Friday, November 10, 2006

Foreign policy realists to replace idealists as Bush advisors

Just like old times: realists from the first Bush era return to power - World - Times Online:

"Two years ago they were the pariahs of neoconservative Washington, a group of soft-spined old timers who refused to see that the only way to defeat America’s enemies was with the lethal might of the US military.

But within hours of Donald Rumsfeld’s enforced resignation on Wednesday, and in the clearest of signs that President Bush has turned to his father to dig him out of a mess in Iraq, the foreign policy “realists” who dominated US diplomacy in the early 1990s have been suddenly restored to the helm.

In choosing Robert Gates, the former CIA Director, to replace Mr Rumsfeld as Defence Secretary, Mr Bush completed an extraordinary recall to duty for the White House foreign policy team that advised his father, while ending the influence of the neoconservatives who had disparaged them after Mr Bush took office in 2000.

Mr Gates comes from a circle of national security aides who counselled the first President Bush from 1989 to 1992. They loathe the neoconservative world view and their swift re-emergence signals a profound change in how Mr Bush will deal with Iraq, Iran and the Middle East during the last two years of his presidency.

Along with Mr Gates, Mr Bush has also turned to James Baker, the first President Bush’s Secretary of State, to guide his foreign policy. He and Mr Gates sit on the Iraq Study Group — Mr Baker heads it — which is due to report shortly on how to proceed in Iraq.

They are expected to advocate direct negotiations with Iran and Syria to help the US in Iraq — anathema to hardliners such as Dick Cheney and neoconservatives — and to abandon the goal of making Iraq a stable democracy. Mr Gates also co-authored a report in 2004 with Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s former National Security Adviser, in which they advocated offering incentives to Iran, including the ending of sanctions, to persuade Tehran to stop short of building nuclear weapons.

Mr Gates, who expressed grave doubts about the invasion of Iraq, also told the Bush Administration just two years ago that hopes of regime change in Iran were totally unrealistic and that the refusal of the Administration to talk directly to Tehran “was harming US interests”. He also said that efforts to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict should be at the heart of US foreign policy.

Mr Gates is a disciple of the grand old man of US foreign policy realists, Brent Scowcroft, who was the first President Bush’s National Security Adviser. Mr Scowcroft, an old friend of the Bush family, has been totally shunned by the current Administration and adamantly opposed the invasion of Iraq. He has been an outspoken critic of the neoconservative vision of transforming the world through the use of American force. Now, he is again back in the ascendency.

David Frum, a co-author of Mr Bush’s 2002 “Axis of Evil” speech, told The Times that Mr Baker was now “Secretary of State in all but name”, and that the appointment of Mr Gates signalled a new phase of foreign policy where negotiation, and carrots rather than sticks, would dominate."

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