George W. Bushs reŽlection was not his only victory last fall. The President and his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities strategic analyses and covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state. Bush has an aggressive and ambitious agenda for using that controlagainst the mullahs in Iran and against targets in the ongoing war on terrorismduring his second term. The C.I.A. will continue to be downgraded, and the agency will increasingly serve, as one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon put it, as facilitators of policy emanating from President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. This process is well under way.
Despite the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the Bush Administration has not reconsidered its basic long-range policy goal in the Middle East: the establishment of democracy throughout the region. Bushs reŽlection is regarded within the Administration as evidence of Americas support for his decision to go to war. It has reaffirmed the position of the neoconservatives in the Pentagons civilian leadership who advocated the invasion, including Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Douglas Feith, the Under-secretary for Policy. According to a former high-level intelligence official, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after the election and told them, in essence, that the naysayers had been heard and the American people did not accept their message. Rumsfeld added that America was committed to staying in Iraq and that there would be no second-guessing.
This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone, the former high-level intelligence official told me. Next, were going to have the Iranian campaign. Weve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrahweve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.
Bush and Cheney may have set the policy, but it is Rumsfeld who has directed its implementation and has absorbed much of the public criticism when things went wrongwhether it was prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib or lack of sufficient armor plating for G.I.s vehicles in Iraq. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have called for Rumsfelds dismissal, and he is not widely admired inside the military. Nonetheless, his reappointment as Defense Secretary was never in doubt.
Rumsfeld will become even more important during the second term. In interviews with past and present intelligence and military officials, I was told that the agenda had been determined before the Presidential election, and much of it would be Rumsfelds responsibility. The war on terrorism would be expanded, and effectively placed under the Pentagons control. The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia.
The Presidents decision enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off the booksfree from legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A. Under current law, all C.I.A. covert activities overseas must be authorized by a Presidential finding and reported to the Senate and House intelligence committees. (The laws were enacted after a series of scandals in the nineteen-seventies involving C.I.A. domestic spying and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders.) The Pentagon doesnt feel obligated to report any of this to Congress, the former high-level intelligence official said. They dont even call it covert opsits too close to the C.I.A. phrase. In their view, its black reconnaissance. Theyre not even going to tell the cincsthe regional American military commanders-in-chief. (The Defense Department and the White House did not respond to requests for comment on this story.)
In my interviews, I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran. Everyone is saying, You cant be serious about targeting Iran. Look at Iraq, the former intelligence official told me. But they say, Weve got some lessons learnednot militarily, but how we did it politically. Were not going to rely on agency pissants. No loose ends, and thats why the C.I.A. is out of there.
For more than a year, France, Germany, Britain, and other countries in the European Union have seen preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon as a race against timeand against the Bush Administration. They have been negotiating with the Iranian leadership to give up its nuclear-weapons ambitions in exchange for economic aid and trade benefits. Iran has agreed to temporarily halt its enrichment programs, which generate fuel for nuclear power plants but also could produce weapons-grade fissile material. (Iran claims that such facilities are legal under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or N.P.T., to which it is a signator, and that it has no intention of building a bomb.) But the goal of the current round of talks, which began in December in Brussels, is to persuade Tehran to go further, and dismantle its machinery. Iran insists, in return, that it needs to see some concrete benefits from the Europeansoil-production technology, heavy-industrial equipment, and perhaps even permission to purchase a fleet of Airbuses. (Iran has been denied access to technology and many goods owing to sanctions.)
The Europeans have been urging the Bush Administration to join in these negotiations. The Administration has refused to do so. The civilian leadership in the Pentagon has argued that no diplomatic progress on the Iranian nuclear threat will take place unless there is a credible threat of military action. The neocons say negotiations are a bad deal, a senior official of the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) told me. And the only thing the Iranians understand is pressure. And that they also need to be whacked. http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/01/24/050124fa_fact