The Stiftung acknowledges Rice's people skills. Better people skills than Cheney, Rumsfeld et al. are a step in the right diretion. But as we have written, she has never demontrated an inclination or capacity for systemic strategic thought. Moreover, Rice is entrenched in the Bush Administration's addiction to narrative control over effecting actual events.
For if Rice is to be the center of “something new” beyond tactical people skills, the Stiftung does not see it coming from her. Phil Zelikow or others around her at State are not noted for grand strategic thinking. So where does that leave us post-Cheney's dominance?
Drift As Dangerous As 2001-2005?
If Rice despite her prominence is unable to provide a coherent strategic vision for the role and purpose of U.S. power in the world, it will not be coming from the National Security Council either. As Rothkopft correctly notes, the NSC under Hadley has largely disappeared into a functional supportive null zone — essentially an adjunct to State. (Hadley was Rice's deputy at NSC 2001-2005). The NSC's diminishment, combined with Cheney's eclipse and the President's intellectual passivity, creates a dangerous void at the center of U.S. decision-making.
Behind Rice's people skills — Bushism with a 'human face' — a post-Cheney era may pose a different danger to U.S. national interests: cosmetic drift. Clearly State celebrates their return from policy Siberia. Yet the Nation needs not only an antidote for Cheney's Wilhelmine bellicosity, but an integrated and effective coordinating process for any President. Rice via State can not serve this function effectively. DoD still is determined to pursue its own independent foreign and strategic policy. Treasury, the intelligence community, all need a seat at the table. Integrated coordination is more vital than ever today to deploy constrained U.S.power as effectively as possible.
So while we celebrate the passing of the Cheney era, and acknowledge 'people skills', more is needed. A void can be as dangerous in its own way as Cheney et al. Sadly, one almost wishes that Dr. Phil could stage an intervention on the Administration. It at least would make for entertaining television.