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Deputy Bolton

Widespread rumor has it that John Bolton will be taking over as Deputy Secretary of State, a post from which he may well prove to be the real power at Foggy Bottom. Steve Clemons offers some insights into the man. It's also worth checking out Lawrence Kaplan's profile from a while back that dissents from the view that Bolton is really a neoconservative, something Kaplan the neocon is perhaps better-positioned to assess than I am. Certainly Bolton and the neos at the Pentagon have a great deal of common ground regarding the utility of multilateral institutions and formal arms control agreements, but it's possible to have overlapping interests (Richard Armitage, after all, saw pretty much eye-to-eye with the neoconservatives during the Latin America policy debates of the 1980s, only to find himself very much on the other side of the 21st century's Mideast policy disputes) without a huge amount of underlying agreement. Time will tell, perhaps.

November 17, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

Matt, why does this matter? A few days ago you said that second-level staffing at State will make a big difference when it comes to policy, but I don't think that's true at all. The State Department had precious little influence on policy during the first Bush administration, and as Powell et al are replaced by Bush toadies and hacks, this administration will be worse.

Posted by: Marshall | Nov 17, 2004 12:38:30 PM

So, is there any particular reason for thinking this guy will be the real power, aside from the assumption that Republicans, being bigots, wouldn't really put a black woman in charge of the State Department?

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Nov 17, 2004 12:52:20 PM

No, the reason is that Rice doesn't have any experience running a large bureacracy whereas Bolton is a legendarily effective bureacratic power-player. Given the complexity of these jobs, smart presidents usually use the Sec/DepSec combo to create a theorist/operator pair. At the Defense Department, Wolfowitz is the idea man and Rumsfeld is the get shit done guy. At the old State Department, Powell was the big picture guy and Armitage was the get shit done guy. Rice isn't a get shit done kind of person, historically speaking, and Bolton is. So he'll probably be running the State Department while Rice handles the more public aspects of the job -- conducting personal diplomacy, making the case for policy, etc., while outlining a few broad goals.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Nov 17, 2004 1:26:59 PM

At this point, aren't we basically judging these nominations in terms of how realistic the mannequin is?

-- that one's sexy!
-- that one's Latin-American looking!
-- creepy... that one looks like it's looking right at me!

etc?

Nothing against Mannequins. And nothing against Mannequin 2: on the run, which is cheesy but still generally underrated.

But that *is* what we're doing -- right?

Posted by: americaisawesome.com | Nov 17, 2004 1:48:08 PM

>while Rice handles the more public aspects of the job -- conducting personal diplomacy, making the case for policy, etc., while outlining a few broad goals.

With whom other than Meet the Press and Faux News Sunday will Rice be conducting personal diplomacy? Seriously. It's doubtful that she'll be conducting any sort of diplomacy--personal or otherwise--with America's erstwhile allies.

Posted by: raj | Nov 17, 2004 1:51:47 PM

"No, the reason is that Rice doesn't have any experience running a large bureacracy whereas Bolton is a legendarily effective bureacratic power-player."

Which would ordinarily matter, but this administration seems to run more on who
last briefed Bush. Condi wins there.

"Given the complexity of these jobs, smart presidents usually use the Sec/DepSec combo to create a theorist/operator pair. At the Defense Department, Wolfowitz is the idea man and Rumsfeld is the get shit done guy. At the old State Department, Powell was the big picture guy and Armitage was the get shit done guy."

I'd think that Powell was more of a 'get scr*wed' guy at State. In Defense, there's no 'get sh*t done' guy, there's just a bunch of 'f*ck sh*t up' guys. Remember, the only things that this administration is good at are seizing power, looting and destruction. Actual managerial competance isn't their core competancy.

"Rice isn't a get shit done kind of person, historically speaking, and Bolton is."

However, Rice's lack of any talent aside from pleasing Bush has gotten her this far; it's pleasant to think that she's just a facade, because that's all that she's good at. However, in this administration, the facade might be all that there is.

"So he'll probably be running the State Department while Rice handles the more public aspects of the job -- conducting personal diplomacy, making the case for policy, etc., while outlining a few broad goals."

Since trashing the State Department and turning into a branch of AEI/Heritage/Hoover/et al. is perfectly in line with this administration's policy, they don't need someone to run it competantly.

Posted by: Barry | Nov 17, 2004 2:02:53 PM

Yes, diplomacy certainly is a thing of the past and probably the only shit that will have to be done is providing cover to various CIA operatives and sending ultimatums. Here's the template: 'if the people of country XYZ want to keep thier country, they must change their leader'.

Posted by: abb1 | Nov 17, 2004 2:05:38 PM

MY, since you're personal friends with Spencer Ackerman here are 2 questions I want you to ask him for me.

1)Is Lawrence Kaplan as big of a moron as he sounds?

2) How does he feel now that Spencer Ackerman has basically taken over his old job because Peter Beinart thinks he's too much of a quack but to print in small doses?

Posted by: Dan the Man | Nov 17, 2004 2:36:38 PM

Youse guys are always misunderestimating the Bush. You are thinking too small. He is staffing all the agencies with loyalists because he is anticipating monstrous amounts of heat coming his way, foreign and domestic.

