Wolfowitz on the Rebound

Back to Team Bush?

Last summer, when Paul Wolfowitz was forced to resign as president of the World Bank because he obtained a high-paying promotion for his female companion, Shaha Riza, a Middle East expert at the bank, he was welcomed back with open arms by his old comrades at the Washington, D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute. Wolfowitz’s retreat to the conservative philanthropy sponsored think tank that has placed dozens of its staffers within the Bush administration gave him the opportunity to await an opening to rejoin his comrades in government.

In early December, Wolfowitz’s time for public service came round again. Now, the former deputy defense secretary who was one of the chief architects of the Iraq war, will apparently be serving under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

According to several media reports, Wolfowitz has been offered a position as chairman of the International Security Advisory Board — formerly known as the Arms Control and Nonproliferation Advisory Board — a prestigious State Department panel. The 18-member panel, which has access to highly classified intelligence, advises Rice on disarmament, nuclear proliferation, WMD issues and other matters. Wolfowitz will replace former senator Fred Thompson, who quit over the summer to run for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

Newsweek magazine’s Michael Isikoff reported that Wolfowitz “forged a relationship with Rice during the 2000 presidential campaign, when they both served as top foreign-policy advisers to the then candidate Bush.”

It is unclear how much influence Wolfowitz will have as chairman of the International Security Advisory Board. Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, told Media Transparency in a telephone interview that it “is an advisory board, there’s a year left in this administration, and it is not an especially influential position.”

“A lot of people provide advice,” Kimball added, “but it is unlikely that he will have decision-making authority.”

“Wolfowitz will get some image redemption being back in the White House and involved with foreign policy, with a title to his name and access to and the blessings of Bush, Cheney and presumably Rice,” John Stauber, the founder of the Center for Media and Democracy whose website SourceWatch has an extensive article on Paul Wolfowitz, told Media Transparency via an e-mail exchange.

Stauber pointed out that since this “is a lame duck Administration responsible for the biggest foreign policy disaster in US history,” it is probably having “a difficult time filling positions because no one wants to book a ride on a doomed vessel.”

There is still a lot of unfinished Bush Administration business that Wolfowitz may get involved with, including dealing with Iran and Syria, and relations with Russia.

In his book “The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger,” Jonathan Schell writes: “[George W.] Bush’s demotion of diplomatic treaties and his elevation of force … tore at the web of arms control treaties that had grown up over four decades. … He declined to revive the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty … and … announced the United States withdrawal from the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty. He also … weakened the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and left it to Under Secretary of State John Bolton to declare that ‘obligations of the nuclear powers to fulfill their disarmament commitments under Article Six (of the NPT) ‘did not exist,'”

When George Herbert Walker Bush was Director of the Central Intelligence Agency — in the midst of the cold war and several years before he became Ronald Reagan’s vice president and then president himself — he assembled teams of “outside experts” who were charged with examining highly classified data used by the intelligence community to assess Soviet strategic forces in the yearly National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs).

There were three teams, according to Anne Hessing Cahn’s article in the April 1993 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists titled “Team B: The Trillion Dollar Experiment”: “One studied Soviet low-altitude air defense capabilities, one examined Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) accuracy, and one investigated Soviet strategic policy and objectives.”

Cahn, a political author and former US intelligence officer who was recently confirmed by the Senate as a member of the United States Institute of Peace’s board of directors, pointed out that the third team, commonly referred to as Team B, was chaired by Harvard professor Richard Pipes, and one of its members was Paul Wolfowitz, who was then at the Arms Control Agency.

“The hard truth about Wolfowitz’s supposed credentials as an arms control specialist is that he’s put his neoconservative ideology ahead of serious analysis for more than three decades, dating back to 1976 and his work as a ‘Team B’ critic of the CIA’s legendary Kremlinologists,” Robert Parry, editor of Consortiumnews.com and author of “Secrecy & Privilege,” which details how and why the CIA was politicized, told Media Transparency in an e-mail.

“Then, Wolfowitz was involved in exaggerating the military might of the Soviet Union while the CIA was seeing signs of Soviet decline and technological failures,” Parry noted. “Wolfowitz’s work set the stage for a massive U.S. arms buildup during the Reagan years and a sustained assault on the objectivity of the CIA’s analytical division. CIA analysts who had correctly spotted cracks in Soviet capabilities were purged, replaced by a mix of neocons, sycophants and dyed-in-the-wool Cold Warriors.”

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev proposed in Reykjavik to entirely abolish their nuclear arsenals. That proposal fell apart over the U.S.’s insistence that it continue testing what came to be called “Star Wars” — characterized by Jason Epstein, the former editorial director of Random House and the first recipient of the National Book Award for Distinguished Service to American Letters, as “a B-movie fantasy to erect a defensive shield of space-based lasers against hostile nukes.”

Wolfowitz has been a longtime supporter of “Star Wars,” known formally as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which after 20 years is still a bone of contention in relations between the U.S. and Russia. A major concern of Russia is the U.S.’s weaponization of space.

The “failure” of the CIA “to anticipate the Soviet collapse in the early 1990s can be traced to the politicization of the analytical division that Wolfowitz had helped set in motion,” Parry said.

“The Team B-instigated corruption of intelligence also was the precursor for the exaggerations of Iraq’s WMD threat in 2002-03. In a sense, Wolfowitz was there at the creation of the politicized CIA. Ironically, his reported return to the Bush administration comes as the CIA finally shows signs of shaking off the three-decade grip of politicization, with its startling analysis of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

A new consensus assessment from all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies has concluded Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program more than four years ago.

Interestingly, in April of this year, the International Security Advisory Board issued a document titled “Report on Space Policy,” which recognized that “space is of such critical importance to the United States, commercially and militarily, that it is a vital national interest,” and that this vital interest would be protected at all costs.

The report’s introduction pointed out that while the U.S. didn’t want to reap all the benefits of having a major presence in space, it does “rel[y] on space for scientific, civil, military, and intelligence purposes more than any other nation, and its dependency is growing. Other nations are certainly aware of this and some are knowledgeable about U.S. space vulnerabilities.”

“It would be imprudent to believe,” the report went on, “that means to exploit these vulnerabilities will be ignored or avoided by all governments and even non-state entities.”

The report also makes it clear that the U.S. “will take any action necessary to protect and preserve its rights, capabilities and freedom of action in space. This requires effective deterrence, defense, and, if necessary, denial of adversarial uses of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests.”

One of the other big issues remaining for the Bush presidency is whether or not it will “attack Iran or Syria and expand the war in the Middle East,” said John Stauber. “Or will Bush be content to oversee the current bloody quagmire and pass it on to the next President? Whatever the Administration decides to do, Wolfowitz is a team player with Bush and Cheney and he can perform any role they designate.”

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. Read other articles by Bill.