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December 18, 2000 in Information, Analysis and News : U.S. National Security : Policy
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President-elect G.W. Bush: Key Defense Appointments and Arms Control Policy

 

[The first of a series of articles to examine two of the Bush campaign’s defense cornerstones: missile defense and arms control. An in depth analysis of expected Bush staff members follows.]

 

Missile Defense

            President-elect George W. Bush is unabashed in his support of a national missile defense system to protect the United States from an accidental or limited attack from nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. While the Clinton Administration had endorsed missile defense reluctantly after years of pressure from Congress and even signed a law making it official U.S. policy to deploy a missile defense system as soon as technologically feasible, it had insisted that the ultimate decision on missile defense depends on factors such as system affordability, the threat from “rogue states”, and the impact of missile defense on arms control agreements with Russia and relations with other countries.

            The green light on a missile defense should come early in the Bush presidency so as to have the introductory, $30 billion system up and running by 2007 to meet projected threats from North Korea, Iran and Iraq. All indications show that Bush would push for missile defense, even though the Clinton Administration had no success in getting the Russians to accept American missile defense plans. Said Bush, “If elected President, my job would be to convince the Russians and other countries why employing a missile defense system is the right step to take.” He has said he would consider exercising the withdrawal option in the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, signed in 1972 with the now non-existent Soviet Union, if the Russians fail to agree to amendments allowing missile defense systems, a potential strategic landmine as the Russians still maintain a formidable nuclear arsenal that could be used in a counterattack. Also, Bush wants a far more ambitious missile defense system than the land-based system of 100 interceptors in the Clinton proposal. His would protect not only the 50 states, but U.S. forces and allies abroad. The extensive plan is not without a significant cost. Most experts believe that such a system would necessarily have to involve Navy ships and possibly space-based interceptors. One independent estimate has placed the cost of the system at between $100-120 billion. An expanded missile defense would take additional years of research and development, during which time the Russians and Chinese could either counter the technologies or simply build more missiles to overwhelm the defense. Opponents of the national missile defense system often portray it as too complicated and too expensive, in addition to their concern over potential violations of the ABM Treaty. If Bush is willing to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, he might well consider the plusses of the Navy’s Theater-Wide paln that takes advantage of the many destroyers and cruisers alrady equipped with the AEGIS radar and battle management system. However, Bush would be hard-pressed to pass such an ambitious agenda with an evenly divided Senate and a razor-thin Republican majority in the House. An expansive system could also prove a drain on other priorities such as a tax cut or Social Security.

            Some argue that Bush’s plan challenges the longtime orthodoxy of arms control: that prohibiting defenses limits offenses. One opinion offered is that abrogation of the ABM Treaty will provoke an international crisis, not just with China and Russia, but with our country’s closest allies. Bush could risk delving into a major controversy in his first year while military benefits would likely only come after his presidency. Eventually, Bush may succeed in developing a plan for the deployment of theater defenses, or he could develop joint systems with the Russians, or perhaps after deep cuts in nuclear weapons are implemented, he might negotiate modifications to the treaty that would permit the limited national missile defense system.

            Nevertheless, despite all the risks of adopting such a comprehensive plan, in a pre-election Reuters/Zogby poll, respondents strongly favored the Bush plan to Vice President Gore’s. This public sentiment should aid in the launch of a Bush NMD program which the Army whole-heartedly supports and predicts implementation by 2006.

 

Arms Control

 

            Bush’s position on arms control is less certain than on other matters. Besides the possibility of abrogating the ABM Treaty with Russia, Bush has said that he favors reducing arsenals below the 3,000 to 3,500 warheads negotiated under the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START II. However, he has not indicated that he would go as low as the proposed START III levels of 2,000 or 2,500. Bush has been purposely vague on the amounts of cuts he would make, so as to avoid confrontation with U.S. military leaders who want to maintain at least 2,000 warheads. He has gone so far as to say that U.S. Russian ratification of the START agreements “is not our most pressing challenge.” Furthermore, Bush has emphasized that he would never make any reductions that the Pentagon did not endorse. In May, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with Admiral Richard W. Miews, the Commander of the Strategic Force, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that they would oppose any further reductions in warheads beyond START III, something that Russia has proposed.

