. This is really his area of particular expertise lately. Although he's an expert on military matters across the board. But in particular, he's been very critical of the administration for not working more closely with Russia to get control of possible black-market nuclear weapons which is the greatest threat we face in the US today.
"Eva": I don't think it will change much to have Robert Gates. He's a 30-year hawk, too. And Mr. Goodman, I have a question. Why doesn't someone say to the Iraqi government "no more reconstruction without pacification" including the oil pipeline. In other words, peace or no more taxpayer money down the drain.
MG: Good point and good question. But the sad fact is, for the Bush administration this isn't about Iraq anymore. It's about the Bush presidency. It's about the Bush family legacy. And it's about the reputations of all the people associated with this war. I think somehow this defines fanaticism for me: they've forgotten their objectives, they've forgotten their mission, they won't look at the positives and negatives of the situation and change course. So there's a stubbornness here that's very frustrating in many ways.
"Lee": I'd like to first commend Richard Haass for the proposals that he made on Iran when he was Assistant Secretary of State for Policy and Planning. He came up with a pretty good, comprehensive proposal for a foreign policy which unfortunately was ignored by this administration. I think had it been followed we would not have be in the mess with Iran that we currently are. My second point is that I was dealing... in the intelligence community when Gates was there in the '80's and we were asked to do a National Intelligence Estimate on having to deal with the Soviet Union. The intelligence community agreed completely on the results of that Estimate. Gates did not. He killed the Estimate. So I have real reservations about how he will handle intelligence and I agree with Mr. Goodman on the questions about his ethics.
DR: Richard Haass?
RH: In terms of the latter point, again I wasn't involved in those studies. Let me say something... because it comes up with me as someone who runs an institution that puts out intellectual work all the time. Whenever you're in charge of such an institution, whether it's part of the intelligence community or part of a think tank like I am, and you criticize a piece of work or you kill it, the first charge is always that 1) you are somehow intellectually tilting the playing field. And I'm not saying that on occasions that's not a fair charge. But it is also possible that the head of an institution sent something back simply because they don't think either analytically it's strong enough or the prescriptions don't follow from the analysis or what have you. So it's always easy to charge some sort of intellectual or political interference whenever someone gets in the way of the publication or release of work. But it's not necessarily so. So even if Bob Gates sent things back, it doesn't mean in any way it was necessarily political.
DR: An email from Jesse in San Antonio who writes: Before deciding new ways and means, we must choose an objective. Is it the Bush policy of "stay to win" or the contrary objective of "get out with the least harm to Iraq and us." Jeff Stein?
JS: I think it's the latter, get out with the least harm. One thing that everybody agrees on is that there were not enough troops. There have never been enough troops in Iraq to fulfill the objectives that the White House stated in the beginning -- which was to bring democracy not only to Iraq but to the Middle East. Now we're just looking for stability and there are not enough troops to do that. So do you double? triple? quadruple? the number of troops in Iraq? First of all, we don't have those troops readily available. So that's really off the table. So when you take that off the table, you're really talking about managing a withdrawal and the rest is in the details. The details are to draw out combat units and put in training units. This is also in my personal opinion kind of a figleaf, but it's one way of perhaps stabilizing these Iraqi units and police units. Which I think the chance of that is very low right now. But that's one way to go about it. Plans include withdrawing these combat units, as Mel suggested, to Kurdistan and to Kuwait. Others are to withdraw to Basra and protect the oil enclave there. These are kind of details. There's no question whatsoever that the withdrawal is going to be managed, no matter whether Democrats or Republicans are in charge.
DR: And of course, Richard Haass, you've recently written a piece for the Council on Foreign Relations saying that all withdrawals are not equal. You title this piece "The Withdrawal Syndrome." You talk about performance-based, calendar-based and conditionally-based. Now, what do you believe Robert Gates will choose as a recommendation from the commission that's about to make its recommendations?
RH: I'd say it's the preference of almost every analyst for performance-based withdrawals. That is, we would only leave when the Iraqis show they can take care of things. The problem is that's unlikely to ever happen! And also, most people I know are rejecting calendar-based withdrawals -- simply saying arbitrarily, that we're going to "leave by January" or whatever. Even the Democratic leadership is rejecting that. So I think we're clearly heading in the direction I would call "conditions-based withdrawals" where the US turn to the Iraqi leadership and say, Here's what we need you to do in terms of your military capabilities or in terms of sharing oil revenues or in terms of political power-sharing. If you can do it, and if you can show progress ending or winding down the civil strife, we will stay. But if you can't, we will begin to withdraw and reposition our forces. My hunch is that we're moving in that direction.
