Richard Armitage co-chaired with former Secretary of Defense Harold Brown my very first Council on Foreign Relations study group when I moved to Washington in the mid-1990s. He’s an interesting man — tied deeply into Japan affairs. But truth in advertising — Armitage and I have very different views of Japan’s path to normal nationhood.
But Armitage, as I have written before, turns out to have been an element of conscience in the first term of this Bush administration. He was one of the very few inhibitors to a neocon takeover of the foreign policy helm even before 9/11. Among his roster of important deeds was working with Asst. Secretary John Wolf and others to take down and expose the A.Q. Khan network — something for which many pundits incorrectly give John Bolton credit.
Armitage also worked closely with Paul Wolfowitz (yes, Wolfowitz) in highly tense, complex diplomacy to stop India and Pakistan from dropping nukes on each other. According to insiders, the chances of nuclear war were very high between India and Pakistan and Armitage really saved the day.
Armitage just collected a Knighthood from the Queen of England.
And today, it was announced that Armitage was elected to the board of directors of ConocoPhillips, one of the country’s largest oil companies.
Well, I’ve been working to ask Rich Armitage a few questions about his thoughts on the administration and have had trouble connecting. Perhaps Bartlesville, Oklahoma — my family’s home town — will be the venue for a productive TWN encounter with the former Deputy Secretary — and new Knight and oil man.
Phillips Petroleum, which was founded and headquartered until the Conoco merger in Bartlesville, makes up half of the ConocoPhillips empire, and many of the original Oklahoma executives are moving back from Houston (where they moved after the Conoco-Phillips merger) to Bartlesville.
To know this oil company, Armitage will have to visit Bartlesville and perhaps speak at the Tulsa Committee on Foreign Relations where I recently spoke. Good places, both, and very well informed audience in Tulsa.
So, I hope to connect with Sir Richard there and maybe show him some decent fishing spots along the Caney River and the old Johnstone oil well.
But do diplomats turned oil firm board members want prices to go up or to go down? Just as an aside, when you folks see Al Gore’s new film — which is stunningly good and opens June 2nd — called “An Inconvenient Truth“, keep in mind that Al Gore Sr. was a member of Occidental Petroleum’s board of directors — and Gore’s dad advocated drilling for oil along the fragile coastline of the Pacific Palisades in California.
That bit wasn’t in Gore’s otherwise excellent movie, but clearly becoming a board member on a major oil company may have an impact on Armitage’s view of the world.
We’ll see. More later.
— Steve Clemons