            Bush has also indicated that passage of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is not necessary, noting that “In the hard work of halting proliferation, the CTBT is not the answer…The CTBT does not stop proliferation, especially to renegade to regimes. It is not verifiable. It is not enforceable. And it would stop us from ensuring the safety and reliability of our nation’s deterrent, should the need arise. On these crucial matters, it offers only false words and false hopes and high intentions-with no guarantees whatever. We can fight the spread of nuclear weapons, but we cannot wish them away with unwise treaties.” Bush endorses continuing the moratorium on testing.

            Bush also plans for “substantially” increased funding for the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to assist former Soviet Republics pay for the dismantling of nuclear weapons and deal with the nuclear materials.

Bush favors de-alerting American nuclear forces, arguing that the present posture has unacceptable risks of accidental or unauthorized launch, noting “The United States should remove as many weapons as possible from high-alert, hair-trigger status-another unnecessary vestige of Cold War confrontation.” A number of Bush’s advisers believe there is little reason to field more than a thousand strategic nuclear weapons. Thus there is every reason to believe that Bush would quickly and sharply reduce deployed nuclear forces, with or without treaty agreement, and without a conservative backlash because, besides being a matter of increased trust among congressmen, the far right has no place to go politically in the next Congress.

            Basically, the Bush arms control strategy will focus on reducing U.S. nuclear stockpiles to their “lowest possible number” without sacrificing readiness or security levels, measured cooperation with Russia on the START and Nunn-Lugar agreements while dealing with the ABM issue, and rejection of the CTBT. Perhaps the best assessment of the Bush arms control policy comes from the new president himself, who said, “Arms reductions are not our most pressing challenge.”

 

The Supporting Cast

            Bush often noted to audiences on the stump that they were not only electing a president, but an administration. To get a clearer picture of how the Bush administration will operate, a closer look at his closest advisors, on whom he relies greatly upon for policy formation, is necessary.

 

Dick Cheney

            Vice President-elect Cheney represented Wyoming in the House from 1979-1989. Cheney consistently voted for President Reagan's foreign policy agenda. A steadfast supporter of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), Cheney also backed military funding of the Contras, as well as the rebels in Afghanistan and Angola.

            After the Senate rejected Texas Sen. John Tower as Secretary of Defense in 1989, President George Bush nominated Cheney for the post. Sailing through the confirmation process, his first task as the new Defense Secretary was to trim $10 billion from the defense budget. However, his biggest test came in forming a coalition to help execute Operation Desert Storm, the nation's largest military operation since Vietnam.

            Cheney, currently on leave from JINSA’s Board of Advisors, is widely credited for persuading Saudi Arabia to allow American ground troops and war planes in their country, vital elements to the U.S. victory. He also lobbied within the Bush administration for a large military operation. At the 1992 JINSA Jackson Award dinner which included Maj. Gen. David Ivry, then Israel’s Director General of the Defense Ministry, Cheney publicly thanked the Jewish state for its 1981 bombing of the Osirak Reactor. Due to Israel’s foresighted action, Cheney said, American forces did not face a nuclear-armed Iraq in the war. It was the first time Israel received public credit for the bombing.

            Also worth exploring is Cheney's managerial style as Secretary of Defense. Sometimes, Cheney was very interventionist, while at other moments he left military matters up to the military and allowed generals and admirals under his control to work out policies. Within a week at the helm, Cheney fired Air Force Gen. Larry Welch for privately negotiating with Congress to update the Air Force's nuclear arsenal. Edwin Dorn, an Undersecretary of Defense for President Clinton said, "Cheney clearly did that merely to show he was in charge…Larry was doing what every service chief does. Cheney knew that, but he, I believe, wanted to send a message to the services.” And while Cheney told former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin Powell, to "stick to military matters" when questioned about the policy of going to war, after the Gulf War Cheney deferred to Congress on efforts to increase the role of women in the armed forces and to military leaders who opposed gays in the armed forces.

