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November 4, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

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. He set up a senior editorial review board to come up with a list of topics that actually could help soldiers in the field.

"They are now constrained to pick something from the list," Col. Darley said. "The major focus is supporting the global war on terrorism."

Since most of the student officers did tours in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, the Army has a huge resource to tell it how to do things better.

Some of the 36 topics on this year's list: "Cultural Awareness in U.S. Military: How Shortfalls in Past Conflicts Can Be Attributed to Lack of Cross-Cultural Capabilities"; "Intel Operations in Urban Operations"; "Case Studies: Training Indigenous Forces Successes and Failures"; and "Continuing Russian Lessons Learned in Chechnya."

Here's a topic that fits the ongoing war in Iraq: "Defining Victory in the Aftermath of a Successful Campaign: Convincing the Enemy to Accept Defeat."

A Canadian reporter is out with a book on the deadly incident that frayed relations between the United States and its northern neighbor.

Titled "Friendly Fire: The Untold Story of the U.S. Bombing That Killed Four Canadian Soldiers in Afghanistan," author Michael Friscolanti recounts the mistaken bombing, the toll it took on the families involved and the disciplinary proceedings against the F-16 pilot, Maj. Harry Schmidt. The Air Force removed the Illinois Air National Guard pilot from flight status. He is now a logistics officer.

The book quotes his attorney, Charles Gittins, as saying, "As he sits here today, if he was put in that situation again, he drops the bomb again. Families would want to hear: 'I wouldn't do it again.' And I'm sorry, but that's not the way Harry feels."

Young love
When letters on national security from the Young family go to the White House, they are usually signed by Rep. C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense.

But this week, President Bush got a blistering letter from Mr. Young's wife, Beverly, over the treatment of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

"I couldn't believe that [Walter Reed] has warned charitable groups that gifts to our wounded heroes could violate federal law," Mrs. Young wrote. "To suggest that troops could face discipline from a warning to a court-martial, at their commanders' discretion is disgusting."

What raised Mrs. Young's ire was an article in the Army Times newspaper. The paper reported that Walter Reed has warned charitable groups that any donation more than $20 in value could be illegal and must be reviewed by Army attorneys.

"Shame on anyone who thinks the wounded soldier shouldn't receive all the love, help and support he or she could get from any American," Mrs. Young wrote to the president. "I know, sir, that these are your sentiments also. I just couldn't go about my daily life and pretend that this insult to those great American heroes didn't happen."

We've read several times the indictment of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Nowhere does it purport that he talked to reporters about CIA officer Valerie Plame to ruin her career.

There is a rendition of an internal White House discussion that showed officials wanted to rebut talk in Washington that Vice President Dick Cheney had approved sending former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, Mrs. Plame's husband, to Niger. The White House learned after the trip in 2003 that Mrs. Plame had persuaded the CIA to send her husband to investigate claims that Iraq tried to buy uranium form Niger.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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