Some things make sense about Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte’s move to serve as Condi’s Deputy at the State Department — and others don’t.
As I have written before, there has been a long-term, subterranean war between Negroponte and CIA Director Michael Hayden on one side and Don Rumsfeld and Defense Department Under Secretary Stephen Cambone on the other.
While the Director of National Intelligence had significant legislatively drawn authority to govern the nation’s intelligence portfolio, the defense department had the lion’s share of actual resources.
With someone as bureaucratically skilled and as self-focused as Donald Rumsfeld, anyone would have difficulty working out an arrangement on intelligence bureaucracy management with him — even Negroponte. But Rumsfeld and Cambone are out.
Mike Hayden, former Director of the National Security Agency and Deputy Director of National Intelligence and now Director of Central Intelligence, was a key ally of Negroponte in trying to wrestle back from DoD control of the intelligence machinery that were legally to work at the direction of the Directorate of National Intelligence.
In the rivalry between quietly feuding camps around Bush, Negroponte was informally close to Condi Rice and was part of the anti-Cheney/Rumfeld camp.
What does make sense about Negroponte’s appointment to succeed Robert Zoellick as Deputy Secretary of State is that he is a valuable bureaucratic manipulator. And Condi needs someone to give her both foreign policy intellectual heft as well as “bureaucratic power” heft. Negroponte — who is a long time foreign service officer who also served as US Ambassador to the United Nations and was our first post-Bremer Ambassador to Iraq before becoming the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Intel Czar — adds enormous power to Condi’s force projection in White House circles.
That said, what does not make sense about the appointment is that with Condoleezza Rice at State, some allies at the NSC, Michael Hayden at CIA, Robert Gates at Defense, and Negroponte as DNI, the correlation of forces in place to check the considerable embedded bureaucratic power of Vice President Cheney and his acolytes was formidable.
The government has moved chairs around and now has to fill the DNI role, perhaps with Michael Hayden — though rumors abound that McConnell may be up. But this also leaves open the chance that a neocon hardliner or fellow traveler could now be appointed to this post. Someone like Elliott Abrams comes to mind, and that would be a disaster.
So in helping her own hand, Rice may have actually weakened, somewhat, the overall ability of those who know a new kind of diplomacy is needed in the Middle East to take back the helm of Bush administration foreign policy.
I wish Negroponte success — and Condi’s team — particularly if they wise up about their counter-productive resistance to building Syria and Iran negotiations into their next round of Middle East negotiations.
But when I saw Negroponte recently at the home of the British Ambassador and told him as I departed that I hoped he had some new ideas to help solve our Iraq mess, he responded, “Don’t hold your breath.”
— Steve Clemons