            Cheney, CEO of Halliburton Company, a diversified energy services company, before his vice-presidential nomination, applied the same business sense he used in the private sector while Secretary of Defense. After the Soviet threat subsided, Cheney oversaw 25 percent cuts in the armed forces. These cuts included such programs as the Seawolf attack submarine, the V-22 tiltrotor aircraft and the A-12 stealth naval attack plane. During the campaign, Bush often cited a “military in decline”, yet nearly two-thirds of the decline in defense spending during the Clinton administration was put in place by Dick Cheney under President Bush, according to former Clinton Secretary of Defense William Perry. In his defense, Cheney lamented making such massive cuts but had to abide by President Bush who saw cuts as means of avoiding more tax increases after violating his “Read my lips, no new taxes” pledge.

Nevertheless, Cheney worked to foster a business environment at the Pentagon that still resonates today. For example, members of Cheney's staff launched the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, which runs the Pentagon 's payroll, bill-paying and other book-keeping, finance and accounting systems for the entire Defense Department. And while Cheney, a longtime backer of a large military, took the lead from Congress in developing incentives for soldiers to retire early, he let Powell decide how much each branch of the military should be cut.

            Perhaps retired Army Colonel and Professor Emeritus of military history at Embry-Riddle University, Paul Braim, put it best when he summed up Cheney's leadership policy as Secretary of Defense as "He deferred to the military in their judgment but he was the man in charge."

 

Presumptive Secretaries of Defense

 

            Like President Clinton's choice of William Cohen, Bush had hoped to cross party lines as a show of bipartisanship in his choice of Secretary of Defense. However, the Bush team's desired choice, former Senator Sam Nunn (D-Georgia), withdrew himself from consideration leaving the field wide-open.

            Former Republican Senator Dan Coats of Indiana has caught the eye of the Bush team. A former member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Coats was a powerful voice for increased defense spending, but also for reforming the military to meet post-Cold War challenges. In 1998, he told the service chiefs at a hearing, "I'm all for more money, but I don’t think more money is going to address the fundamental underlying problems."

            Coats was instrumental in gaining Pentagon support to fold the former U.S. Atlantic Command into today's Joint Forces Command, Norfolk, Va., which is responsible for all joint experimentation within the Department of Defense. Said James Blaker, former advisor to the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "Coats has been the one to keep the notion of true joint experimentation alive."

            Fueling speculation was Coats' November 28 meeting with a three-member Army team, headed by the colonel who runs the Army's transformation office, an unusual privilege granted to a private citizen. The meeting focused on the recent decision to award the Army's new light-armored-vehicle contract to General Dynamics Corp. The vehicle is the centerpiece of the Army's planned transformation to a lighter, more rapidly deployable force. In addition to discussing the new vehicle, which runs on wheels instead of treads, the officials also discussed the Army's broader transformation strategy. Coats is said to be seeking the job enthusiastically and has the strong support of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.

            Paul Wolfowitz, Dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, is thought to be the other front runner. A State Department official in the Reagan administration and Undersecretary of Defense in the elder Bush's cabinet, Wolfowitz helped advise the younger Bush on national security issues. According to the New York Times, Wolfowitz argued that the U.S. should support NATO military action to protect Kosovar Albanians - and Bush agreed. In the Persian Gulf, Mr. Wolfowitz has not ruled out using American troops to support Iraqi insurgents in toppling Saddam Hussein. Wolfowitz wrote, "It will take American forces to create a protected area in which opposition forces can organize and to which units from Saddam's army can defect. This policy is risky. But it is less risky than the present course, which is leading us to the day that we are obliged to face Saddam ourselves, when he is armed with weapons of unparalleled destructiveness." Even if passed over for Secretary of Defense, Wolfowitz will serve in some high level advisory position in the Bush administration.

            Also under consideration is Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. A Vietnam veteran, Ridge's potential nomination has been criticized by sources such as the National Review as "bad news" for his skepticism about missile defense while he served in Congress, among other issues. Other potential problems that could prevent Ridge from getting the nod include his opposition to President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, opposition to aiding the Nicaraguan Contra rebels and favorable comments about the nuclear freeze movement.

            Finally, a dark horse candidate is Norman Augustine, President and CEO of defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

 

The Vulcans

            Brandishing the self-proclaimed nickname the "Vulcans", George W. Bush's foreign policy team is an elite team of defense experts who held behind the scenes positions during the Reagan-Bush years. A seasoned cadre who, like Bush, champion internationalism, voice a tougher security approach to dealing with China and Russia, and promise an overhaul of spending and strategy. The focus of the armed forces will be staying prepared to fight and win wars, not delve into peacekeeping missions.

            Heading the team is Condoleeza Rice, Bush’s choice for Nationanl Security Advisor. Along with Paul Wolfowitz, Rice coordinated the foreign policy advising team. A provost at Stanford University, Rice was a Russian specialist on President Bush's National Security Council, and is the favorite for the National Security Advisor post.

            Rice will be central in shaping the Bush policy on Russia. She has chided the Clinton Administration for continuing to support economic assistance to the Russian government despite widespread evidence of graft. “The last thing you wanted to do was accept the rhetoric of reform…when there’s no evidence that the Russians were undertaking any of the difficult steps,” she said. Furthermore, has seared the Clinton administration for its coziness with Boris Yeltsin and for allowing its agenda to become “synonymous with the agenda of the President of Russia.” Generally, Rice believes U.S.-Russia relations should be reoriented to focus on security issues like nuclear disarmament rather than political and economic reform. Although she would halt talk of Russia as a strategic partner, she doesn’t seek confrontation. “Sometimes Russia’s interests will conflict with ours, and sometimes they will coincide,” she says.

            Besides Rice, the Bush team is composed of:

·      Richard Armitage-Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration and was the U.S. ambassador to the newly independent Soviet states during the Bush adminstration. Armitage caused a stir in Australia during the summer of 1998 when tensions in Asia ran high over the rejection by Taiwan's President, Lee Teng-hui, of the longstanding "one China" formula. He told the Australian Financial Review that "Australia must stand ready to give military support to the U.S. if Washington goes to war with China (over Taiwan)." Mr. Armitage emphasized that Washington did not want to go to war with China, and that there was a low risk of conflict, but if a misjudgment triggered fighting, he said, the United States would expect Australia to help with "the dirty, hard and dangerous work."

·      Robert Blackwill-Harvard professor, fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a specialist in European and Soviet affairs with the National Security Council and Rice's boss during the Bush administration.

·      Stephen Hadley-International lawyer and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy in the Bush administration.

·      Richard Perle-Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy in the Reagan adminstration, a director of the Jerusalem Post. Has advocated that the U.S. withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Treaty if Russia refuses to agree to allow both countries to employ systems to protect against long-range missile attacks - a position Bush embraces.

·      Dov Zakheim-Defense consultant and Undersecretary of Defense in the Reagan administration. Played a "key role in weapons procurement issues and strategic planning" according to the National Journal.

·      Robert Zoellick-International economics advisor, Harvard research scholar, Deputy Chief of Staff in the Bush White House.

 

This team of "Cold Warriors" combated the Soviet Union, worked as mediators in the reunification of Germany, invaded Panama, sent troops into Somalia, downsized the armed forces by 25 percent after the Cold War, and led Pentagon strategy during the Persian Gulf War. The Bush team has only one expert in international economics, Zoellick, and no specialists in Africa or Latin America. Acknowledged Rice, "If there's a weakness in the team, it's that its heavy on security issues."

Former Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz, Bush National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and Dick Cheney also advise George W. Bush.

 

Secretary of State

Retired General Colin Powell, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is Bush’s pick for Secretary of Defense. Powell is the embodiment of former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger's doctrine of cautious military engagement-committing U.S. troops overseas only if a vital national interest is at stake, and only with the full commitment of the American people to fight and win.


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