Monday, January 08, 2007

Dick Cheney's Foreign Policy

George W. Bush is ultimately the 'Decider-in-Chief' and supposedly Condoleezza Rice is in charge of foreign affairs but Steve Clemons of The Washington Note argues, after noting Bob Woodward's recent book, that it's Cheney who's driving our dysfunctional foreign policy:
...Woodward was duped about the diminishing power of Vice President Cheney and his team. Woodward clearly spent a lot of time with Defense, State, and intelligence officials, but he failed to see the forest for the trees in his analysis of who was driving and influencing America's national security portfolio.

Clearly, the President is important and calls a lot of the shots, but the key question that Woodward never gets to is who really controls the national security bureaucracy. As former State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson so clearly put it on October 16, 2005, a "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" hijacked the national security decision-making process. ...


...what Woodward completely misses is that Dick Cheney is the only figure in this presidential administration who has followers -- or what one might otherwise call disciples and acolytes.

The President has no followers -- or very few. They just don't know what his "world view" is. Some are loyal to the persona of George W. Bush, but that is different than knowing what the President would think about some policy or situation. Rice has few followers in the administration. Hadley none. Rumsfeld was despised, and his brilliant "snowflake" strategy helped keep everyone on edge and also helped him evade accountability at every turn. Such types don't generate "followings."


...Cheney's followers populate the entire national security bureaucracy. He has allies, spies, and fellow travelers in State, Defense, the CIA, the NSA, the DNI, the DIA, all of the uniformed services, and throughout the government. They know his world view and don't need instructions on what to do or what he might think. They know it. They know he wants a war with Iran -- and his team of followers are doing what they can to move us in that direction.


Some friends in the blogosphere like Brad DeLong contest my view and argue "that they all work for the czar" -- meaning that George Bush is much more in control of matters than my model would suggest. That may be the case -- but still, within the bureaucracy it is the paradigm that Cheney has established which has tied together a network of like-minded adherents. Bush may ultimately be driving that franchise, but Cheney's frame is still the dominant structure that followers connect to.

I largely buy this view, particularly because of Cheney's loyalists that he personally has scattered through the government. George W. Bush has the final authority but he is neither an idea man or an able administrator who knows how to push and pull the levers of power or even how to do real diplomacy or negotiations (again, I think once more of Bush's dismal performance last summer in Russia). Bush is what he has always been: the sales type, the p.r. guy, the political gamester, the wheeler dealer, the guy who can talk a good game but who doesn't really know what he's doing. Yes, he has the final say but he defers to similar-minded people like Cheney.

Here's a thought to keep in mind. In general, I oppose impeachment because of the divisiveness it would involve, though I strongly believe Cheney and Bush have done things that are impeachable. Unfortunately, millions of Americans still don't fully understand how much Bush and Cheney have violated the US Constitution or even how much is legally required of the executive branch that Bush and Cheney have ignored. Most Americans still don't understand what a serious crisis in government we have. This is one of the reasons why so many of us have been critical of a media that simply hasn't done its job over the course of six years.

On the other hand, we may be heading for deeper trouble. So here's my thought: I believe that if Cheney alone were impeached, Bush's presidency would be so crippled that it will be difficult for him to drag us into a broader war in the final two years. I'm not advocating impeaching Cheney alone but it should be seriously thought about, even prepared for, if the conscious recklessness, disregard of the law, and arrogance of the Bush Administration continue, particularly if they insist on dragging us into broader war without Congressional authorization (I didn't mention incompetence, but technically, incompetence is not impeachable (and it is open to interpretation, after all) but we may have to consider a rewording of that part of the US Constitution; perhaps a new Congress should have the right to vote no confidence in a policy and that no confidence vote would be sufficient to reopen negotiations on new legislation; I know, these ideas can open minefields but it's something to consider).

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Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

I'm with you in spirit — oh, how I wish ...

However, impeaching Cheney alone wouldn't change the bottom line of Bush administration policy one iota. The most it might accomplish is keeping Bush and Cheney both so distracted and busy trying to fight it off that they wouldn't have time to do quite as much damage.

The reasons are right in your post: all those Cheney loyalists who know what he wants and intends to do. People that devoted will carry on with the plan, even if Deadeye Dick isn't on the payroll and down the hall. Plus, you can bet he's got the phone numbers of all those followers and acolytes scattered throughout the government.

No, the only way to get these monkeys off our collective back would be to impeach them both and hope their successor would take the time to scrupulously rid the government of their cabal.

However, as you say, the trauma of a double impeachment would be horrendously traumatic and disruptive. Then again, risking a region-wide war across the Mideast, maybe even World War III, by getting into it with Iraq would be pretty traumatic and disruptive also.

8:13 PM  

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