Just As I Thought

Pentagon vs. State

An article in today’s Washington Post on the potential U.S. action on Iran once more shows that the State Department is increasingly irrelevant in the Bush era. The Pentagon seems to have supplanted the diplomatic corps, clearly showing the world that we are uninterested in diplomatic solutions, and will instead choose military action as our first course.

Senior Bush administration officials will meet Tuesday at the White House to discuss the evolving strategy toward the Islamic republic, with Pentagon officials pressing hard for public and private actions that they believe could lead to the toppling of the government through a popular uprising, officials said.

The State Department, which had encouraged some form of engagement with the Iranians, appears inclined to accept such a policy, especially if Iran does not take any visible steps to deal with the suspected al Qaeda operatives before Tuesday, officials said. But State Department officials are concerned that the level of popular discontent there is much lower than Pentagon officials believe, leading to the possibility that U.S. efforts could ultimately discredit reformers in Iran.

… “We’re headed down the same path of the last 20 years,” one State Department official said. “An inflexible, unimaginative policy of just say no.”

… Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld accused Iran of harboring al Qaeda members. “There’s no question but that there have been and are today senior al Qaeda leaders in Iran, and they are busy,” Rumsfeld said. Iranian officials, however, have vehemently denied that they have granted al Qaeda leaders safe haven in the country.

… A senior administration official who is skeptical of the Pentagon’s arguments said most of the al Qaeda members — fewer than a dozen — appear to be located in an isolated area of northeastern Iran, near the border with Afghanistan.

When, I wonder, is Colin Powell going to resign? I have the feeling that he was selected for State in part on the basis of his military career, judging from the importance Bush places on the military over diplomacy. Powell has been uncomfortable in the job all along, much like other Bush cabinet members (Christine Whitman comes to mind) – and I think he’s unhappy at abdicating his role to Donald Rumsfeld.
Oh, the subhead for this article was “Officials Cite al Queda Links, Nuclear Program.” Gee, sounds like a familiar refrain, doesn’t it? You’d think they’d come up with a new one, considering that it turned out to be untrue in Iraq.

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