Balkan Strategic Studies

June 30, 2003

US State Dept., CIA War Against Pentagon Breaks Into the Open With Profound Impact on Strategic Policy

Analysis. By Gregory R. Copley, Editor. Senior bureaucrats in the US Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have begun bringing their “war” with the Department of Defense into the open, strenuously advising foreign leaders to avoid meetings with key US Defense officials. This was particularly evident during the visit of some 12 African leaders to Washington, DC, for the June 24-26, 2003, Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) conclave.

At least one visiting African head-of-state was told by a US senior diplomat as well as by senior CIA officials not to take up an opportunity to meet with US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz because publicity about such a meeting would hurt the President in his home country, given that DepSec Wolfowitz was perceived as the man who started the war against Iraq.

The resentment of the Pentagon leadership by the State and CIA career officials — supported at this time by US Secretary of State Colin Powell — stems from the fact that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, DepSec Wolfowitz and US Vice-President Richard Cheney (a former Defense Secretary) were now the drivers of US strategic policy. Many State and CIA officials retain their loyalty to the former US Administration of Democratic Pres. William Clinton and some still owed their positions to the even earlier Administration of (Democrat) Pres. Jimmy Carter. As a result, these officials have been attempting at all levels to block what they perceive to be incentives from the Pentagon or the White House of Pres. George W. Bush.

But the conflict between the Defense Department and White House on the one hand, and the State Department and CIA on the other, however, has more institutional or sociological roots. The exceptionally liberal culture entrenched in State and the CIA, and the fact that career officials there regarded elected officials as “short-timers” and not representative of the continuity of US policy (which the career foreign service officers feel is their function), meant that any determined effort by an elected Administration to impose its stamp on foreign and strategic policy would be resisted, regardless of whether the elected Government was Democratic or Republican. The former Reagan and current George W. Bush administrations had proven particularly determined to impose their electoral mandate. State and CIA obfuscation was therefore almost guaranteed.

At the Pentagon, the high rotation of uniformed officers and political appointees through key posts meant that institutional resistance to the elected leadership was less likely, and the strong tradition of civilian control of the military under an elected, civilian commander-in-chief also militated against institutional resistance to the White House and Congress.

Many foreign officials were, however, now as a result getting mixed signals from the US, with Embassy and CIA officials on the ground strenuously denigrating — or obfuscating — the Bush Administration policies emanating from either the White House or the Pentagon. A number of African leaders were known to be keen to discuss with the US Defense Department key initiatives regarding peacekeeping, force modernization and the prospect for US force deployments into Africa as a result of new initiatives to change US military basing worldwide.

One African official commented on June 27, 2003, to GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily: “We don’t know what is going on in Washington any more. Who do we believe? The US Ambassador? The State Department officials in Washington? The CIA? The Pentagon?” He added: “Some of the State Department officials we speak to seem to have more against President Bush than they do against Osama bin Laden.”

The strenuous differences between State and Defense — which had been evident since the Bush Administration took office — began to appear visibly when DepSec Wolfowitz and other Defense officials began, during the first half of 2003, discussing the movement of long-standing US force deployments in Germany and North Korea (DPRK). Secretary of State Colin Powell and at least one US ambassador in the Balkans directly contradicted Department of Defense officials when they said that US forces in Germany would be redeployed. Defense officials subsequently took the offensive to reiterate that such moves would, in fact, take place.

Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, on May 16, 2003, in a reported entitled US State and Defense Departments at Odds Over Redeployment of US Forces in Europe, noted:

“Senior Washington sources on May 15, 2003, confirmed that there was now a growing confrontation between US Defense Department officials and State Department officials — including Secretary of State Colin Powell — over US policy toward Europe, and particularly over the matter of the redeployment of US forces based in Germany. The Defense Department, and Congress, have been working for almost a year toward a withdrawal of substantial portions of US forces in Germany, and redeploying significant portions of US European Command (USEUCOM) to bases in the Balkans. As well, Defense has been moving toward creating a separate US Africa Command (USAFCOM) which would take over the African responsibilities of USEUCOM.”

