NeoCon In & Realist Out: Shuffling the Deck Chairs at the State Department


Stephen Krasner, Director of Policy Planning at the Department of State and one of Condi Rice’s mentors, will be departing his position within a month and returning to his tenured faculty position at Stanford University.
While Krasner the realist plans to depart, however, a neoconservative — Eliot Cohen — is moving into the Secretary’s suite as her Counselor.
Krasner, who is one of the leading realist intellectuals in the United States, was brought in by Rice to try and work some of his ideas through the policy process. Those around him and who admire his thinking and work report that Krasner did serve Secretary Rice well as one of her key “ideas guys” but that he had little stomach for constant combat with bureaucratic rivals over the course of policy.
The sources I spoke to said that Krasner did not know that the most obvious best idea didn’t automatically win the competitive games in and around the President and that any initiative required herculean, tenacious advocacy.
That said, Krasner — despite the “thrill” of the job has been pushed to the point of serious exhaustion — and needs to take both a mental and physical health break. Krasner just returned from Istanbul this week.
This writer also must note that Stephen Krasner’s office has not confirmed his departure; nor did staffers there deny it. I received a non-denial denial in which one of his colleagues said, “Steve is leaving? First I’ve heard of it.” Another person at State to whom I reported that I had heard rumors of his departure refused to comment other than saying “Now the rumor has reached us via your phone call.”
However, multiple close colleagues of Krasner have reported that Stanford will have him back soon.
But in another slot that Condi Rice had open among her close team was the Counselor position, vacated recently by University of Virgnia historian Philip Zelikow.
eliot cohen.jpg
Late last week, Secretary of State Rice shocked many by appointing a leading neoconservative intellectual, Eliot A. Cohen, as her Counselor. Cohen was a leading proponent of the Iraq War — and has only recently begun to critique — along with other leading neocons like Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, and David Frum — the Bush administration’s effort as one that has not gone as expected.
This article, “The Talented Mr. Cohen,” published by Ximena Ortiz at National Interest Online captures well the often-contradictory positions and statements Cohen has made on the Iraq war.
As reported in this piece by Jim Lobe, I believe that Cohen’s appointment is in part an effort to get someone past the Cheney foreign policy wing. Rice does not like to do direct battle with the Vice President and views personnel appointments as a way to inoculate herself and her efforts against sabotage from the Cheney team.
In other words, Cohen has joined Condi’s team both to create back-channel communications with Cheney’s spear-carriers but also to protect Condi from all-out assault from the Vice President.
When I queried another top-tier political and intellectual personality who works closely with Eliot Cohen, the response I received was that he was surprised Cohen would want the job at this point in the life-span of the Bush administration.
This person also stated that Cohen would probably take over much of the “democratization” and “how to do nation building” portfolios that Krasner was working on as Director of Policy Planning. According to this source, Eliot Cohen has been working on the subject of how to get democratization — the nuts and bolts of the process — right.
The net effect for Condi’s game plan though is that Cohen protecting her rear flank from Cheney’s assaults is probably more important than any thing new he might achieve in another risky R&D effort on nation-building.
On one other front, I have confirmed that Eliot Cohen will resign his position as an Executive Committee member of the journal, The American Interest.
More soon.
— Steve Clemons


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