Wolfowitz Up to More Mischief?

Back at it? Wolfowitz (pictured in this file photo) has managed to keep a low profile since being forced out of The World Bank. (Credit: Times Online)

Wolfowitz Up to More Mischief?

Just 15 months after being forced to resign as president of the
World Bank over a conflict of interest regarding his professional and
personal relationships with his girlfriend, former Deputy Defense
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz may be involved in another, far more
geo-strategic conflict of interest involving his dual roles as chairman
of the State Department's International Security Advisory Board (ISAB)
and chairman of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council,
among whose U.S. members are military contractors who have been dying
to get the Bush administration's approval to sell about 11 billion
dollars worth of arms to the island to protect it against the threat of
an attack by the mainland.

Condi Rice appointed Wolfowitz - apparently part of her campaign that featured the appointment of Eliot Cohen
to become to her Counselor at the State Department to co-opt neo-cons -
back in January this year. Like the Defense Policy Board, the ISAB
became under Bush a stronghold for all manner of national-security
hawks (among the members are former Undersecretary for Arms Control and
International Security Affairs Robert Joseph; James Woolsey; former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger; and missile-defense devotees associated with the Center for Security Policy, the National Institute for Public Policy, and Southwest Missouri State University, including Keith Payne, Robert Pfaltzgraff, and William Van Cleave),
as well as executives from the arms industry (Lockheed, Boeing, SAIC,
to name a few). Wolfowitz's appointment, coming after his disgrace at
the Bank - not to mention his performance as Rumsfeld's deputy and
Douglas Feith's superior from 2001 to 2005 - was seen as a kind of
token public redemption that would presumably have little consequence
in actual policy terms.

That assessment may have been premature, because, judging by an article appearing in Wednesday's Washington Times
by Bill Gertz, Wolfowitz's ISAB may be trying to gin up tensions with
China, acting as a new "Team B" in persuading policymakers and the
public at large that Beijing's military modernization, especially its
missile program, is more threatening to the U.S. than, in Gertz's
words, "many current government and private-sector analyses" have
depicted it. At least, that's the message of the article, which is
purportedly based on a draft of an ISAB report that Gertz says is due
out in a few weeks.

According to Gertz's account, the report, the product of a task
force headed by Joseph, recommends that the U.S. "should undertake the
development of new weapons, sensors, communications, and other programs
and tactics to convince China that it will not be able to overcome the
U.S. militarily" and specifically that it obtain, in Gertz's words,
"new offensive space and cyber warfare capabilities and missile
defenses as well as 'more robust sea- and space-based capabilities' to
deter any crisis over Taiwan." As Gertz points out, Washington has
until now repeatedly reassured Beijing that its missile defense efforts
were directed solely against "rogue states" like North Korea and Iran.

The report also predicts that China will have more than 100 nuclear
missiles, some with multiple warheads, capable of reaching the U.S. by
2015, compared to only 20 missiles at the present time. "To avoid an
'emerging creep' by China toward strategic nuclear coercion, 'the
United States will need to pursue new missile defense capabilities,
including taking full advantage of space,'" Gertz quotes the report as

The report, according to Gertz, also stresses - and this is where
Wolfowitz's stewardship of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council raises
questions - the pivotal importance of Taiwan in all this. Again quoting
from the draft, Gertz writes:

"'In China's view, Taiwan is the key to breakout: If
China is to become a global power, the first step must include control
of this island.' Taking over the island would allow China to control
the seas near ts coasts and to project power eastward, the report said.

"China views Taiwan ...as central to 'the legitimacy of the regime and
key to power projection,' the report said. Taiwan is seen by China as a
way to deny the United States a key ally in 'a highly strategic
location' of the western Pacific, the report said.

"...The advisory panel report also recommended that the U.S. increase sales of advanced conventional forces to allies in Asia..."

Now, one has to be careful about anything that Gertz reports,
particularly about China. A charter member of the "Blue Team" - the
group of hawkish policy specialists, Congressional staff, and
journalists (including Kristol and Kagan and their Project for the New
American Century) who, from the end of the Cold War until 9/11,
insisted that Beijing represented the single greatest threat to U.S.
hegemony and global peace and security - Gertz has been obsessed with
the ChiComs for years and has certainly been known to exaggerate and
take things out of context in his zeal to alert the world to the
looming peril that confronts it. It's also important to stress that
this remains a draft, which could be substantially toned down before it
reaches final form. It may not yet have even been seen by Wolfowitz,
whose chapter on China policy in Present Dangers, the book
published by PNAC before the 2000 elections, was almost certainly
considered insufficiently alarmist by Blue Team stalwarts like Gertz.

That said, it's clear that someone associated with ISAB wanted to
leak what - to China anyway - will be seen as a highly provocative
document that will tend to confirm the worst fears of its military
(which, according to the draft, already suffers from "clear paranoia")
about U.S. intentions, particularly with respect to missile defense and
the military use of space. And it's also clear that the leaker is also
very concerned about the pivotal role Taiwan can play in thwarting what
the task force sees as China's military ambitions and hence the
importance not only of enhancing U.S. capabilities, but, presumably, of
selling advanced weapons to the island, as well.

Moreover, the leak comes at a critical moment in the
administration's deliberations about the long-pending arms package for
Taiwan whose approval Wolfowitz and other advocates had hoped would
have been forthcoming last week. Wolfowitz had virtually assured his
friends in the Business Council Taipei in July that Bush would go ahead
with the package some time after the Olympics, but, according to my
daily guide on the subject, Chris Nelson of the Nelson Report,
a recent study by a Naval War College expert that has gained
considerable attention from administration policymakers argues that
much in the pending package will do very little, if anything, to
improve Taiwan's ability to resist an attack by Beijing. The study
proposed an alternative "porcupine" strategy for defending the island
which, it noted, would likely be strongly opposed by "the arms
manufacturers who stand to benefit form the sale of aircraft, ships,
and supporting systems to Taiwan" that are included in the current

Needless to say, some of those same arms manufacturers were behind
Wolfowitz's selection as the (well-paid) chairman of the Business
Council, and they would be sorely disappointed if his influence and
connections with the administration did not yield the anticipated
dividends. (See Tim Shorrock's excellent article in the Asia Times
on Wolfowitz's help in promoting their interests when he became Number
Two at the Pentagon.) In fact, Chris reports this evening that they
have indeed won the day and that most, if not all of the package will
be approved by the White House.

But the episode still raises important questions, particularly in
light of the current election debate over the influence of lobbyists in
Washington policy-making, about conflicts of interests. Once again,
Wolfowitz's actions suggest that his grasp of the concept is pretty
shaky. On the other hand, the presence of senior executives from
Lockheed (a huge beneficiary of the current package) and Boeing, among
other arms contractors heavily invested in missile defense and space
weapons, on the State Department's board indicate that Wolfowitz is not
exactly alone in that respect. (Gertz reports that Allison Fortier, a
Lockheed vice president, served on the task force that produced the
draft.) "It's basically functioning like a lobbyist group," Chris told

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