George Shultz, The Nowhere Man

Daunting foreign policy challenges confront the United States during the Reagan era. But there are also delicious opportunities for leaders with imagination and a sense of strategy—if such leaders we only had. The Soviet Union has achieved military parity with the United States, its leadership is in transition, and new technologies threaten traditional patterns of both nuclear deterrence and arms control. It is a moment for creative superpower diplomacy. At the same time, as Europe becomes “Europeanized”—increasingly preoccupied with its own identity and its relationship to the East—American leaders need to work on restructuring Atlantic relationships. The time also has been right for creative movement in the Middle East, capitalizing on the Camp David precedent, Israel’s decimation of the Palestine Liberation Organization, ebbing Soviet influence, and the threats presented by Islamic fanaticism and Israel’s steady absorption
of the West Bank. We also need to find a way to cope with—ideally, to co-opt—revolutionary rage in Central America before it produces more hostile regimes beneath our southern border. The debt crisis of the poor countries, combined with the prolonged recession in the developed world, suggests the
need for a new economic order of some sort, or at least for
new thinking about international monetary and fiscal
problems. Above all, American leaders need to reestablish
an American consensus about foreign policy based on the
reality that the era of isolationism is unalterably over, and
that economically, politically, and militarily, we are inextricably involved with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, in 1980 America elected a President with
firm moral views but limited international expertise. He,
in turn, vested top foreign policy authority in figures
whose ignorance matched his own—notably Caspar  Weinberger, the former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, whom Reagan made Secretary of Defense, and William Clark, the former California Supreme Court judge whom Reagan made White House National Security Adviser. The one exception was Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who, despite his other faults, was a strategist. He was an alliance man who understood the need to support friends such as the Israelis and the Europeans before going on to parley with neutrals and adversaries. He tried
to fashion a strategic consensus between Israel and moderate Arab states in the Mideast. He wanted to pressure Cuba as the means of halting revolution in Central America. Apparently Haig intended to do some back-channel negotiating with the Soviet Union. Whether his strategies would have worked we will never know, because his personality—tortured, snarling, self-promoting—led him into tantrums and turf fights with the
White House, and last July he was sacked. Even though he was supposedly a star Washington maneuverer, Haig forgot the first rule of back-room bureaucratic politics: maintain your base with the Boss. Haig’s departure had some
policy causes and some policy
consequences. Until his successor could take charge, the
Clark-Weinberger foreign policy would be ascendant.
Weinberger tends to believe that America’s future in the
Middle East lies with the Arabs, not with Israel. Both he
and Clark counsel pressure on the European allies rather
than conciliation as the means of maintaining Western
solidarity against the Soviets. Both encourage President
Reagan’s proclivity for stark rhetoric and for thinking that
power is primarily a function of a nation’s military budget.
Haig’s successor, George Shultz, has been Secretary of
State for nine months now, and his reviews are mixed. It is
almost universally agreed that he is intelligent, that he is a m an of solid character and moderate policy views, and that he is a skilled mediator. His mediating and negotiating skills arc being tested right now as he tries to arrange an lsraeli troop withdrawal agreement in Lebanon and to revive his and President Reagan’s Mideast peace plan. At the same time, Shultz is being criticized in the press by fellow Administration officials and by foreigners as lacking forcefulness, communicative talent, and imagination. And his main deficiency could be more serious yet; he may not know much about what he is doing.   Actually Shultz activates a certain tendency for others to impute their own views to him. This may grow out of his legendary ability to listen closely to what others tell him, question them actively, but give little of his own views back. He is not universally loved. One former aide said, “He’s extraordinarily cold, and if you disagree with him, he doesn’t like it. Those beady eyes get beadier and beadier. It’s interesting, too, that he never praises in private, only in public, where it reflects well on him, too.”
Shultz is regarded as a strong manager of the State Department in the sense that he knows what his top subordinates are doing, although he has not shaken up the place since taking over from Haig. He installed his protege Kenneth Dam, Provost of the University of Chicago, as No. 2 man, replacing career diplomat Walter Stoessel. He transferred Haig’s smart young policy planning chief, Paul D. Wolfowitz, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Asia, and restructured the policy planning staff into a collegial think tank which includes former Kissinger assistant Peter Rodman and academician Robert Osgood operating under economist Stephen Bosworth. He replaced Haig’s press spokesman, Dean Fischer, with John
Hughes, former editor of The Christian Science Monitor . But all other major bureaus—Europe, Latin America, Africa, Human Rights, etc.—remain in the hands of Haig appointees, and Lawrence Eagleburger, Haig’s No. 3 man, retains the job of Undersecretary for Political Affairs. Shultz’s pattern seems to be to work with what’s there unless he can’t.  Shultz does get favorable notices from Congress, at least for consulting closely and for listening. “Shultz tends to get the President running room up here,” says Senator Richard Lugar, a Foreign Relations Committee
Republican. Shultz seems to have quieted Congressional doubts about stationing Marines in Lebanon and getting Kenneth Adelman confirmed as arms control director. At the same time, Shultz has not been too persuasive on arms control policy and Central America. A Republican Senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee said, “His reputation for probity is accurate—in his field. Given the luxury of time and resources, he would measure up to what you put to him. But he’s out of his element on Armed Services issues.” This Senator said he finds Caspar Weinberger, the Secretary of Defense, equally ill informed.