In an analytical report, on June 13, 2003, entitled US Interests in the Balkans: Balancing Perceptions, Realities and Strategic Need, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily noted:

“Despite statements by the US State Department, the US will do what the Defense Department is advocating. It will move most of the US forces out of Germany. Most, indeed, are already deployed out of the region, in Iraq, for example. Those forces which return to Europe will start to utilize basing in South-Eastern Europe. Romania and Bulgaria have been mentioned as most likely to be the alliance partners of choice, because they have access to an area long denied to the US: the Black Sea. Consideration has been given to Serbia-Montenegro, as well, because history has determined that Belgrade, for example, remains a critical cross-road of trade in the region and its influence on the Danube artery is vital. Albania, too, must be considered by the US, because of its access to the Mediterranean.”

The debate moved into the open following publication by GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily on May 2, 2003 of a report entitled The New US and the New Europe: The US Prepares Move of German-based Forces to Serbia-Montenegro, Bulgaria and Romania. But the reaction to this merely highlighted the longstanding ideological differences between the State Department and CIA career officials and the Defense Dept. leadership, and brought into focus the fact that the Bush White House was scarcely aware of some of the activities being undertaken in the name of the United States by some US diplomats. This included support for Iranian-sponsored radical Islamists in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia, for example, at a time when Iran was preparing, with al-Qaida networks, to activate new terrorist and radical activities against the US and Western interests, in large part due to the pressure which the US-led “war on terror” was putting on Iran and al-Qaida.

Several leaders in the Balkans and Africa have told GIS in June 2003 that they now felt that if they showed any support for the US Bush Administration they would, in effect, be “punished” by the US missions with which they had to deal in their home countries. One Balkan official said: “It’s as though they [the US embassy officials] are waiting for the Clinton Administration to come back. And these [embassy] people seem to be very friendly with the people from the [leftist US-based, Hungarian-born businessman] George Soros NGOs. So when we see George Soros attacking Pres. Bush, it becomes very confusing. Is Washington aware of what is going on, here on the ground?”

Washington sources also told GIS that the State Dept., and Secretary of State Powell, were determined to thwart any movement of US forces worldwide, or to revisit and correct the history “written during the Clinton Administration”. One source said that any attempt to demonstrate that the Clinton Administration had manipulated intelligence in the Balkans, for example, in order to attack Yugoslavia would open some US officials up to legal attacks. In this regard, the US broadcasting network Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) also perpetuated what officials in the Balkans called “the Clinton/Soros line”, in attempting to legitimize the actions of the former Clinton Administration.

Significantly, testifying at the war crimes trial of former Yugoslav Pres. Slobodan Miloševic at the International Criminal Tribunal on Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague on June 25, 2003, former Clinton Administration US Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith said that the 1991-95 rebellion by members of Croatia’s Serbian minority was dependent on Serbian support and that then-Pres. Miloševic made all the crucial decisions regarding the rebellion. Former Ambassador Galbraith, who actively participated — with apparent White House support from Pres. Clinton — in providing military assistance to the Croatians in their ethnic cleansing campaigns, added that the Croatian assault on the rebels in 1995 could have been avoided had the Serbs accepted what was known as the “Z-4 peace plan”. The former ambassador argued that the Croatian Army did not carry out ethnic cleansing of rebel-held territory because most of the Serbian population had already fled before the Croatian forces arrived. Galbraith described the late Croatian Pres. Franjo Tudjman as “a nationalist”, former Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic as “a coward”, and his successor
Milan Martic as “a man of limited intelligence”.

One Bosnian source told GIS: “We see with Galbraith and others an attempt to reinforce what the Clinton Administration did to start and perpetuate fighting in this region during the 1990s. Even the current Government of Croatia recognizes that Tudjman and his Ustaše (nazis) fighters were butchers, and that the US illegally put a number of retired US generals and specialists into the field with the Croatian forces to assist in the ethnic cleansing of Serbs and others from Croatia. Now we see a new era in US politics, and the Pentagon and White House wants to rebuild relations in the Balkans, but the State Department is trying in many respects to frustrate this.”

It seemed clear that, in both Africa and the Balkans, key officials in the State Dept. and CIA were determined to minimize the impact of planned strategic changes spearheaded by the Department of Defense, and particularly to blunt the influence of Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz.