Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Oversized Influence Of The OVP

The American Prospect looks at the shadowy Office of the Vice President (OVP), which has been the behind the scenes driver of the most odious policies of the Bush administration.

More often than not, from policy toward China and North Korea to the invasion of Iraq to pressure for regime change in Iran and Syria, and on issues from detentions to torture to spying by the National Security Agency, the muscle of the vice president's office has prevailed.

Usually, that muscle is exercised covertly. Last February, for example, after Hamas won the Palestinian elections, King Abdullah of Jordan visited Washington to discuss the implications of the vote. With the support of some officials in the State Department, the young king suggested that Washington should bolster beleaguered President Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader, to counter the new power of Hamas.

Then John Hannah intervened. A former official at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a pro-Zionist think tank founded by the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, Hannah is a neoconservative ideologue who, after the resignation of Irving Lewis "Scooter" Libby, moved up to become Vice President Dick Cheney's top adviser on national security.
Hannah moved instantly to undermine Abdullah's influence. Not only should the United States not deal with Hamas, but Abbas, Fatah, and the entire Palestinian Authority were no longer relevant, he argued, according to intelligence insiders. Speaking for the vice president'’s office, Hannah instead sought to align U.S. policy with the go-it-alone strategy of Israel's hard-liners, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his stricken patron and predecessor, Ariel Sharon. Olmert soon stunned observers by declaring that Israel would unilaterally set final borders in the West Bank, annexing large swaths of occupied land, by the year 2010. His declaration precisely mirrored Hannah's argument that Israel should act alone...

Hannah's intervention is typical of how the OVP staff has engaged at all levels of the U.S. policy-making process to overcome opposition from professionals in the State Department, the intelligence community, and even the National Security Council (NSC) itself...

For the Cheneyites, Middle East policy is tied to China, and in their view China's appetite for oil makes it a strategic competitor to the United States in the Persian Gulf region. Thus, they regard the control of the Gulf as a zero-sum game. They believe that the invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. military buildup in Central Asia, the invasion of Iraq, and the expansion of the U.S. military presence in the Gulf states have combined to check China's role in the region. In particular, the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the creation of a pro-American regime in Baghdad was, for at least 10 years before 2003, a top neoconservative goal, one that united both the anti-China crowd and far-right supporters of Israel's Likud. Both saw the invasion of Iraq as the prelude to an assault on neighboring Iran.

In an acknowledgement that there are believers in the "Steady State Chaos" strategy of intervention--articulated by M1 on SMC, there is an interesting factoid about OVP official David Wurmser:

(I)n a series of papers and a book, Wurmser argued that toppling Saddam was likely to lead directly to civil war and the breakup of Iraq, but he supported the policy anyway: "The residual unity of [Iraq] is an illusion projected by the extreme repression of the state." After Saddam, Iraq will "be ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families," he wrote. "Underneath facades of unity enforced by state repression, [Iraq's] politics is defined primarily by tribalism, sectarianism, and gang/clan-like competition." Yet Wurmser explicitly urged the United States and Israel to "expedite" such a collapse. "The issue here is whether the West and Israel can construct a strategy for limiting and expediting the chaotic collapse that will ensue in order to move on to the task of creating a better circumstance."

The American Prospect article is full of unflattering anecdotes about members of the OVP, most of whom are unknown to the general public. These functionaries know that they have an oversized influence in decision making in this administration, and are not hesitant to throw their weight around.

14 Comments:

Blogger Meatball One said...

OK, given this comment is far from objective as it's based solely on my contorted view of the machinations of many a vile thing, but:

Trés excellent post! OVP is where the juice is at and from whence all action emanates.

Sure the OVP exploits George's leanings and fetisches by cloaking their agendas in the will of the Prez - but the naively utopian will of the Prez goes nowhere without the OVP willing it too, albeit for completely different and rational reasons. (Rational doesn't haven't to mean benign...of course)

The OVP represents hardcore Realpolitik that can be understood and predicited. The Prez represents a pathological personality's regressive dreams. Dick has run bigshit companies and done so extremely successfully. Georgy has, without mitigating exception, run family&friend subsidized penny-ante failures.

