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In the Shadow of the Oval Office (09 Edition)by Ivo H. Daalder
Synopses & ReviewsPlease note that used books may not include additional media (study guides, CDs, DVDs, solutions manuals, etc.) as described in the publisher comments.
The most solemn obligation of any president is to safeguard the nation's security. But the president cannot do this alone. He needs help. In the past half century, presidents have relied on their national security advisers to provide that help.
Who are these people, the powerful officials who operate in the shadow of the Oval Office, often out of public view and accountable only to the presidents who put them there? Some remain obscure even to this day. But quite a number have names that resonate far beyond the foreign policy elite: McGeorge Bundy, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice.
Ivo Daalder and Mac Destler provide the first inside look at how presidents from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush have used their national security advisers to manage America's engagements with the outside world. They paint vivid portraits of the fourteen men and one woman who have occupied the coveted office in the West Wing, detailing their very different personalities, their relations with their presidents, and their policy successes and failures.
It all started with Kennedy and Bundy, the brilliant young Harvard dean who became the nation's first modern national security adviser. While Bundy served Kennedy well, he had difficulty with his successor. Lyndon Johnson needed reassurance more than advice, and Bundy wasn't always willing to give him that. Thus the basic lesson — the president sets the tone and his aides must respond to that reality.
The man who learned the lesson best was someone who operated mainly in the shadows. Brent Scowcroft was the only adviser to serve two presidents, Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. Learning from others' failures, he found the winning formula: gain the trust of colleagues, build a collaborative policy process, and stay close to the president. This formula became the gold standard — all four national security advisers who came after him aspired to be "like Brent."
The next president and national security adviser can learn not only from success, but also from failure. Rice stayed close to George W. Bush — closer perhaps than any adviser before or since. But her closeness did not translate into running an effective policy process, as the disastrous decision to invade Iraq without a plan underscored. It would take years, and another national security aide, to persuade Bush that his Iraq policy was failing and to engineer a policy review that produced the "surge."
The national security adviser has one tough job. There are ways to do it well and ways to do it badly. Daalder and Destler provide plenty of examples of both. This book is a fascinating look at the personalities and processes that shape policy and an indispensable guide to those who want to understand how to operate successfully in the shadow of the Oval Office.
National security advisers come in different flavors, and for the past few weeks Washington has been trying to get a taste of James L. Jones, President Obama's pick for the job. Will he be the low-key Brent Scowcroft type, or the flamboyant and controlling Henry Kissinger type, or maybe the in-between Sandy Berger type? Jones' relationship with new Secretary of State Hillary Rodham... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) Clinton will go a long way toward answering that question. It could be all sweetness and light — with the ex-Marine general and former first lady walking hand in hand down foreign-policy lane — or it could degenerate into one of those ritual NSC-State Department battles, the striped-pants version of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. To recall how a "team of rivals" can come to blows, consider these spectacular face-offs: McGeorge Bundy vs. Dean Rusk under President John F. Kennedy; Kissinger vs. William Rogers in the Nixon years; Zbigniew Brzezinski vs. Cyrus Vance during the Carter administration. The bloodiest of all (for the nation, if not the principals) might have been Condoleezza Rice's effort to referee the triple-tag-team match among Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Scowcroft, who was national security adviser under presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush, had a rare talent for anonymity. He was a Jeeves-the-butler of foreign policy, steering the process gently and letting others take credit. But as Jones is already discovering, this is the hardest job in Washington. It requires a combination of decisiveness and invisibility. As Scowcroft once observed, the national security adviser "should be seen occasionally, heard even less." At the same time, the adviser must also enforce discipline and coherence. Jones has indicated that he wants to be a Scowcroft-style "honest broker" and