In communicating to the public, Shultz is perhaps at his least effective. One State Department correspondent says, “He has practically given up his role as chief foreign policy spokesman, and that means he has given up some of his power to influence foreign policy within the Administration.” A serious TV correspondent says, “In nine months, I have never led a story, ‘Secretary of State George Shultz declared today...’ because he rarely says anything worth leading with. But now I can’t get a Shultz story on the air even if it’s worth reporting. They’re not interested.” This dilemma says lots about network TV, where celebrity status, not content, seems to count, but it also means that Shultz does not understand an important part of his function: that of articulating policy. He is so inarticulate, in fact, that correspondents snicker that he’s really
another Chauncey Gardiner, the Peter Sellers character in the movie Being There (adapted from Jerzy Kosinski’s book) who mouthed inanities but was thought profound. The one thing that can be said for public reticence in this Administration is that it ensures the President will not be upstaged, and not upstaging Reagan is apparently one way to maintain the credibility necessary to persuade him. Shultz has persuaded him to change policies in ways that can only be considered salutary. One key example is the retreat from Reagan’s sanctions—urged by Weinberger and Clark—against companies involved in building the Soviet-European gas pipeline. Shultz convinced Reagan to drop the sanctions by winning an agreement from the allies to study restrictions on technology transfers to Communist countries. Everyone (Reagan possibly excepted) considers the studies a face-saver for the United States that will never lead to action (State Department officials naturally deny this). One observer says that the main policy
reversal “saved NATO.” That may be an exaggeration, but it did help keep Helmut Kohl Chancellor of Germany. Yet Another important Shultz contribution is in Middle East policy. Shultz did not devise Reagan’s September 1 peace plan—the strategy is largely Henry Kissinger’s—but he did convince the President to adopt it. The peace plan is widely considered dead unless Shultz himself can breathe some life into it on his current trip, and perhaps it was fatally flawed from the outset, requiring courage that Jordan’s King Hussein and the Saudi
regime do not have, and a desire for peace utterly lacking in the P.L.O. Still, the Reagan plan was worth a try, and it maintained American standing in the Arab world after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Shultz aides say, furthermore, that the Arab summit’s communique at Fez implied willingness to recognize and negotiate with Israel, which  was a significant step in itself that can provide a basis for future steps. Shultz has played another important, and pleasantly surprising, role in Middle East policy—that of improving the deteriorating U.S.-Israeli relationship. As
with the pipeline sanctions, this is a case of Shultz’s having to repair damage inflicted by Weinberger, but at least he has done it. Shultz, like Weinberger, came to the Administration from the Bechtel Corporation, a huge construction company doing billions of dollars’ worth of business with Saudi Arabia. Prior to his confirmation, he led some Senators to think that he, like Weinberger, took a militantly pro-Saudi, anti-Israeli attitude toward Middle East policy. This has not proved to be the case, however. “He’s been fair and decent,” said one pro-Israel lobbyist. “He apparently knows that you cannot mediate a dispute if one party thinks you are trying to do them in.” Shultz repeatedly resisted Weinberger’s efforts to impose an arms embargo on Israel—failing, in the case of F-16 jets, succeeding on Sidewinder missiles—and in a supposedly bitter meeting in front of Reagan on April 17, beat Weinberger on the issue of releasing American parts for the
Lavi, a new airplane project that means some 25,000 jobs for Israel.  A special new challenge is coming—again from the outside—on strategic arms control. The Scowcroft Commission, appointed to find a basing system for the MX missile, actually went far beyond its assignment, and completely discredited the President’s START proposal, demonstrating that it would leave U.S. land-based missiles more vulnerable to Soviet attack than under the SALT II treaty negotiated by President Carter. The Scowcroft Commission also called for the United States to persuade the Soviets to move from large, multi-warhead missiles to small, single-warhead rockets. The challenge to Shultz and to Reagan is whether the Administration can devise a new negotiating
position, or whether it will tinker with the existing one—perhaps by adjusting upward the permitted number of missile launchers—and postpone to another day and to a START II treaty the shift to single-warhead missiles. 

2021-02-07 | George Shultz, Department of State, State Department | English |