Saturday, February 03, 2007

Hard to Have Confidence in Stephen Hadley

I watched Stephen Hadley a couple of times on Friday and sagged in my chair as I listened. He's no Scowcroft or Brzezinski. I'm no fan of Kissinger but he did a few things well; Hadley isn't close to being in that league. Condi Rice wasn't much of a national security adviser (she ignored warnings about al Qaida and Osama bin Laden and helped make the phony case for war in Iraq) but Hadley is clearly not an improvement.

In most presidencies since World War Two, the foreign policy heavyweight is either the national security adviser, or the secretary of state, or sometimes both. In Bush's first term, Colin Powell was the heavyweight though he was badly undermined by people like Cheney and Rumsfeld. In Bush's second term, there is no foreign policy heavyweight unless, hidden from view, it's Cheney, who has a view of the world that's somewhat paranoid and fundamentally at odds with the character of our nation and our long-term interests. There are major reasons why many experts are concerned about the drift of our foreign policy.

Here's some thoughts from the Carpetbagger on what Hadley said:
At a White House press briefing today, NSA Stephen Hadley seemed to believe the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq was favorable to the White House’s war policy. “One of the things you should conclude from this NIE is the best plan is to have this plan succeed,” Hadley told reporters.

Look, when it comes to convincing spin doctors, Hadley isn’t the White House’s best. He’s not even in the top five. When Hadley is making a demonstrably false claim, which is not terribly uncommon, he doesn’t even sell it well. And arguing that the NIE tells us that an escalation is the “best plan” for Iraq certainly qualifies as demonstrably false.

(snip)

...the NIE notes that “even if violence is diminished, given the current winner-take-all attitude and sectarian animosities infecting the political scene, Iraqi leaders will be hard pressed to achieve sustained political reconciliation in the time frame of this Estimate.”

In other words, the NIE does not say that Bush’s escalation strategy is “the best plan.” Hadley does know that reporters sometimes check these things, doesn’t he?

Bush came into his presidency knowing little about the world and less about foreign policy and we have been more or less asked from time to time to trust him. That's become very difficult. For some time it's been obvious that the Bush Administration has been less than straight with the American people. Admittedly people in business and politics sometimes try to buy themselves time to get a job done. But Bush has had six years to show us he can get things right, that we can trust his gut instincts. Desperate to salvage Bush's presidency, Bush's right wing supporters have been shrilly arguing that, in his seventh year, Bush will suddenly get it right. Of course, it's not going to happen. The best we can hope for is to limit the damage that Bush has done.

Let me offer one last comment on Stephen Hadley. Bob Woodward in State of Denial wrote this about Bush's preparation for running for president:
...[Bush] apparently didn't know that the Joint Chiefs, the heads of the services, serve only four-year terms. He clearly thought of them as a monolith.

At another meeting during Bush's early candidacy, the Vulcans [Bush's advisory team] were discussing arms control. Bush had lots of questions and he was getting lots of answers. Hadley told Bush, "They're very good on this stuff. You don't need all the technical stuff. You've got great instincts. If I could urge you to do one thing, it would be 'Trust your instincts.'" [pg. 11]

You've got great instincts. Who could have imagined?

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