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Loss of key aide another setback for Powell
By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - The announcement that the State Department's director for policy planning, Richard Haass, is leaving to become the next president of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), marks the latest sign of the eclipse of Secretary of State Colin Powell's influence in the Bush administration. Next to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Haass was seen as Powell's closest adviser.

While there is no doubt that his new job, which begins on July 1, has real attractions - a lengthy contract to direct the oldest and most prestigious US foreign policy think tank - Haass has historically preferred to be in the thick of the action. He played a key role on the National Security Council (NSC) under George H W Bush during the Gulf War in 1991 and its aftermath, including the Madrid peace talks in the early 1990s.

While no official announcement has been made, his most likely replacement is said to be the current ambassador to Turkey, Robert Pearson, a career foreign service officer who, while highly regarded as a diplomat and administrator, lacks Haass' reputation as a thinker and grand strategist.

The fact that Powell has not nominated anyone of Haass' stature or with whom he has a long-standing relationship as a replacement is being interpreted as an indication that he probably intends to step down after next year's election, if not before.

Long targeted by neo-conservative forces centered in the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's office, as well as their counterparts outside the administration, Haass has served as an influential voice in favor of traditional Republican realism, a protege of Bush Sr's national security adviser, retired General Brent Scowcroft.

During his mere two-and-a-half years in one of the State Department's most coveted positions, Haass led efforts to define and argue Powell's positions internally and to enunciate more general ideas about where he thought US foreign policy should be headed.

A consummate "realist" in the conservative but pragmatic mould of Scowcroft and Bush Sr's secretary of state James Baker, Haass argued in favor of engaging Iran, a harder line with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and treating China more as a partner than a rival, although he is best known for his statement early in the first months of the administration that Washington should pursue a general policy of "a la carte multilateralism". That he would even use that noun, however, probably helped to confirm administration hawks that he was far too sensitive to European and international opinion for their taste.

Haass has been a fixture of Washington foreign policy politics for a remarkably long time given his relatively youthful 51 years. After receiving his doctorate, he worked in Congress, then briefly in the Pentagon under Jimmy Carter and in various posts in the State Department under Ronald Reagan.

He directed Mideast policy in the NSC throughout the first Bush administration (1989-1993), work that earned him the lasting distrust of neo-conservatives, many of whom had served in the Reagan administration and have since returned under the younger Bush to senior policy making positions.

Closely allied with Israel's right-wing Likud Party, neo-conservatives - such as Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith; the former chairman of the Pentagon Defense Policy Board, Richard Perle; and Elliott Abrams, who currently holds Haass's old job on the NSC - strongly and publicly opposed the elder Bush's efforts to force Israel to take part in the Madrid peace conference that eventually led to a Labor-led government and the Oslo peace process.

During the Bill Clinton administration, Haass remained a major player as director of foreign policy studies at one of Washington's most established think tanks, the Brookings Institution. He maintained his staunchly realist outlook in his area of expertise, arguing in favor of an even-handed approach to the Oslo process and engagement with Iran.

He also adopted a strong pro-business stance in foreign policy by co-authoring a study on the use of unilateral US economic sanctions against foreign countries, which concluded that in virtually every case they had proved either ineffective or counter-productive and lost many billions of dollars in trade and investment opportunities for US business.

In 1997, he published The Reluctant Sheriff, a book on future US foreign policy that attacked the notion that Washington should try to establish and preserve a "unipolar" world order in which it was hegemonic. "Primacy is not to be confused with hegemony," he wrote. Calling for the return of "great-power politics", he stressed that "the United States cannot compel others to become more democratic".

The book even criticized a now-famous draft 1992 strategy document that called for a global-dominance strategy, drafted by two of the most powerful neo-conservatives in the current Bush administration, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Cheney's Chief of Staff I Lewis Libby.

Virtually all of its recommendations - which were strongly rejected by Scowcroft, Baker and Powell, who was then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - were codified last September by the younger Bush in the National Security Strategy (NSS).

By the time he was appointed to office, Haass had become in some ways like a red flag to the neo-conservative bulls who were eager to put their 1992 strategy into practice, and were able to do so after the September 11 attacks.

As director of the policy planning office, Haass continued to argue his positions. He opposed, for example, tightening sanctions against Iran early in the administration. Neo-conservative columnists, such as the New Republic's Lawrence Kaplan and The Weekly Standard's Marc Reuel Gerecht, attacked him as a "shill for big oil".

His importance to Powell became clear after September 11 when he was made the State Department's point man on Afghanistan. In April 2002, Haass gave a major policy address on a new grand strategy that he said should aim to "integrate other countries and organizations into arrangements to sustain a world consistent with US interests and values". He called his approach "hard-headed multilateralism", stressing that, while Washington could and should lead, it could not do so without enduring allies.

Within six months, the administration released its NSS document on grand strategy, and CFR had reportedly begun talking to Haass about changing jobs. It appears that nothing happened in the intervening months - including the road map for Middle East peace that Haass played a role in drafting - that persuaded him to stay on.
In an interview reported in the New York Times on Thursday, Haass denied that he was leaving because he was discouraged. "Obviously, in this job you spend a lot of your time in debates," he said. "Of course, that isn't the reason I'm leaving. The reason I'm leaving is that this offer came along, and the opportunity to lead an organization with such tremendous influence is not something anyone would lightly pass up."

Apparently, the State Department no longer fits that definition.

(Inter Press Service)
 
Jun 7, 2003


Gloves come off on the US home front
(Apr 24, '03)

 

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