Monday, May 07, 2007

Washington Note on Matthew Waxman

The Washington Note has a piece mentioning that Matthew Waxman has been named acting director of the Office of Policy Planning at the State Department, now that Stephen Krasner has returned to Stanford. Here (middle of the piece). Matt Waxman is one of the really good - I use that in both senses, extraordinarily competent and extraordinarily moral - in the Bush administration. As the Note says:

Policy Planning Director Stephen Krasner has now officially departed for Stanford -- and "Acting Director Matthew Waxman" is in place.

Waxman is an ideas entrepreneur with character (he is one of the
real insider heroes who while at DoD fought against the erosion of the Geneva Conventions on torture). He also gets strategy and knows that water wars, transnational disease transmission, environmental challenges posed by climate change dynamics, massive refugee crises, and other non-traditional problems must be dealt with as well as thinking through how a superpower manages its interests in a world where other superpowers -- and even not so super powers -- aren't the overriding security challenge.

State has yet to find the person that they would like to have as their own version of
Andy Marshall, who heads "Net Assessments" at the Pentagon and who is brilliant, old, and sort of "yoda-like." In fact, he is nicknamed "Yoda".

But perhaps State should remove the "acting" from Matthew Waxman's title and roll the dice on someone who appears to many to be a 21st century "young Yoda." Waxman, who I have met on occasion, reminds me of a hybrid of strategic wunderkind
Paul Nitze and Eisenhower acolyte Andy Goodpaster.

One senior State Department official believes that Condi Rice "wants a name" heading Policy Planning -- someone "with more stature." But this is a pivotal time in American history and foreign policy. Not a lot of what we did yesterday will be that helpful in thinking through what we need to do tomorrow. Everything needs to be rethought. Lots of "unthinkables" need to be worked on.

Fresh thinking and working to benchmark the complexities of deploying diplomacy as well as hard power in the 21st century are what a nimble mind like Waxman's may be better equipped to do than those who are regular Foreign Affairs groupies.

Hopefully this blog post won't sink Waxman's chances to succeed Krasner, but someone out in civil society had to point out that there is incredible talent embedded in our current government and that it has been the "big names" like Cheney, Rumsfeld, and John Bolton who have caused the worst problems for American foreign policy and who, in many cases, have taken the country in very troublesome directions.

It may be time to try something new.

Many of us would applaud it.

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