Think cutting discretionary non-defense spending in half. Putting 50% plus of social security into private accounts, without paying transition costs. Think devaluing the dollar by 100%, 50 yen to the dollar.

Think Condi's area of expertise, big power relations. Think China. Maybe Saudi Arabia?

Bush has always gone off the deep end, much farther than expected. Iran small potatoes. We'll let them get nukes. Think attacking Sunni Wahhabism with Shia ascendancy. Depose the Sauds and put Chalabi or Sistani in charge.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 17, 2004 2:57:05 PM

Think attacking Sunni Wahhabism...

They don't care about that.

Posted by: Toadmonster | Nov 17, 2004 3:11:08 PM

>Think Condi's area of expertise, big power relations. Think China. Maybe Saudi Arabia?

As I understand it, her area of purported expertise is--or was--cold-war relations regarding the old Soviet Union, the Warsaw pact and so forth. That may have served her well when she was in the Bush I administration, but it's far from clear what that will do in the Bush II administration.

Posted by: raj | Nov 17, 2004 3:12:51 PM

"They don't care about that."

Haven't appeared to. Of course they wouldn't want to show any intentions. But SA is the prize, both in terms of oil control and terrorism. And the heir apparent is a real jerk.

What do they gain in controlling Iran? What does Israel gain? But if Prince Bandar and other very pro-Western elements could stage a coup.....

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 17, 2004 3:32:13 PM

...her area of purported expertise is--or was--cold-war relations regarding the old Soviet Union, the Warsaw pact and so forth...

With oil prices around $50/barrel we will soon rebuild the Soviet Union and the Warsaw pact for her to use her expertise. Create a new reality every day.

Posted by: abb1 | Nov 17, 2004 3:35:28 PM

Matt, I'm surprised you missed this big Kaplan goof:

"Few thought the moment would last, yet the international community hasn't been able to stop Bolton from chipping away at its foundations. Intelligence cables, for example, reveal foreign officials complaining bitterly about Bolton, yet, at the end of the day, the very same officials have ended up embracing his proposals. The orchestration of America's withdrawal from the ABM treaty offers a case in point. When Bolton informed his Russian counterparts that he didn't view the treaty as a "permanent" accord and that the United States could withdraw from the agreement anytime it wished, "the arms control guys in the room looked like they were going to pass out," says a member of the negotiating team. The fact remains, however, that ABM defenders had argued for years that, were the United States to abandon the treaty, a new arms race would ensue. Yet the truth turned out to be exactly the reverse: Rather than build up their arsenal in the aftermath of the U.S. decision, the Russians pledged to slash it dramatically under the terms of a treaty Bolton hammered out with Moscow."

Whoops.

Posted by: praktike | Nov 17, 2004 3:43:52 PM

As I understand it, her area of purported expertise is--or was--cold-war relations regarding the old Soviet Union, the Warsaw pact and so forth.

'Purported' is the right word. Eastern European scholars think her work is, to use the academic phraseology, shit.

Bolton, though? Who cares what his ideological leanings are? He's a stain on foreign relations, single-handedly wrecking treaty negotiations on biological, chemical, and small arms proliferation in Chimpy's first term.

Posted by: ahem | Nov 17, 2004 6:40:54 PM

Is it possible that the buzz about Bolton becoming DepSec and Pletka taking the Near East bureau is a neocon effort at reality creation? Anybody remember August/September 2003, when "sources" were saying that Powell and Armitage were out and Wolfowitz would become Secretary? That was only slightly less likely then than it is now.

Posted by: Sean Flaherty | Nov 17, 2004 9:47:46 PM

'Purported' is the right word. Eastern European scholars think her work is, to use the academic phraseology, shit.

That's because the entire academic field of international relations is shit. Condi is no exception.

Posted by: Marshall | Nov 18, 2004 9:17:42 AM

Digby responds to Matt's dissing (emphases mine):

Actually, my argument is all about pragmatism. I'm a New Democrat who believed for 15 years that moving to the right on social issues was the practical thing to do. Death penalty, welfare, gun control, faith based programs, school vouchers, mend it don't end it, gays in the military --- I've backed them. I believed that civil unions were radical enough. Partial birth abortion, ok.

Now that we've completely lost the congress, the presidency and are about to lose any hope of having progressive influence on the judiciary to a radical party of zealots and incompetents, I think it's pragmatic to assess if that plan is actually working for us. Waddaya think?

Maybe we just haven't gone far enough. But I'm getting the funniest feeling that our "pragmatism" isn't too successful. There's always something more to compromise on our side, but we're not seeing anything coming the other way for some reason. Why, if I didn't know better I'd think that the Republican party keeps moving the goalposts while we desperately contort ourselves into a center that is now only slightly to the left of Joe Mccarthy. And we keep losing while we do it. Imagine that.

BTW Matt, I didn't mean to pick on you. The words "conventinal wisdom" about the idea that ditching Roe for the good of the party just struck me the wrong way.

Posted by: digby | November 17, 2004 04:50 AM

Posted by: ann | Nov 18, 2004 9:22:54 AM

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