DR: Melvin Goodman, your concern right now is Iran?
MG: Well, one concern I have with Iran -- and it's the same concern I had with North Korea -- is that this administration has never had a strategic approach, a programatic approach, to either country. These are the two most serious problems we have going back to what my colleague, Mr. Stein. Counterproliferation is, I think, the most serious problem we face in terms of our strategic policy challenges. So until we deal with these countries and sit down with Iran and sit down with North Korea and have face to face discussions, end the Korean War from 1950-53, appreciate Iran's problems with the fact that we overthrew a democratically-elected government in Teheran in 1953 -- that was the role of the CIA -- so Iran understands we're serious, we aren't going to try to dictate to them. Now, Jim Baker has talked about negotiating with your enemies and I'll give credit to Bob Gates. He has talked about -- in the piece he coauthored with Brzezinski -- about the need to talk to Iran and not having any nuclear conditions. So we must get on with that. This administration has not had any strategic approaches to any of its problems. When you look at the profligate decision -- and Iraq was the most profligate decision in the history, I think, of the US and national security affairs -- it's really been a seat of the pants kind of effort. I wouldn't try to anticipate what Bob Gates is going to do because he'll take his marching orders from the White House and then he'll have to deal with a military that I think wants to put a significant number of troops into Iraq -- at least for the short term -- and that would be a dangerous road to follow right now.
"Lee" in Florida: First, I just wanted to say that I've been trying since before 2004 to talk to someone in this administration. It's amazing how they won't listen! That said, I disagree with the statement that we can't get out of Iraq. I think we need to first separate the Bush oil control agenda from the actual war on terrorism. In doing that, we'll be able then to separate our mission. Someone mentioned earlier that this hasn't been a strategically planned effort and I agree. Or at least they've been mixing their strategic objectives in a way that's not compatible. In doing that, we can then turn this to where it can then be dealt with militarily on the one part and then dealt with, I think, economically in terms of our oil independence on the other part. And in that separation, there is a way out of this.
JS: I just would like to add that in one of the worst case scenarios that's floating up and around now -- it's based on first of all that you can't underestimate how grave the situation is in Iraq. In comparison with Vietnam, Iraq is really a major league problem. The tragedy of Vietnam was never really important to the US and it took a long time to get out of there. But Iraq really is important. But as I said, one of our scenarios is to negotiate a truce with the Shi'ites in the south and get our troops out that way. I mean, we've got to physically get them out. We have a lot of equipment we've got to get out of there. When the end came in Vietnam, we had very few troops -- we really had no troops there. Just advisors. The equipment had either been turned over or we'd taken it out. We've got lots of very advanced equipment in Iraq. We've got 160,000 troops and untold numbers of contractors doing military duties. One scenario is negotiate with the Shi'ites and, by extension, Iran for a safe route out of southern Iraq into Kuwait.
DR: Richard Haass, with the nomination of Bob Gates and assuming he is confirmed, how much of a role to you expect Dick Cheney to play in negotiations, in consultations, from here on out?
RH: I would expect that the Vice President will remain fairly central to this administration. He's essentially been involved three different ways. He's got this very large staff, in many ways unprecedented for a vice president, in the national security domain who are involved as though they were almost an independent agency in the US government representing his office. He sits in on the principal's meetings and then he has personal time with the president. So that gives him the proverbial three bites of the apple or three swings of the bat. He's got a good deal of influence but even more important than than, he is respected -- at least up till now has been respected and trusted by the president. Assuming that continues, he will continue to be influential. Though again, and I can't remember which one of your other two guests mentioned it, at the end of the day this is the administration of George W. Bush and the vice president's role is ultimately dependent on what the president wants the vice president's role to be. That extends as well to Mr. Gates as Secretary of Defense or Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. At the end of the day, the president tends to get the national security process that he wants.
