Springtime for Spooks?
biggest source of speculation about President George W. Bush's foreign
policy in a second term is if it will continue on the same aggressive
trajectory that marked the first, or whether, chastened by Iraq,
it will be more restrained over the next four years.
will, of course, depend on who will get which positions in the new
administration. If, as anticipated, Secretary of State Colin Powell
and his deputy Richard Armitage decide to leave the government,
a number of key posts will be up for grabs.
capital's odds-makers are already taking bets on the outcome, with
early indications that neoconservatives and the hardline nationalists
who led the drive to war in Iraq and now favor confrontation with
Iran, Syria, North Korea, and other possible adversaries may actually
extend control over key policymaking levers, especially in the National
Security Council (NSC) staff and the State Department.
close observer of the speculation, James Mann of the Center for
Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), divides the major schools
of thought into "doomsayers" those who believe
Bush's second term "is likely to produce further military interventions
overseas, along the lines of Iraq in 2003" and "skeptics"
those who argue the second term "will turn out to be
more cautious and less belligerent."
author of Rise
of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet, predicts
in an article in the foreign policy section of the Web site of the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that the skeptics are
likely to prevail.
is not because the administration will be less hawkish in temperament;
indeed, everything Bush has said since his reelection would suggest
the opposite but rather because it faces "a series of
constraints military, diplomatic, political and economic
that will curb its ability to launch new preventive wars,"
the U.S. Armed Forces are so bogged down in Iraq with no discernible
end in sight, asks Mann, "where is the administration going
to come up with the troops for new military ventures in places such
as Syria? ... Any effort to commit U.S. forces elsewhere is likely
to run into intense resistance among the uniformed military, from
the joint chiefs of staff down to the rank-and-file."
sees these constraints as dictating a more "realist" and
multilateral approach, such as that long urged by Powell and former
national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, even if the more-aggressive
vision of U.S. global military domination remains at the heart of
the new team.
he does allow that the administration may still try to "wield
its military power in a way that doesn't require a lot of troops,
such as through air strikes," an option that has already been
contemplated for nuclear-related targets in Iran and North Korea.
is clearly himself right on target, but he fails to mention another
form of intervention that is poised to become the instrument of
choice in the new term: covert action carried out by a reinvigorated
and much more richly endowed clandestine service of the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon's Special Operations
annual intelligence budget has reportedly increased from just under
$30 billion four years ago to around $40 billion for fiscal year
2005. While most of that money is earmarked for Pentagon agencies
that collect intelligence through satellites and other technical
means, Congress has called for a major buildup in human intelligence
and covert capabilities, which stands to benefit the CIA's clandestine
service in particular.
the new CIA director, former Representative Porter Goss, is reportedly
moving quickly to build up the clandestine service, apparently in
hopes of returning it to its 1960s glory days, when he worked in
its Latin America operations.
directorate of operation [DO] people are very pleased with his arrival,"
said Melvin Goodman, a retired career CIA analyst who retains close
ties to the agency. "He's taking the line that covert action
is important, that the agency has to be more imaginative, and that
he feels there are plenty of opportunities [for covert action] out
the same time, added Goodman, Goss is purging the analytical ranks
in the CIA who were thought to be too critical of, if not disloyal
to, the administration's policy line in the first term, and hiring
as consultants former senior operations officers who were active
in the 1980s, when former CIA Director William Casey was running
several covert wars against alleged Soviet clients as part of the
Reagan Doctrine (of former President Ronald Reagan, 19811989).
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has made it clear that the SOC,
which currently manages close to 50,000 Special Operations Forces
(SOF) worldwide, is to play a preeminent role in the military's
"transformation" to a 21st-century fighting force and
especially in the "war on terror."
unlike the CIA, which is subject to fairly strict congressional
oversight and can only carry out a major covert action if the president
makes a formal "finding" authorizing it, SOF units, whose
actions are not technically considered "covert action,"
may operate with a much freer hand overseas, except when operating
under the CIA's control, as was the case during the agency's Afghanistan
has been pushing steadily for more money and greater freedom of
action for SOC personnel, and he is succeeding in both. In just
two years the SOC's budget has almost doubled and now stands at
close to $7 billion for 2005.
for its freedom of action, the SOC has been upgraded from a "supporting"
command which lends out its personnel when regional commands
demand them to a "supported" command, which means
it can act as the leading force during war.
just last week the Pentagon secured new authority that allows SOF
to spend $25 million a year providing "support to foreign forces,
irregular forces, groups or individuals" aiding U.S. efforts
against terrorists and other targets, reported the Los Angeles
Times. Until now, that kind of activity has been limited to
the total amount of money involved is fairly small Rumsfeld
had asked for $50 million that it was approved by Congress
is seen by some observers as a first step by the Pentagon chief
toward greatly expanding the kinds of intelligence activities SOF
may carry out, in part to marginalize the CIA.
think that the timing for a new emphasis on covert operations is
favorable to the administration at this point because it has ramped
up the covert capabilities within the CIA and the [SOF]," said
John Prados, a prolific author on U.S. intelligence and foreign
added that the $25 million authorization for SOF to support irregular
forces suggests "the administration has specific activities
aspects of the Reagan administration that lent themselves to the
kind of manipulation that Casey performed are, in fact, present
in the current administration," he argued, citing "subordinate
officials who are in effect executing their own agendas, considerable
entrepreneurial laissez-faire in the bureaucracy, and the attitude
that the only question is, 'Can you get the job done?'"
in addition, Bush replaces Powell and other "realists"
with individuals more in tune with the aggressive unilateralism
that dominated policy after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,
the new team will have a number of advantages in pursuing a covert
agenda that Casey lacked, such as a Republican-led Congress, according
will have a more sympathetic Congress, a president who is more conscious
of what's going on but fully supportive, and a top layer of policymakers
who, instead of checkmating each other with bureaucratic stalemate,
will be pushing in the same direction."
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2004 Inter Press Service