We could play chicken & egg and guess what comes first - the Prez's visions or the OVP's masterplan. The answer is irrelevant. What is revelant is which of the two can go anywhere without the other if push comes to shove.

I think a smallfry event like the Harriet Myers affair gives an insightful inkling of what the answer is.

Anyways, it pleases immensely to see the OVP post.

4/23/2006 11:14 AM  
Blogger Meatball One said...

Oh, and btw, excellent work in spotting and flagging this article. I'd never have found it otherwise. A gem

4/23/2006 11:21 AM  
Blogger Effwit said...

M1:

The OVP/PNAC connection turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg.

In the article I especially loved the part where, during a big Iraqi exile meeting in London, the Chalabi and the INC would reflexively seek refuge under the skirts of OVP oficial Samantha Ravich, knowing that she would tell Cheney if things didn't go their way.

LOL.

And China as China as the solution to "enemy deprivation syndrome".

Aargh.

Thanks for the kudos.

4/23/2006 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes... wasn't it Billmon that dubbed this the Cheney Administration? Bush is just the front and he knows it. He's comfortable in the role, though... After all he's used to doing whatever his powerful daddy wants him to... And Cheney, BTW, has Xerox fluid running through his veins... that's what gives him the strange pallor.

Dena

4/23/2006 1:14 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...

Dena:

Xerox fluid? I've heard that it's formaldehyde. Oh well.

LOL.

The piece that I quoted from today makes your point about the Cheney/Bush pecking order exactly:

But officials who have opposed Cheney believe that President Bush has "views" only about basic principles, and that in making dozens of complex decisions he relies on pre-determined staff papers. Says one insider deeply involved in U.S. policy toward North Korea: "The president is given only the most basic notions about the Korea issue. They tell him, 'Above South Korea is a country called North Korea. It is an evil regime.' ... So that translates into a presidential decision: Why enter into any agreement with an evil regime?"

4/23/2006 1:34 PM  
Blogger DrewL said...

Not surprising to those of us who follow such things, but I'd be willing to bet dollars to donuts that most Americans would have no clue what the OVP is up to.

Thinking back to before the 2000 elections when Cheney was put in charge of the VP candidate search, it becomes all the more amusing that he ended up appointing himself. Clearly, this was something in the works long before Dubya was nominated. All part of the grand scheme. There's no way he ever could have won a Presidential election, given his health and especially his lack of personality. So, let's find a lackey with a face and voice to obscure the real decision-makers behind the scenes. One could make the argument that both Jeb and George W. were viewed as potential players in such a role, with the name and connections to command attention on a national scale.

So much for the old days when the VP position was known more for its attention to ribbon cutting and baby kissing than anything related to policy. We've now entered a strange new universe in which up is down, left is right, and the VP is driving policy while the Prez gladhands the people.

What will it be next?

4/23/2006 3:06 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...

DrewL:

I reckon you are right about the public's lack of awareness of the importance of the OVP. A big reason for this is that the OVP has intentionally remained behind the scenes.

The names, titles and office phone numbers (one's that they will answer themselves) of even high-ranking government officials are usually easily available. The exception for the OVP is really weird.

The fact that they refuse to allow themselves to be listed in the usual registers of federal employees shows that they have something to hide.

And they do have many things to hide. Starting with the "secret" energy policy of early 2001, nearly every scandal of the administration has some tie to the OVP.

What's next?

Who knows, but the odds are that it will have some important connection to the OVP.

4/23/2006 3:47 PM  
Blogger DrewL said...

Yes, here we sit with $3+ per gallon of gas and we still wonder what took place in the secret set of energy policy meetings, the ones that the oil co. execs told Congress they didn't participate in. Of course, we've since come to learn that they lied to Congress.

