|Loss of key aide another setback for
By Jim Lobe
- 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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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).
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
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
Apparently, the State Department no longer
fits that definition.
(Inter Press Service)