- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Like the majestic ocean- liner Titanic, the Bush administration is sailing into its second term with an aura of invincibility. Winning a record number of votes and a 3.5 million electoral majority, 55 seats in the Senate and gains in the House and governorships, President Bush and the Republican Party believe they have a public mandate for the new term. The shuffling of cabinet posts, principally Dr. Condoleezza Rice as Colin Powell’s replacement at the State Department and Alberto Gonzales at Justice, has generated the buzz that the president is extending his grip from the White House across all of government. As Republicans look to the future, there are grounds for some euphoria.

But euphoria is a tenuous condition, especially when political icebergs are floating all around the ship of state. The fact that only small portions of each are visible conceals the extent and reality of the lurking dangers. Just within the national security structure, consider some of the possible collisions.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld most likely will stay at the Pentagon for some time. The war, and now the peace, in Iraq are the wolves closest to his sled that must be slain or incapacitated. That is a full-time job. Unofficial reports from Iraq are very pessimistic about how the battle against that insurgency is going. Those reports may be wrong. However, Mr. Rumsfeld has much to worry about in what little spare time he may have.

The total or all-volunteer force on which the nation’s military rests has been broken by September 11 and the extended occupation in Iraq. That structure, with the lessons of Vietnam and the Army’s commitment never to fight a war again absent full public support, purposely placed huge slices of so-called combat and combat service support elements in the National Guard and Reserve components and not the active-duty force. Logistics, civil affairs, military police and other essential non-combat units fall into this category without which the Army cannot conduct very long-term combat operations.

Many of these reserve units are on active duty for extended service. This strain cannot continue forever. What will replace the all-volunteer force, or at least relieve the stress on the Guard and Reserve components, has not been defined. This will be one of Mr. Rumsfeld’s most critical and difficult tasks at the same time he wages the wars in Iraq and against global terror and completes the “transformation” of the Defense Department for the 21st century.

At the CIA, Director Porter Goss has his hands full. The agency is in disarray. The resignations of the former deputy director and two of the most senior officers in the clandestine service are symptoms of an organization that is in sore need of a major makeover. Despondent over what many CIA professionals regarded as undue politicization of intelligence by the Bush administration, and, in turn, considered by many Republicans as deeply partisan and disloyal, the CIA requires not only “tough love” but skillful leadership and management to correct its ills while providing useful and relevant intelligence. James Bond or his boss “M” would be hard-pressed to do that job even in the movies.

Condoleezza Rice meanwhile is swimming in the turbulent waters of Foggy Bottom. Following arguably the most popular figure in America, who was revered and idolized by the State Department, Miss Rice comes with the baggage of being seen as one of State’s principal adversaries. Blood is often bad between State, the White House and Defense. In the first term, the mutual animosity and disrespect were, as a former British ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Mayer observed, so thick they could have been cut with a knife. Miss Rice will have to overcome that suspicion and hostility as a first step.

She will also find that working at State means she will have to carry out presidential policies with which she may disagree or may not have had any role in formulating, unlike the days when she was steps away from the Oval Office. She will be accountable to Congress, assuming she is confirmed, one of the few things that National Security Advisers do not have to worry about. And as the nation’s chief diplomat, she will not only need to impress her colleagues: Much of her diplomacy will occur in parts of the world that are unfriendly to women of either high or low rank.

On top of that, the “hot spots” are more dangerous than four years ago. North Korea, Taiwan, Iran, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East could explode. Iraq, despite a brave administration face, is inevitably at the brink of some disaster or other. So, sail on, ship of state. But please keep a good look out for icebergs and other things that go bump in the night.

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