by Jim Lobe
(IPS) WASHINGTON --
second-most frustrated man in Washington's foreign-policy establishment these days -- next to Secretary of State Colin Powell -- must be Brent Scowcroft, the courtly and self-effacing retired army general who served as George Bush Sr's national security adviser.
Like Powell, Scowcroft has consistently counseled the younger Bush to pursue a cautious, multilateral approach in carrying out his "war on terrorism," especially with regard to Iraq and the Middle East in general.
But his advice has gone virtually entirely ignored, as the unilateralist, pro-war hawks centered in the Pentagon's civilian leadership and Vice President Dick Cheney's office have consolidated their control of policy since last December's successful military rout of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
With the exception of Cheney, many of the men who now appear to be dictating policy -- on both the scope of the war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the general unilateral thrust of U.S. policy -- served under Ronald Reagan but then left government or were forced out under Bush's father.
Others, as in the case of two of today's most influential players -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby -- were retained but kept under a tight rein.
The significance of the fact that Scowcroft has gone public with his advice on several occasions over the last three months cannot be exaggerated.
First, he serves as chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), a post that guarantees him regular access to top-secret intelligence and to Bush Jr.'s top foreign-policy advisers. Normally, PFIAB chairmen are discreet and hesitant to weigh in on policy issues, at least publicly.
Second, he has mentored two of the administration's top foreign-policy officials: Powell, whom he has known since they both served in the Nixon White House 30 years ago, and Bush Jr.'s own national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, whom George W. took on at Scowcroft's suggestion early in his presidential campaign.
Scowcroft also worked closely with Rumsfeld under Gerald Ford, whom he also served as national security adviser, and with Cheney, who was Pentagon chief in the first Bush Administration.
Third, and most important, Scowcroft was and remains very close and very loyal to Bush Sr. with whom he co-authored "A World Transformed," a 1998 book about their administration's foreign policy from 1989 to 1993.
One of the book's main themes is the importance of building broad coalitions, both domestically and overseas, for controversial decisions like the Gulf War of 1991.
Scowcroft's loyalty to Bush Sr. -- and the fact that Scowcroft is widely seen as the former president's alter ego -- makes his speaking out publicly about these issues so remarkable.
"I see them as indistinguishable on foreign policy," said Christopher Jones, who teaches U.S. foreign policy at the Henry M. Jackson School for International Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle.
"For Scowcroft to say anything that can be seen as critical towards the administration is quite amazing," added one former senior official who worked with Scowcroft in the first Bush administration.
"Frankly, I can't conceive of him doing so without first talking with Bush's dad."
Apart from some offhand comments early in the Afghan campaign, when he said he hoped that Washington would intensify consultations with U.S. allies, Bush Sr. has eschewed any substantive public comment about the course of the war on terrorism. That has bolstered speculation that he shares Scowcroft's concerns.
Scowcroft has expressed himself publicly on three main issues since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11: coalitions, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the administration's obsession with ousting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
In the early stages of the war, when Rumsfeld and neo-conservatives were arguing that a multilateral coalition could hamper a successful campaign by constraining Washington's ability to achieve its aims, Scowcroft took quite the opposite tack.
"Success means a coalition, a broad coalition," he wrote in the Washington Post. "The liberation of Kuwait wouldn't have been possible without the development of a strong coalition of countries that provided military bases, staging areas, intelligence, isolation of Iraq and strong moral and political support."
In May, as violence between Israelis and Palestinians intensified, Scowcroft took to the Post's op-ed page again to bolster Powell's frustrated efforts to persuade Bush to rein in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and launch a new, multilateral peace process based on Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's peace offer and culminating in a viable and independent Palestinian state.
In an uncharacteristic show of boldness, Scowcroft went much further in his article, setting forth a detailed plan for achieving, first, a cease-fire to be overseen by an international force including U.S. troops, and then a comprehensive settlement, largely based on understandings reached by both sides at Taba just before Sharon's election and consistent with a framework to be agreed by an international conference.
Most recently, Scowcroft has spoken out on national television to urge restraint in the rush toward war against Iraq. Echoing the views of State Department and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) experts and drawing on his own experience under Bush Sr., Scowcroft warned that an invasion of Iraq "could turn the whole region into a cauldron, and, thus, destroy the war on terrorism."
Echoing advice from European and Arab allies, Scowcroft said Washington should work with the United Nations to get arms inspectors into Iraq before taking action because Saddam's refusal to comply would at least give Washington a "casus belli that we don't really have right now."
And, in what has become a heresy to the neo-cons who now dominate U.S. policy, Scowcroft suggested that the success of any future effort against Saddam Hussein depended on progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In each of the three cases, Scowcroft's advice has had virtually no visible impact on the administration. In fact, his very specific plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace was totally rejected as Bush, within just a few weeks, aligned U.S. policy squarely behind Sharon.
In fact, each intervention by Scowcroft inspired a host of attacks on his positions, sometimes by senior administration officials, including Cheney and Rumsfeld, and more often by the stable of neo-conservative columnists and media, such as the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard.
Cconservative think-tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which are closely tied to the administration hawks, also chimed in to condemn Scowcroft.
Many of these same actors were among Bush Sr.'s most violent critics 10 years ago when he halted the Gulf War border and refused to carry it on to Baghdad and oust Saddam Hussein. They were even more scathing when Bush Sr. withheld aid to Israel until it cooperated in the search for an international solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
These are precisely the same issues that Scowcroft -- and, by association, Bush Sr. -- are now most concerned about. That George W. has decided to line up with those who excoriated his father 10 years ago says volumes about how radically U.S. policy has changed under his stewardship and how little he looks to his dad for advice.
August 13 2002 (http://albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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