avoid the turf wars of the past. Sounds great, but all recent national security advisers have said much the same thing. Almost by definition, this is a realm of big egos and big ideas; the stakes are huge, and as so many national security advisers have found, the issues are worth the battle. Jones has already made more news than the Scowcroft method would prescribe. He declared in a Feb. 8 interview that he intends to lead a "dramatically different" National Security Council from that of the Bush administration. According to The Post's Karen DeYoung, Jones plans to expand the NSC's scope to include "such department-spanning 21st century issues as cybersecurity, energy, climate change, nation-building and infrastructure." Such changes would be a dizzying expansion of the adviser's authority: The number of Cabinet members on the council itself would increase, and so, inevitably, would the staff that serves under Jones. It's a move that, in the hands of a less amiable gentleman than the retired general, would be described as a power grab. Whether this NSC reorganization goes down easily depends on Jones' boss, the president. If Obama likes it, Jones' skills as a facilitator should take care of the rest. As Jones frames his job, he should peruse the excellent new history of the national security adviser's position, "In the Shadow of the Oval Office." The authors, Ivo Daalder and I.M. Destler, combine an insider's focus on process with a scholar's distance and perspective: Daalder served on President Bill Clinton's NSC staff before joining the Brookings Institution, while Destler, a longtime academic expert on the NSC, is a professor at the University of Maryland. The book shows all the ways that national-security policy can go wrong, with the best of intentions. And it illustrates how the adviser's role has waxed and waned since the position was created in 1961. Strong, outspoken advisers like Kissinger have been followed by quiet, discreet ones like Scowcroft. Administrations where Cabinet secretaries have been dominant (and discordant), as was the case with Ronald Reagan, have been followed by tighter White House control, as during the Clinton years. The size of the NSC staff has gone up and down like a teeter-totter, with each new adviser reacting to the excesses of his predecessor. That history suggests that after relatively weak advisers under Bush, we're due for a Kissingerian putsch. But so far, Jones seems to have a lighter touch. What a cast of characters has occupied this post. Daalder and Destler take us back to the beginning in 1961 with Bundy, the Harvard faculty dean who was recruited by Kennedy to the new position of "special assistant to the president for national security." The idea was to make the White House more important in the policy process, and the individual Cabinet officers less so. Because of Bundy's advocacy of U.S. military escalation in Vietnam, he has come down to us as a man both bloodless and arrogant. ("Gray is the color of the truth," he supposedly observed.) But the authors show that Bundy encouraged a free-ranging policy debate that served JFK well. Lyndon Johnson disliked Bundy's Harvard manners, and replaced him with Walt Rostow, who was more pliant but no less bellicose on Vietnam. Then came Kissinger, the brilliant if sometimes devious adviser to Richard Nixon. Like Jones, he started with a plan to revamp the NSC. He made it more operational, creating secret "back channel" contacts with the Soviet Union, North Vietnam and, most spectacularly, with China. The Nixon-Kissinger secret diplomacy remains an astonishing story of benign trickery. To deceive his own staff about the clandestine 1971 journey to Beijing from a scheduled stop in Pakistan, Kissinger ordered three sets of briefing books distributed to his staff. Jones would be wise to bring such a Machiavellian touch to the Obama administration's plans for engaging Iran. Kissinger's staff knew who the real enemy was — the State Department! Rogers, the secretary of state, was deliberately kept out of the loop on key decisions. The formal NSC panel of Cabinet officers was neutered; it held just three meetings in 1972. Meanwhile Kissinger's staff grew and grew, increasing by over 80 percent from 1969 to 1971. Its operations were so secretive that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff planted a spy in Kissinger's midst so he would know what was going on. When Kissinger became secretary of state in 1973, he held onto the adviser post, too — no fool he! — and left daily management of the NSC to his deputy, Scowcroft. The retired Air Force general proved a masterful bureaucrat. He became the adviser in 1974 and kept the job in the Ford administration. Daalder and Destler rate Scowcroft "perhaps the best of presidential national security advisers." They quote his formula for success, delivered at a 1999 symposium: "(I)f you are not the honest broker, you don't have the confidence of other members of the NSC. If you don't have their confidence, then