NSC Predicament

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 4, 2005 | Go to article overview
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NSC Predicament


Byline: Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

NSC predicament

Conservatives in the Bush administration and Congress are hoping President Bush will pick someone other than CIA China specialist Dennis Wilder to replace the National Security Council (NSC) senior director for Asia, Michael Green, in the top Asia policy coordinating slot.

The favored candidate is said to be Richard Lawless, currently the deputy assistant defense secretary for Asia. Also mentioned as in the running is Joseph DeTrani, a former CIA China hand who is currently the State Department's special envoy to North Korea.

Mr. Wilder is angling for the post, congressional and administration intelligence officials said.

The officials said Mr. Wilder, a political liberal, has a long history of advocating conciliatory positions on China, which has upset conservative China hands, as well as human rights activists.

Mr. Wilder, we are told by the officials, got his current job as an assistant to Mr. Green through the help of Brent Scowcroft, the NSC adviser under President George Bush.

Gen. Scowcroft, who was once close to National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley, recently criticized the Bush administration's ouster of Saddam Hussein. He claimed the liberation of Iraq and its placement on a path to democracy disrupted 50 years of peace in the Middle East.

Mr. Green, who is still on the NSC staff, plans to leave government and take a job as a professor at Georgetown University.

Mr. Wilder got his start in the corridors of Washington power after he helped arrange the secret July 1989 visit to China by Gen. Scowcroft and Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger. The two officials visited Beijing to assure Chinese leaders that their brutal military crackdown on unarmed protesters a month earlier in Tiananmen Square would not harm ties with the United States.

As the CIA's top China analyst in the late 1990s, Mr. Wilder worked closely with Clinton NSC China specialist Kenneth Lieberthal. At CIA, his management of China analysis triggered more than a half-dozen formal complaints from analysts to the agency's ombudsman for politicization, the officials said.

Among the intelligence reports he was accused of skewing or suppressing were analyses of China's worsening human rights record; a report by a retired Navy captain warning in the late 1990s about China's rapid military buildup; and a report that stated China was rapidly developing its scientific and technical base, with help from American corporations.

Mr. Wilder survived the complaints by forcing the analysts to move to non-China posts.

CIA Director Porter J. Goss is said to be in a quandary over Mr. Wilder. The director is said to not want him back at the CIA, where he is trying to clean house in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and Iraq weapons-intelligence failures.

Mr. Wilder could not be reached for comment.

"There's been no consideration of candidates to replace Mr. Green at this point," an administration official said, noting that "we don't speculate on White House personnel matters."

Academic freedom

The Army Combined Arms Center (CAC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., is the place for future generals to brainstorm. One rite of passage is for each officer to complete a research paper.

But over the years, the CAC products became too narrow and not necessarily geared toward challenges facing the Army. Every year, it seemed, officers wanted to write about pet peeves, such as why majors are not company commanders.

"That topic was absolutely beaten to death every year," said Col. William Darley, editor in chief of the CAC's Military Review publication. "Since we did the list, that doesn't happen anymore."

The "list" was the idea of Gen. William Webster, the CAC commander until he recently transferred to Army Training and Doctrine Command.

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