Frustration on the Administration’s “Third Option” Team


Hagel Steve Clemons Hauser.JPG
(Senator Chuck Hagel, Steve Clemons, and International Peace Academy Chair Rita Hauser)
Yesterday evening, I helped organize a private salon dinner with Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE). I’ll be posting more on the event later today — along with some other interesting news.
But I spoke during the day with someone else deeply involved with trying to carve out a course with Iran that is neither “appeasement” or “war.”
This person believes that Senator Hagel’s criticism of the administration’s current course on Iran does not encompass the reality (in this person’s view) that everything the Bush team is doing on Iran from tightened sanctions to the increasingly bellicose rhetoric are part of a “diplomatic strategy.”
I think that the “third option” team in the administration has a tough job — not only because any reasonable benchmarks of their work do not seem to be producing the kind of tangible results needed to keep the “nuke ’em now and get it over with crowd” around Vice President Cheney at bay but because there are Iranian government interests as well as White House colleagues trying to undermine their work.
Hagel’s frustration with the White House is an important measure of how a sensible, grounded, informed American sees the potentially catastrophic results of the administration’s current course.
More later.

— Steve Clemons


11 comments on “Frustration on the Administration’s “Third Option” Team

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  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Thanks Pauline, that is in fact the text of the email I recieved, and I hope Steve has perused this thread and seen it. I had an extremely long day, and just signed back on to see Steve’s request. I am going to asume he’s seen your response.


  3. pauline says:

    This is probably not what you’re looking for, but Congressman Paul wrote yesterday —
    October 30, 2007
    Struggling for Relevance in Cuba: Still No Cigars
    by Rep. Ron Paul
    Since Raul Castro seems to be transitioning to a more permanent position of power, the administration has begun talking about Cuba policy again. One would think we would be able to survey the results of the last 45 years and come to logical conclusions. Changing course never seems to be an option, however, no matter how futile or counterproductive our past actions have been.
    The Cuban embargo began officially in 1962 as a means to put pressure on the communist dictatorship to change its ways. After 45 years, the Cuban economy has struggled, but Cuba’s dictatorship is no closer to stepping to the beat of our drum. Any ailments have consistently and successfully been blamed on U.S. capitalism instead of Cuban communism. They have substituted trade with others for trade with the U.S., and they are “awash” in development funds from abroad. Our isolationist policies with regard to Cuba, meanwhile, have hardly won the hearts and minds of Cubans or Cuban-Americans, many of whom are isolated from families because this political animosity.
    In the name of helping Cubans, the U.S. administration is calling for multibillions of taxpayer dollars in foreign aid and subsidies for Internet access, education, and business development for Cubans under the condition that the Cuban government demonstrates certain changes. In the same breath, they claim lifting the embargo would only help the dictatorship. This is exactly backward. Free trade is the best thing for people in both Cuba and the U.S. Government subsidies would enrich those in power in Cuba at the expense of already overtaxed Americans!
    The irony of supposed free-marketeers inducing communists to freedom with government handouts should not be missed. We call for a free and private press in Cuba while our attempts to propagandize Cubans through the U.S.-government-run Radio/TV Marti have wasted $600 million in American taxpayer dollars.
    It’s time to stop talking solely in terms of what’s best for the Cuban people. How about the wishes of the American people, who are consistently in favor of diplomacy with Cuba? Let’s stop the hysterics about the freedom of Cubans — which is not our government’s responsibility — and consider freedom of the American people, which is. Americans want the freedom to travel and trade with their Cuban neighbors, as they are free to travel and trade with Vietnam and China. Those Americans who do not wish to interact with a country whose model of governance they oppose are free to boycott. The point being: it is Americans who live in a free country, and as free people we should choose whom to buy from or where to travel — not our government.
    Our current administration is perceived as irrelevant, at best, in Cuba and the message is falling on deaf ears there. If the administration really wanted to extend the hand of friendship, they would allow the American people the freedom to act as their own ambassadors through trade and travel. Considering the lack of success government has had in engendering friendship with Cuba, it is time for government to get out of the way and let the people reach out.
    see —


  4. Steve Clemons says:

    POA — do you mind sending me Ron Paul’s Cuba Statement by email? best, Steve


  5. pauline says:

    According to Marcy, real diplomacy with Iran looks like just got pinned to the floor.
    “I’ve imagined (and it’s largely imagination) that Condi’s little PR campaign of the last week was a desperate attempt to stave off DOD control over State’s bodyguards–an attempt to retain an army for the exclusive use of the State Department. Condi went to (for her) unheard of lengths to try to play nice and pretend that State could manage a very large band of mercenaries.”
    “Is it just coincidence that the effort ends as it becomes clear that State tried to cover-up the September 16 killings?”
    “All State Department security convoys in Iraq will now fall under military control, the latest step taken by government officials to bring Blackwater Worldwide and other armed contractors under tighter supervision.”
    “Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates agreed to the measure at a lunch on Tuesday after weeks of tension between their departments over coordination of thousands of gun-carrying contractors operating in the chaos of Iraq.”
    “Mr. Gates appears to have won the bureaucratic tug-of-war, which accelerated after a Sept. 16 shooting in central Baghdad involving guards in a Blackwater convoy who Iraqi investigators say killed 17 Iraqis. Military coordination of contractor convoys will include operations of not only Blackwater, formerly known as Blackwater USA, but also those of dozens of other private firms that guard American diplomats, aid workers and reconstruction crews.”
    “Much as I may believe that Condi is an incompetent jerk, this is not a good thing. It means that anything State tries to do will be beholden to the political interests of those running DOD. This was a fatal problem in summer 2003–when Rummy was able to pre-empt Colin Powell’s more mature plans for Iraqi reconstruction by withholding logistical support. And it may become a fatal problem to Condi’s attempts to support diplomacy over bombing. I’ve long believed this fight was about retaining the mercs in Iraq long enough to defend the military in the event of bombing campaign in Iran, and DOD control over the mercenaries makes this an easier scenario.”
    “In other words, Condi’s charm offensive appears to have failed. Gates has won the round. And that may well mean the advocates of diplomacy have lost the critical round.”
    more at —