the system doesn't work, because they will go around you to get to the president and then you fracture the system." Next up was Brzezinski, a brilliant former academic in the mould of Kissinger. He had the advantage of a close relationship with his boss, Jimmy Carter. His disadvantage was that Carter had difficulty choosing between Brzezinski's hawkish views and Secretary of State Vance's more conciliatory line on arms control, detente with the Soviet Union and revolution in Iran. The result was a fierce and continuing battle over policy that finally led to Vance's resignation. Brzezinski was right to warn of the dangers of the Iranian revolution, and of aggressive Soviet policy that culminated in the invasion of Afghanistan. He crafted the beginnings of the alliance with China, Pakistan and the mujaheddin rebels that led to Moscow's eventual defeat in Afghanistan. But Daalder and Destler conclude that Brzezinski was "so driven by the desire to shape the substance of policy ... that he undercut his indispensable role in managing the process." The teeter-totter tipped again under Reagan, who was determined to reduce the national security adviser's role. He had six of them in all, including the two who presided over the Iran-Contra scandal, Robert C. "Bud" McFarlane and Adm. John Poindexter. Reagan sought comity by clipping the advisers' wings, but what he got was feuding between the strong secretaries of state and defense, George Shultz and Caspar Weinberger. Order was restored in 1989 with the return of the great facilitator, Scowcroft, in the Bush I administration. During those years, Scowcroft nudged along the demise of the Soviet Union and the defeat of Iraq in the Gulf War. And for good measure, he created the modern NSC structure that has continued to the present, with a "deputies committee" that provides day-to-day crisis management and a "principals committee" of Cabinet officers to make the big strategic decisions. The Clinton administration had two advisers who tried to emulate the Scowcroft model, Anthony Lake and Berger. This was not a period of great NSC innovation. But Jones should study Berger's "four rules for not killing each other" in interagency battles, quoted in a 1998 New York Times article (at a time when Berger was trying to coordinate with the peripatetic secretary of state, Madeleine Albright). The rules included: "No friendly fire" and "no policy by press conferences." Finally we come to the Bush II years. Daalder and Destler draw a devastating portrait of Rice's term as adviser. Cheney had created what amounted to his own national security staff in the vice president's office, and Rumsfeld essentially refused to carry out policies he didn't agree with. Rice couldn't resolve these disputes and her patron, George W. Bush, wouldn't intervene decisively to help her. She did better as secretary of state, the authors conclude. The unlikely success story that caps the book is Stephen Hadley, who served as adviser in Bush's second term. The self-effacing Hadley understood that Iraq was the decisive issue of Bush's presidency. Against the advice of the military brass and most of the foreign-policy elite, Hadley quietly crafted a review process that led to Bush's decision for a surge of troops in Iraq that helped stabilize the country. In the authors' words, Hadley achieved what Rice never could: "a reality-driven review of policy choices." In the end, an adviser's success depends on his relationship with the person down the hall in the Oval Office. Though Jones and Obama are of different ages and backgrounds, they both seem to like a low-key, deliberative process, and they share a passion for policy reviews. (In his first month, Jones launched three — on Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan-Pakistan.) It's hard to imagine the ex-Marine and the former law professor developing the intimate contact that Brzezinski had with Carter or Scowcroft with Bush, but time with tell. As the authors say, quoting the late diplomat George W. Ball, "nothing propinks like propinquity." David Ignatius is a Washington Post columnist. His discussions last year with former national security advisers Zbignew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft were published as "America and the World." Reviewed by David Ignatius, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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About the Author
Ivo Daalder served on the national security council staff in the Clinton administration and is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His most recent book, America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy (with James M. Lindsay), won the 2003 Lionel Gelber Prize.I. M. Destler is a professor at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. His previous books include the awardwinning American Trade Politics and (with Leslie Gelb and Anthony Lake) Our Own Worst Enemy: The Unmaking of American Foreign Policy.
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