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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Right Web of Intelligence Reformers

Abram Shulsky and Gary Schmitt have shuttled back and forth between government and right-wing institutes like the NSIC. In 2000 Shulsky was a member...

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Abram Shulsky and Gary Schmitt have shuttled back and forth between government and right-wing institutes like the NSIC. In 2000 Shulsky was a member of the working group that produced the Project for the New American Century’s (PNAC) blueprint for military transformation and national security strategy, Rebuilding America’s Defenses. Shulsky is an old hand in the intelligence community with experience as a staff member both of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the early 1980s and later under Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle.

After the Reagan administration, Shulsky joined RAND and simultaneously worked as a senior scholar at NSIC until he was selected to head the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans. 1 Shulsky, like many neoconservatives involved in security strategy, got his start in politics working as an aide to Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson in the 1970s. Schmitt, another of the many neocons who studied at the University of Chicago, also had a history of intelligence-related work before joining NSIC and PNAC. Prior to becoming executive director of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) in 1984, Schmitt worked alongside Shulsky in his capacity as minority staff director of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Paul Wolfowitz, Ahmed Chalabi, and Zalmay Khalilzad are three other University of Chicago alumni who played central roles in shaping the intelligence cited by President Bush in his decision to invade Iraq in March 2003. 2 Khalilzad directed RAND’s 2001 political transition report on national security strategy before joining the Bush administration’s national security council and then serving as the president’s special envoy to Iraqi exiles and to Afghanistan.

Paul Wolfowitz, who in the mid-1990s was a member of the Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the U.S. Intelligence Community, has also been a strong advocate of policy-oriented intelligence. “Intelligence production should be driven by the policy process,” Wolfowitz told Jack Davis of the CIA-sponsored Sherman Kent Center. 3 Like the NSIC report coauthored by Shulsky and Schmitt, Undersecretary of Defense Wolfowitz has long argued that intelligence agencies should do more than provide policymakers with information. They should deal with on what Rumsfeld calls the “unknowns” through strategic intelligence that is based in what Wolfowitz terms “systems analysis” not just facts. According to Jack Davis, a member of NSIC’s Working Group on Intelligence Reform, Wolfowitz believes that the role of good intelligence is to help policymakers deal with uncertainty by pointing out cause and effect patterns. Intelligence operatives should bring “their expertise to bear for planning and action on important long-shot threats and opportunities.” 4

Two decades earlier, Wolfowitz served as a member of the infamous Team B–an “independent” commission established in 1976 by President Ford at the urging of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and backed by George H. W. Bush, the newly appointed director of central intelligence. Team B challenged the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate’s conclusions about Soviet military strength and objectives, claiming that the CIA vastly underestimated the Soviet Union’s military capacity and put U.S. national security at great risk by not understanding the Soviet Union’s imperial ambitions. (See sidebar: Remembering Team B.) In the 1970s, the neocons and the militarists were so convinced that the Soviet Union was intent on world domination that they dismissed the hard evidence of its declining military and economic capacity.

Wolfowitz, Chalabi, and Khalizad all studied under nuclear strategist Albert Wohstetter at the University of Chicago. Wohstetter, a RAND nuclear weapons analyst who was an advocate of a flexible nuclear weapons strategy with precision-guide bombs, was also a mentor to Richard Perle.

Ahmed Chalabi, who headed the U.S.-funded expatriate group called the Iraqi National Congress, became one of the main sources of information for the OSP and the vice president’s office. Positioning himself to lead the post-Saddam Hussein government, Chalabi was a dubious ally. Although he claimed to represent the internal opposition to the Saddam Hussein regime, Chalabi had not been inside Iraq for 45 years after his family left when he was twelve. Born into a wealthy banking family in Iraq, Chalabi has been much closer to U.S. neocons and other hawks than to the Iraqi Shiites he claimed to represent. The poster boy of neocon policy wonks, Chalabi is an outlaw–having been sentence in abstentia by a Jordanian court for bank fraud after his Petra Bank folded in 1992.

Among the neocons who relied on Chalabi for information about the strength of the Iraqi resistance and promoted him as just the man to replace Saddam Hussein were his University of Chicago connections (including Wolfowitz, Shulksy, Khalilzad, and Schmitt) and Vice President Cheney. Other Chalabi partisans were found in the Middle East offices of the Pentagon and State Department, including Peter Rodman, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser, and Michael Rubin.

The neocons on the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board also backed Chalabi as their favored Iraqi. Another stronghold for support for Chalabi was the vice president’s office, where staffers including I. Lewis Libby and Eric Edelman worked closely with Cheney to feed information from the Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress to President Bush. Among the leading neocon policy institutes and think tanks that rallied behind Chalabi since the late 1990s were the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, American Enterprise Institute, and Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 5

The Bush administration did appoint Chalabi to the Iraqi Governing Council. However, his assurances that the invasion, occupation, and democratic transformation of Iraq would count on broad support by Iraqis, particularly Shiites, have proved groundless. Discredited inside Iraq as a lackey of the neocons, Chalabi’s standing among neocons has also suffered because of his own deception and opportunism.

Endnotes

  1. “Abram Shulsky,” Right Web Profile (Interhemispheric Resource Center: December 2003). While at RAND, Shulsky authored reports with Zalmay Khalilzad and David Orletsky, The United States and Asia: New U.S. Strategy and Force Posture (2001), and with Francis Fukuyama, The Virtual Corporation and Army Organization (1997).
  2. “About Alumni.” University of Chicago Magazine, June 2003, online at: http://magazine.uchicago.edu/0306/alumnit/lines.shtml
  3. Jack Davis, “Paul Wolfowitz on Intelligence Policy-Relations,” at: http://www.cia.gov/csi/studies/96unclass/davis.htm.
  4. Davis, “Paul Wolfowitz on Intelligence Policy-Relations.”
  5. Robert Dreyfus, “Tinker, Banker, Neocon, Spy: Ahmed Chalabi’s Long and Winding Road to (and from?) Baghdad,” American Prospect, November 18, 2002.

Tom Barry is policy director of the Interhemispheric Resource Center (online at www.irc-online.org).

Citations

Tom Barry, "'Right Web of Intelligence Reformers," IRC Right Web (Somerville, MA: Interhemispheric Resource Center, February 12, 2004)

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