  6. jon says:

    Third way? You are probably referring to sanity and the traditions of the US foreign policy establishment, which seem to have been effectively AWOL these past years. It must be tough being one of the holdovers, trying to keep the keel on the bottom of the vessel as the ship passes through the storms, rudderless.
    Steve, I really appreciate the difficult work you’re doing. You are the voice for a lot of disaffected and demoralized people at State. You’re doing an excellent job preparing the ground for needed changes and limiting the damage in the interim. But this ‘Third Way’ construct doesn’t seem so well thought through, or supported by the facts.
    The best allies that sanity has right now are probably outside the US. Although the larger business community probably does not want generalized calamity to befall us. The recent actions of russia, China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, plus the wheels coming off Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq also serve a sobering role in restraining the neocon’s hand.
    And who, exactly, is arguing for the ‘appeasement’ of Iran? Their nuclear program is being brought under the existing, international regulatory protocol, and there is no evidence that they are engaging in a nuclear weapons program. Yes, they had initiated this in secret, probably from concern of the US reaction.
    If the international nuclear safeguards are inadequate – and I would argue that they are far too lax – then they should be tightened for all nations. US behavior towards Israel, Pakistan and India show that there are multiple standards being applied.
    Any ‘Third Way’ will have to consist of working to expunge the most politicized appointees, hunkering down to try to survive, working with other states and NGOs, and prodigious leaking. And highly publicized resignations. Maybe some monkey wrenching.
    The administrations ‘policy’ orientation is naked power politics, and favoring unrestricted trade, extractive industries, their friends, and defense industries. They don’t want peace between Israel and the Palestinians. They are actively working to increase conflict throughout the Middle east and Islamic states. Any diplomacy or reliance on international structures is nothing more than a tactical feint. Foreign policy decisions are not crafted, refined or made at State, not now and not during this administration.
    Real men’s diplomacy doesn’t require parking three air craft carrier groups on someone’s doorstep. All hat and no cattle, that’s all they’ve got.


  7. John Shreffler says:

    Maybe if the “third option” involved real diplomacy it might have a chance. As things stand, it consists totally of threats and pressures and has never had serious negotiations in it at all. It’s been this way since Rice announced that talks could only be held with the precondition that Iran yield enrichment, ostensibly the US goal all along. Of course the Iranians refused. They hold the cards here and don’t need to back off. Oil is nearing $100 a barrel, our Iraq garrison is vulnerable to their counter-measures from Baghdad back to the Straits of Hormuz, the list goes on and on. Rice has enabled Cheney, who set up her diplomacy to fail and so it has. War soon.


  8. JohnH says:

    And I should add that the “third option” folks should count elements of the military as their natural allies, too. These folks, some of the few sane people remaining inside the Beltway, need all the help they can get.


  9. JohnH says:

    Maybe the “third option” team ought to try bringing the weight of international opinion to bear, specifically in the United Nations. Once again, Bush is trying to marginalize El Baradei, the Russians, Chinese, and public opinion in Europe and in the muslim world. In addition, the Gulf States can’t be happy with the prospect of another war, since this one could have dire consequences for them.
    Instead of wasting their time with the DC foreign policy mafia, it’s time for the “third option” folks to reach out to their natural allies around the world. Just talking to Repugs, Democraps, and the corporate media won’t get it done.


  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    BTW, Steve, I just recieved an email from Ron Paul’s campaign, with Paul’s position on Cuba. You really should look into it. If it was Obama or Hillary making such position statements on Cuba, it might warrant mention here by you. Perhaps you can credit him anonomously, and your readers can guess as to which candidate’s position seems to mirror your own. Who knows, bunch of them might get it wrong, and actually credit the dynamic duo with such independent thinking.
    Just don’t tell anyone in the press about it, we’d hate to deviate from the official roster of who the Walmarketeers will allow us to put into the Oval Office.


  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “This person believes that Senator Hagel’s criticism of the administration’s current course on Iran does not encompass the reality (in this person’s view) that everything the Bush team is doing on Iran from tightened sanctions to the increasingly bellicose rhetoric are part of a “diplomatic strategy.””
    Yeah, well, he musta missed Bush’s prewar “diplomatic strategy” as it applied to Iraq. Has he noticed they’re identical “strategies”?


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