LEXIS-NEXIS® Academic Universe-Document
Copyright 2001 The
New York Times Company
New York Times
December 23, 2001, Sunday, Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section 1A; Page 1; Column 6; Foreign Desk
LENGTH: 1679 words
HEADLINE: A NATION CHALLENGED:
FOREIGN POLICY TEAM;
Wartime Forges A United Front For Bush Aides
By DAVID E. SANGER and PATRICK E. TYLER
DATELINE: WASHINGTON, Dec. 22
A hundred days of crisis and war have not only transformed George W. Bush's
presidency and the nation he leads, but have forced a greater level of unity on
his circle of national security advisers, even as significant differences
persist in their priorities for the long-term struggle against terrorism and
the conflicts that give rise to it.
Before Sept. 11, as the advisers struggled to define America's mission to a
world suspicious of Mr. Bush's intentions, their conflicts on international
treaties, the environment, North Korea and dealings with the world's other
superpowers unnerved Europe and Asia.
Things are different now.
In the weeks leading up to Sept. 11 there were whispers in Washington that
Colin L. Powell had become the invisible secretary of state. Now he is regarded
as the consummate pragmatist, whose long experience in the Army and as chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has brought realism to American diplomacy in a
time of war.
Donald H. Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, who had been parodied as a
latter-day Dr. Strangelove for his hawkish, America-first views, has emerged as
the dominant spokesman for the war effort. His Pentagon news briefings have
become must-viewing in Washington and around the nation, as he delivers news of
the war in the manner of a long-tenured professor, replete with critiques of
the logic or syntax of the assembled reporters. His wire-rimmed glasses and
slicked hair are reminiscent of Robert S. McNamara, the Vietnam-era defense
who came to dominate the military establishment by dint of his willpower and
And the critical third player, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser,
once criticized for stoking the president's go-it-alone instincts, and
suspected of focusing too little attention on the Arab-Israeli dispute, has
emerged as the decisive vote in councils of war.
The 48-year old former Stanford professor, a Russia expert, is the member of
the team most likely to anticipate Mr. Bush's response to a problem.
Increasingly comfortable as his spokeswoman, she is appearing more often in
public, where her verbal precision is a sharp counterpoint to Mr. Bush's own
tendency to speak in vague and sometimes confusing colloquialisms.
There is no question that the three advisers still differ. But they have
managed to keep news of their differences to a minimum, and when they break
into the open they have made a more
convincing case that they are marshaling a diversity of views for President
Bush to consider. Once seen as stark competitors, they have been recast by
events as loyal aides to a wartime leader.
"The venom is gone," a senior official who witnesses many of their deliberations said this week.
"They have learned to disagree better."
Their new sense of unity, however tentative, may well be tested in coming
weeks. The next phase of the war is approaching when tensions between India and
Pakistan, and between Israel and the Palestinians, are higher than at any time
in years. All three conflicts will inevitably lead to debates over how deeply
America should intervene in long-standing disputes, and perhaps over what kind
of missions America's military should be taking on.
Meanwhile, old arguments still simmer. Secretary Powell clearly wants a greater
for Russia in NATO than does Secretary Rumsfeld, who is trying to limit
Russia's influence. The jousting continues on the wisdom, timing and method of
trying to depose President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. And the president's decision
to pull out of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty still rankles that part of
the administration that wanted to take more time exploring alternatives to
withdrawal with Russia.
If those differences seem less urgent now, says Michael McFaul, a political
scientist and specialist on Russia at Stanford University, where he was a
colleague of Ms. Rice, perhaps it is because great events transform public
"In peacetime, these conflicts get presented as personal agendas, but in
wartime, these are debates over the national interest," Mr. McFaul observed.
"They are the same debates, but we look at them through a different prism," as a frank exchange of
views by people trying to give a president a full range of options.
Some administration officials assert that stories about policy clashes between
hard-liners and pragmatists in the administration were mostly imagined by the
news media, seeking a story in a White House known for its discipline and
"I don't believe that the caricature was right before" Sept. 11, Ms. Rice said recently in her office, where calls from Secretary
Powell and Secretary Rumsfeld arrive on a dedicated phone with a distinctive,
"And the caricature afterward is not right," she added.
