Having been a key foreign policy official in each of the past three Republican administrations, Paul Wolfowitz has an unusually strong voice for a deputy defense secretary, in the current Bush White House. Most deputy secretaries are consigned to oversee the dispensation of day-to-day department operations, while providing advice and policy prescriptions that seldom receive due attribution if actually implemented; not so in the case of Dr. Wolfowitz. Although he was regarded as the primary (and most unambiguous) representative of neo-conservative sentiment in the inner-circle of Bush foreign policy advisors prior to Sept. 11, his sphere of influence has since grown at a rate second only to that of his boss, Secretary Rumsfeld.
Now, on the heels of the war in Afghanistan, Wolfowitz is considered the arch-hawk in the administration and is at liberty to expound the hawkish views that Mr. Rumsfeld must lacquer over for the sake of political propriety. Indeed, it is Wolfowitz who has assumed the role of polar opposite to dovish Colin Powell, and it is he who has advocated, all along, acting (God forbid) upon the supposed “no-tolerance” policy the US claims to have toward all states that sponsor terrorism. The now famous “axis of evil” concept is assuredly a Wolfowitz brainchild; as the Economist states, “. . .it was Mr. Wolfowitz’s fingerprints, not Colin Powell’s, that were all over the State of the Union speech.”
In a time when questions about the next steps to be taken by the nation in the amorphous “War against Terrorism” are abundant, Wolfowitz has been known as the “hard-liner” promoting one of the clear, if daunting and contentious options: invading Iraq. His critics would accuse him of being overly pessimistic â€“ a realist too willing to dismiss coalitions, international norms and diplomacy, in favor of the assertion of force to preserve the nation’s status as superpower. Some even dismiss him as an antedated and obsolete remnant of the foreign policy “old guard.”
Yet, such criticisms are faulty on a number of levels. First, Wolfowitz’s views have been validated in the past: when he backed the Reagan administration’s allusion to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” the standard critical response was one of condemnation and horror.
Second, Wolfowitz, as a neo-con, in fact frowns upon the realpolitik worldview espoused by Kissinger and Nixon in the ‘70s and embraces adherence to norms of political economy. He is also an avowed freethinker (he served as dean and professor in the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies prior to assuming his current post) and should be viewed as one constantly challenging convention, rather than one adhering to it.
To be sure, Wolfowitz is no stranger to the role of controversial figure. He was, and continues to be, a principle advocate of Bush’s missile-defense plans, and has always believed the US has an obligation to remove itself from the constraints of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty, rather than an obligation to observe said treaty. In addition, he retains an unfavorable view of China’s growing influence, and supports the use of human rights concerns as a foreign policy tool.
He is not only a polarizing figure, but an undeterred one at that. He is reported to have attended presidential meetings normally reserved for department heads, and he is uninhibited in expressing his contention that Iraq needs to be dealt with expeditiously to the media.
Although not outwardly charismatic, and actually reserved in manner, Wolfowitz nonetheless spares no pains in making his views known and couples his academic solemnity with voracious political ambition. Would that this mathematics major turned foreign policy stalwart continues to lend prudence and fairness of mind to the formulation of American international strategy.