- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2005

Departures and reassignments of leading hawks in the Bush administration have fueled speculation about the decline of neoconservatism — or, some say, its continuing rise.

What some call a “purge,” others describe as a strategic redeployment of neocons, who are seen as favoring strong U.S. policy against dictatorial regimes, especially in the Middle East.

The latest changes involve Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, whom President Bush has nominated as president of the World Bank, and John R. Bolton, who will leave his post as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security to become ambassador to the United Nations.

In January, Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy and the third-ranked civilian at the Pentagon, announced his resignation, to take effect this spring or summer.

The Wolfowitz and Bolton reassignments generally pleased those who think international institutions need to be shaken up by U.S. officials who share Mr. Bush’s worldview.

“There is methodology behind these placements,” said Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican. “The president is putting these people in key positions to further define and transform the world according to Bush, by using the levers of power at the United Nations and the World Bank.”

Others see a general housecleaning of neoconservatives.

“The neoconservative hour may be coming to an end in the Bush era,” columnist Pat Buchanan wrote earlier this year.

Mr. Buchanan noted that U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick would become deputy to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice instead of Mr. Bolton, Mr. Wolfowitz would leave the Defense Department, and Stephen Cambone, the neoconservative undersecretary of defense for intelligence, was said to be considering leaving.

The reason for the changes, Mr. Buchanan wrote, was that the “cakewalk war they plotted long before 9/11, on which their dreams of Middle East empire and reputations hang, has gone awry.”

A conservative organization leader in Washington, who has known Mr. Wolfowitz and Mr. Bolton for years, said privately: “If I was a neoconservative, it could look to me like we were being purged. But the fact that they put Wolfowitz as the head of the World Bank shows they don’t hate him at the White House or think he’s a bad guy. But it’s also true he’s not going to be doing Wilsonian nation-building stuff at the World Bank.”

Disdain for the United Nations also is shared by most traditional conservatives, which is why there is much cheer and little grumbling over the Bolton appointment.

“[Donald H.] Rumsfeld didn’t want Bolton at Defense, Condoleezza didn’t want him as her No. 2 at State, but conservatives want him somewhere high in the government,” said a Republican lawmaker who asked not to be identified.

But another congressional Republican noted privately that Mr. Bolton “was not given Cabinet rank along with the post, as Jeane Kirkpatrick was when President Reagan made her our U.N. ambassador.”

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