The New Order of Battle
What the cabinet shake-up means for Bush's continuing war efforts.
11:00 PM, Nov 17, 2004 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
WITH THE NOMINATIONS of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of State and Stephen Hadley to replace her as National Security adviser, the shape of the supreme command of Bush II is pretty clear: Rumsfeld is staying; Bush II will be like Bush I, only more so.
It's not that the neocon cabal is preparing for the next invasion or that the "hardliners have won." In some sense, the hardliners "won" in the moment of the president's immediate reaction to the September 11 attacks. And the true neocons remain largely outside the administration. But President Bush has at last decided to try to take charge of his foreign policy bureaucracy.
The resignation of Colin Powell has been a moment to reflect on a man of near-mythic stature in Washington, a dedicated public servant both in uniform and out. He remains immensely popular, an image to Americans of the fundamental decency of our society. He's also been physically courageous, not least in the past year as he has battled disease, and is yet perpetually a public gentleman. He's been a major figure for 20 years even though he is just 67-years-old.
At the same time he has been a reflection of the failing conventional wisdom of the Cold War era. To be sure, Powell has been more alert to changing international circumstances than some of his peers--think Brent Scowcroft--but his failures have not simply been bureaucratic--they have been genuinely strategic. A creature of the status quo, his isolation in the administration was a measure not so much of his lack of ideology, but a lack of imagination. The Bush Doctrine may bear the imprint of the deepest traditions of American strategic culture, but it bears few of Powell's fingerprints.
Nor can it be said that he ran his department all that well. It is one thing to debate policy and to disagree, quite another to tell all to Bob Woodward, even as part of a conscious effort to spin the Washington establishment. More importantly, Powell's example encouraged his subordinates to undercut the president in the press. Pundits are now bemoaning the loss of "independence" at the State Department--but the Constitution's separation of powers aren't meant to extend to the executive branch.
So it's reasonable to expect the same quality of complaint we now see under Porter Goss at the CIA (though perhaps with less intensity) once Dr. Rice takes charge at Foggy Bottom. By naming his closest confidant to be his chief diplomat, President Bush has told the foreign service professionals that he's now paying attention and keeping score.
The dog that hasn't barked in this transition--and by all "rumint" isn't going to bark any time soon--is the ousting of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Given that the Pentagon's management of the Iraq war was President Bush's greatest campaign liability, there's at least a paradox in Rumsfeld's retention.