Condi Rice is about to learn just how hard her new job will be. She already received a taste of partisan sniping with Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Mark Dayton (D-MN) calling her a liar during her confirmation hearings. And she?s undoubtedly getting an earful from Europeans this week whining about American ?unilateralism.?
But the most determined enemy the new Secretary of State will face is not across the pond or even across the aisle. No, her greatest threat comes from within the halls of Foggy Bottom, in the form of the career Foreign Service.
And she?s already handed them their first victory.
Although Colin Powell was literally given a standing ovation when he arrived four years ago, President Bush has been reviled from the moment he uttered the phrase ?axis of evil.? So while the Foreign Service loved Bush?s Secretary of State, they hated his boss. Everyone knows this, too, thanks to myriad quotes from anonymous State Department officials in the New York Times and elsewhere during the campaign.
State Department careerists opposed the war in Iraq, but their contempt for Bush is more deeply rooted in what they deem his Pollyanna-ish worldview. They believe Bush's promotion of freedom is both naive and dangerous. They fear it will make America less popular at cocktail parties. They think it will threaten ?stability??a term as morally neutral as they come?in the Arab world and other tyrannies.
They see it as their job to stop Bush. During the last four years, they tried often.
Sometimes the undermining comes in the form of withholding valuable information. Two State Department officials learned in March 2003 that North Korea was reprocessing plutonium. The timing could not have been worse, however, because it was on the eve of talks State desperately wanted. If the Pentagon or the White House found out, the talks would be canceled. So State stayed silent. The White House and Pentagon were blindsided with the news at the talks.
Sometimes, though, State battles Bush more directly. On February 26, 2003, the State Department released a report?which was leaked to the LA Times?called ?Democracy Domino Theory: Not Credible.? On the same day, Bush laid out his vision for, well, a democracy domino theory in the Arab world.
Even after the successful election in Iraq, most State Department officials are secretly preparing to say, ?I told you so.?
Conventional wisdom has it that Condi was sent over to State to put a sock in it. No matter how much she wants reform, though, achieving it will be near-impossible.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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