Moderates make way for right wing shift
November 16, 2004 - 12:38PM
Secretary of State Colin Powell's resignation and a flood of high-level departures at the State Department and CIA remove the cautionary voices that had often acted as a brake on US President George W Bush's aggressive foreign policy.
US officials and analysts said today that by agreeing to Powell's departure and approving a purge by new CIA chief Porter Goss, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney appear to be eliminating the few independent centres of power in the US national security apparatus.
Some said they are cementing the system under their personal control.
Current national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is personally close to Bush, is set to take Powell's place.
Powell and his State Department team - quietly backed by the intelligence community - argued often for a foreign policy that was more inclusive of allies and that relied on diplomacy and coercion rather than on force to deal with adversaries.
They lost more battles in Washington than they won.
Powell's friends said he had hoped to stay on a little longer.
Significantly Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a major architect of the Iraq war along with Bush and Cheney, appears to be staying for now.
That could signal that the White House believes its much-criticised Iraq policies are on the right track.
"Letting him go would be an admission of failure," said one senior administration official who, like others, requested anonymity because of the White House's distaste for dissent.
"Now," the official said, "they've got no one left to blame but themselves if things don't go right."
"We are seeing the consummation of the revolution," said Ivo Daalder, a scholar at the Washington-based Brookings Institution and author of a book on Bush's foreign policy.
"Anybody who thought that a 'Bush Two' foreign policy would be a more moderate, multilateral, (John) Kerry-like foreign policy just doesn't understand this president, or this election," Daalder said.
Powell's resignation was the most prominent of a string of resignations that were announced or are in the works.
At the CIA this morning, Goss announced the resignations of deputy director for operations Stephen Kappes, who heads the clandestine service, and his deputy Michael Sulick.
Both had clashed with Goss over suggestions that CIA counterintelligence officers should investigate leaks to the media, intelligence officials said.
Goss, a former Republican congressman from Florida, and a team of four aides he brought from the House Intelligence Committee, have begun a post-election purge of the Operations Directorate that's infuriated and alarmed current and former U.S. intelligence officials.
Many officials believe that the CIA, particularly the DO, as the Operations Directorate is known, is in dire need of reform. The agency was largely unable to penetrate either al-Qaeda or Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime.
Critics charge that it's become too risk-averse and bureaucratic.
But, they said, the way Goss and his aides have proceeded has caused turmoil during heightened intelligence-gathering challenges. It smacks of partisanship and retaliation for the agency's production of analysis that doesn't support White House policy, they said.
Others said that the CIA is in need of shock therapy.
"The more turmoil, the better. The place is dysfunctional," said one former CIA officer, who requested anonymity. "I'm not too sure there is a right way (to institute change). You are going into a hornets' nest."
Three senior administration officials charged that Goss and his aides are carrying out a "White House-directed purge." One said it appears to be directed at "everybody who said there was no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda and everybody who they think leaked information that undercut what the administration was claiming."
Many intelligence and other officials questioned the administration's claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaeda, claims that subsequent investigations have found to be erroneous.
They also challenged White House assessments about political and economic progress in Iraq.
Cheney, they said, was particularly angered by reports, that the CIA had been unable to find any conclusive evidence tying Saddam's regime to Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
Cheney had ordered the CIA to take another look at possible links among Saddam, Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden, the official said, and was angered when a CIA briefer told him the results of the inquiry.
"This is a classic case of shooting the messenger," said one senior official. "Unfortunately, they're the same messengers we're counting on to warn us of the next al-Qaeda attack."
At the State Department, officials said, Powell is expected to be accompanied out the door by virtually his entire management team: Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage; Undersecretary for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, the department's Number Three official; Undersecretary for Management Grant Green; and several others.
"They're going to purge the State Department," said one of the senior officials, adding that he'd heard White House officials say: "The State Department doesn't get it. They're not on the president's message."
Powell will be sorely missed among career employees.
Powell imbued "a sense of self-worth that's a rare commodity for the civil service and the foreign service that works here," a mid-level official said. "It hasn't sunk into folks around here that we're about to lose our lord and protector."