MG: I just don't agree with Richard about the role of Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney is finished, I think, with this administration. I go back to an article which General Scowcroft wrote in the New Yorker nearly two years ago -- I'm sure with the endorsement of the President's father -- in which he warned George Bush about what was happening not only to his policy but to the legacy of the entire Bush family. And he said something interesting about Dick Cheney. He said that Dick Cheney "used to be a friend of mine, but I don't know this man any more" and he suggested that he was undercutting the Administration. Dick Cheney has had to sit there while Rumsfeld is gone, Wolfowitz is gone, Feith is gone, Libby is gone -- all of his soldiers, all of his warriors are gone. So I think he's been thoroughly isolated. I think he's been discredited. He's probably the most unpopular man not only in this administration but I think in the history of recent administrations, if you look at public opinion polls. The unfortunate thing is that I think Dick Cheney has been defanged and we'll know that: the test of that will be when John Bolton loses his ambassadorship to the UN when his recess appointment runs out. I have a feeling there will not be another neocon going up to New York. We're going to have internationalists or multilaterists and this will be good for American foreign policy interests around the world.
DR: Richard Haass: what do you think about Melvin Goodman's statement on John Bolton? Will he be confirmed?
RH: Extraordinarily hard to see how he's confirmed given the [November 7 election] results. I would think it's ultimately likely the Administration will have to turn to somebody else.
"Duane": I have two questions. My first question is, why do the American military have to have a civilian leader, someone with no military experience? It seems to me you want a general or someone independent to lead our military. And my second point is, why did we wait so long to have an exploratory committee about Iraq? Why didn't we do all those things before we went into Iraq?
JS: I wrote a piece in the New York Times not long ago in which I recounted asking a number of senior officials and oversight members of the intelligence committees -- at the end of long interviews, I'd say, Do you the difference between a Sunni and a Shi'ite? And almost to a man they couldn't answer. They didn't know the basic things. This included the new national security chief at the FBI.. .cannot answer this basic question. So the caller's question is right on the point. The hallmark of this administration is the dearth of military experience throughout from the President on down and across. So it's not necessarily that you're a bright guy or you're a better administrator if you have military experience. God knows we have lots of officers who are disasters! Like we have in any business I should quickly say!
RH: Well, Don Rumsfeld had military experience and clearly he was one of the more controversial secretaries of defense. And we've had other secretaries of defense including Dick Cheney who didn't have military experience and presidents who didn't have military experience. It seems to me there's no necessary correlation between one's success in making judgments and recommending policies and necessarily the personal experience you've had. I think the caller's second point is an interesting one. We've had to establish the Baker-Hamilton group essentially the policy is failing and the interagency process itself -- the government itself -- seems unable or unwilling to come up with a suitable set of alternative policies. Essentially what the President has done is use the time-honored technique of establishing a commission outside the executive branch to help the executive branch do what it seems unable to do for itself.
DR: Do you believe that commission will be able to do what the Administration could not do for itself? Will it be able to convince the Administration that theirs' is the more appropriate path?
RH: It will put forward the set of options. It's up to the Administration to convince itself that it wants to avail itself of those options. But I think it's entirely likely that the Baker-Hamilton group will put forward a set of alternatives to what the Administration has been doing. My guess is the Administration won't take all of them. It doesn't want to look as though it has totally franchised out US foreign policy. I do believe they will take up many of the recommendations...
DR: What do you expect that variety of recommendations to include?
RH: I think there will be two sets of recommendations. One will be on the military side -- and we've talked about some of these. Some types of reductions perhaps based on Iraqi government behavior. Some change in the mission. Some redeployments geographically. But I think more interesting will be the diplomatic side. I think you will have some sort of call for a greater emphasis on a regional diplomatic forum including contacts with Iran and Syria. Probably also they will call for great pressure on the Iraqi government to meet certain behavioral milestones or benchmarks. So I think you will get a set of options -- almost a menu. And then the Administration will be able t pick and choose from this menu...
DR: Jeff Stein, does this mean that Secretary of State Rice will have more of a voice in addressing what happens next?
JS: You know.. again...the options in Iraq have narrowed so much that to give Condi Rice, for example, more of a role in reconstruction -- these options for reconstruction have dwindled very dramatically...
DR: ... But if you give her more of a role in drawing in outside voices...
JS: That's right. Absolutely. ... It couldn't get any worse than under Don Rumsfeld. So I think Mr. Gates will be a better choice than that. The question is what they say when they get together. They all like each other. They sit down. But then, what's next? That's the big question.
MG: I'm not an optimistic person about this commission. I think it's really damage limitation. It's for politics, not for policy. It gives the great impression that Bush is listening to other voices. The thing that worries me about this study group is that there's not one person on there who has any claim to any middle eastern experience whatsoever. The great flaw about Iraq was that it was not put in any context of strategic policy toward the arena. So not only have we failed in Iraq, we have failed in the entire region of the Middle East. It's going to be very hard to put that back together again.