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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Another Bush foreign policy whistleblower

In his new book, Richard Haass, veteran of both the Bush I and Bush II administrations, arrives at this conclusion about the Iraq War:
"What matters in business as well as in foreign policy is the balance or relationship between costs and benefits. It is this assessment that leads to the judgment that the war against Iraq was unwarranted. The direct costs to the United States … were and are simply too high, given what was at stake."
This passage was quoted by Anatol Lieven in his review of Haass's book (The American Prospect, August 2005).

As Lieven points out, Haass has been President of the Council on Foreign Relations since 2003, so his views might be a sign of a shift in the "conventional wisdom" among American foreign policy elites -- especially in the corridor between Boston and Washington.

Haass isn't excited about the current democratization agenda either:
In Haass’ words, while spreading democracy should remain a U.S. goal, "it is, however, neither desirable nor practical to make democracy promotion a foreign policy doctrine. Too many pressing threats in which the lives of millions hang in the balance … will not be solved by the emergence of democracy. … When it comes to relations with Russia or China, other national-security interests must normally take precedence over concerns about how they choose to govern themselves."
Lieven calls these and other views "quite radical stuff by establishment standards." They are radical largely because they reject the current administration's views; thus, readers might not realize that Haass was once a "made man" in the Bush foreign policy mafia.

In Bush I, from 1989-1993, Haass was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs on the staff of the National Security Council. In 1991, Haass was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal for his contributions to the development and articulation of U.S. policy during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He wrote a book about his first-hand experience, The Reluctant Sheriff: The United States after the Cold War.The ideas in that 1998 book, in fact, justify the current Bush's vision of multilateralism:
Haass suggests that the United States will often need to assume the role of global sheriff, forging coalitions or posses of states and others for specific tasks.
The powerful US sheriff can round up a willing posse ("coalition of the willing") whenever there is trouble in world order.

In Bush II, Haass served until June 2003 as Director of Policy Planning for the Department of State, where he was a principal advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Haass, in other words, held the important seat once held by George Kennan, as the leader of State's "internal think tank." And like Kennan "vis-à-vis" the Soviet Union, Haass now favors a long-term, patient strategy that might bring "regime evolution," rather than "regime change" to unfriendly and non-democratic states.

November 23, 2003, as I previously noted, Haass wrote on op-ed for The Washington Post explaining that the latest Iraq invasion was a "war of choice," not of necessity. At the time, Haass was nervous because 400 American lives had been lost and $100 billion had been spent.

Apparently, Haass has now decided that it was a poor choice.

Better late than never.

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