Indeed, what was discussed in those meetings that they cannot divulge to the American public? Perhaps they discussed ways to drive up the price of gasoline to flood company coffers with billions in cash.

4/23/2006 4:49 PM  
Blogger DrewL said...

The other interesting thing about the OVP's ultimate obsession with China's influence in the Middle East: Where did China's President go immediately after leaving Washington? Saudi Arabia, where China is involving the Saudis in billions of dollars in energy development projects. And we thought the U.S. owned the Saudi relationship. Perhaps not anymore.

How intriguing.

4/23/2006 5:42 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...

DrewL:

The rumor in Washington is that a war with Iraq over oil was discussed in the Cheney secret energy policy meetings which involved top execs of the big oil.

These meetings were prior to 9-11.

In other words your comment about the discussions having something to do with driving oil prices up is very well-founded.

About Saudi Arabia and China, the "Guardian of the Holy Sites" is no longer a favored ally of the U.S.

That's one (perhaps the biggest) reason why we pulled our bases out of S.A.

4/23/2006 6:22 PM  
Blogger DrewL said...

Well, I remember reading somewhere a while ago that taking out Saddam would eliminate that threat to the kingdom, thereby allowing U.S. forces to pull out. Supposedly this would then appease the more radical, fundamentalist Muslims on the peninsula.

But given SA's position in the oil producing world and its position as one of the U.S.'s top suppliers of oil, one would think the U.S. would want to move swiftly to contain that relationship and keep the Chinese from finagling their way in. Or will SA be on the neo-con radar after Iran is "taken care of"? Are they going to let SA turn away from the U.S. so that we then can justify taking action there? The Chinese have gotten cozy with Iran and now SA. If the Chinese influence on the Middle East is viewed by the neo-cons as being a potentially grave threat, then something has to give, not only with Iran (as is expected) but also with SA.

4/23/2006 9:35 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...

DrewL:

Good points all.

IIRC, the U.S. military was not allowed (officially) to use the Saudi airbases for the 2003 attack.

Shortly thereafter, we pulled out all our forces from S.A. after being there since the weeks following Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. That had been the major demand of Al-Qaeda for years before 9-11. I believe that we were ordered to leave by the Kingdom as a self-preservation move.

There is supposedly clandestine cooperation still going on between the U.S. and S.A., which is understandable given the circumstances and American interests in that country.

And yes, as you indicate, S.A. is on the neo-con hit list. Which is probably not due to China (or anyone) weaseling their way in on Saudi oil. Oil is fungible so that any sales to China would be made up by the U.S. from other sources, at least until supplies really get short. And with oil above $50 or $60 a barrel, North American oil sands and oil shales are economically viable for exploitation. There is an unbelievable amount of oil we can extract from those sources. The peak oil meme is unfounded.

The reason that the neo-cons want regime change in Saudi Arabia is for Israeli interests.

4/23/2006 10:10 PM  
Blogger DrewL said...

Interesting points you make about the economic viability of U.S. oil sands/shales when the price of oil is above $50-60 a barrel. So, when it comes to the administration's concern for U.S. oil reserves and access to oil, they are considerably less concerned when the price of oil is high, as it is today. Of course, high oil prices also are putting billions into the coffers of our less than friendly OPEC producers. That is, at least until such time as we exact regime change in such countries.

What a tangled web they weave.

4/24/2006 8:19 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...

DrewL:

I do think we (meaning our oil company influenced leaders) are less concerned when the price of oil is high. They will not tell the public this, however.

The available petroleum-based options become feasible--and better--the administration-linked oil interests are able to bring in top dollar for the product that they can bring to market today.

I have noticed that the top story for the last week on both network radio and TV has been the rising price of gasoline. This is to stress the commuters needlessly, IMO. It is a de facto psy-op to get the public prepared to pay whatever price is necessary for the fuel to get them to their jobs.

A public tormented over access to such a necessary requirement will be more likely to approve a radical approach to secure their manna (gasoline) even if it means invading yet another Mid-East country.

4/24/2006 8:52 PM  

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