She conceded that the team works together more closely now because of the
necessities of the war, which has led to three-times-a-week meetings of the
National Security Council, which Mr. Bush attends, and Tuesday and Thursday
Secretary Powell, Secretary Rumsfeld, and other
But she said
"it's not a formal debating society," where Secretary Rumsfeld lays out the institutional position of the Pentagon,
and Secretary Powell stands up for the State Department.
"These sessions are problem-solving," she said,
"so an issue will come on the table and some who were advocating one way at the
beginning might be advocating the opposite at the end."
Still, well-known ideological fault lines exist in the administration. Mr.
Bush has endeared himself to conservatives like Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy
Behind the scenes, Vice President Dick Cheney plays a critical but almost
invisible role, combining his conservatism with the pragmatic requirements of
domestic politics and foreign relations. He pressed hard to abandon the ABM
treaty, for example, and he has been
active in the delicate diplomacy of dealing with Pakistan -- an ally in the war
in Afghanistan, but a country reluctant to crack down on terrorist groups
favoring independence for Kashmir.
"Our feeling was that when Bush came in, there were a lot of misgivings in the
world about him and his team," said an administration official who has worked closely with all three top
figures advising Mr. Bush. Abroad, the words
"Texas" were used to parody the Bush swagger in world affairs. Misgivings deepened
after Mr. Bush clashed with China over a downed American spy plane, with Russia
over whether America would even take it seriously and with Europe over how Mr.
Bush would handle Russia's opposition to the abandonment of the ABM treaty.
Mr. Bush was working on changing that image with swings through
Europe in June and a speech in Warsaw that seemed to plant him more firmly in
the Bush family shoes of pragmatism and cooperation abroad.
"The perceptions have changed," the administration official said.
"After Sept. 11, you have a president basing a lot of what he is doing on
international cooperation and expansion of freedom," and therefore the
"perception of his leadership." In light of that, the role of his senior advisers
"is starker in a very positive way."
One example of the change was evident earlier this month, when Mr. Bush
formally announced his decision to withdraw from the ABM treaty, an act that
may mark one of the most important decisions of his first year in office.
Had he made the same announcement in July, some of his aides concede, there
would have been an uproar in Europe, and denunciations from Russia. But since
he first met Mr. Putin in the summer in Slovenia, he has nurtured
relations with the Russian leader. And by the time he pulled the plug on the
treaty, the president and Secretary Powell had prepared the ground -- embracing
Mr. Putin on everything from admission into the World Trade Organization to
cooperation on antiterrorism -- that the reaction was muted.
Mr. Rumsfeld and Ms. Rice had been the strongest voices in favor of a quick
exit from the ABM treaty, with Ms. Rice, a scholar with expertise on the
Russian military, playing a pivotal role. Mr. Powell had been inclined to look
for other alternatives, but in the end aligned himself with Mr. Rumsfeld and
Ms. Rice, who had served as the chief foreign policy adviser to Mr. Bush during
his presidential campaign, was seen as an architect of some of his campaign
positions, especially his aversion to what he called
"nation building." Such views have been significantly amended since Sept. 11, as the need
for nation building in Afghanistan has become more evident.
"Bush himself did not have a philosophy about foreign policy" and, therefore, some of the positions of the campaign were
"easy to abandon," Mr. McFaul said. The same is true with Ms. Rice, he argued.
"To me what is really striking is how she, too, has had to change and I think
two things about that: one, she is not an ideologue and, two, she responds to
what the boss wants."
Ms. Rice has also emerged as an enormous influence on Mr. Bush. She is with
him frequently, and is often the only senior adviser with him on the weekends
at Camp David.
"She started as a filter for competing views," one official who deals with her daily said recently.
"Now, she actively shapes the decisions."
It would not be the first time such a transformation has taken place.
In the Nixon administration, Henry A. Kissinger's image as an insecure and
adviser to the president was transformed by the opening to China. Perhaps as a
result, Mr. Kissinger is fond of quoting Otto von Bismarck, the 19th-century
Prussian strategist, that statesmen do not make history, rather it is the other
"The best a statesman can do is to listen to the footsteps of God, get a hold of
the hem of his cloak and walk with him a few steps of the way," Bismarck once observed.
When Mr. Bush and his team entered office, no one predicted that the footsteps
of history would take them into a war against terrorism that has no end in
GRAPHIC: Photo: President Bush's
foreign policy team: Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary
Donald H. Rumsfeld. (Reuters)(pg. B4)
LOAD-DATE: December 23, 2001