Hardliner’s Hardliner Led Bush’s Iraq Review

When President George W. Bush’s unveils his long-awaited new strategy on Iraq Wednesday night, he will be relying heavily on the counsel of one J.D. Crouch II, perhaps the most hardline – if most obscure – of his hawkish advisers.

Over the past 15 years, the generally low-profile Crouch has taken any number of controversial positions, from advocating military action against Cuba and North Korea to blaming the 1999 Columbine High School student massacre in Colorado on "30 years of liberal social policy."

As deputy national security adviser, Crouch, who has held three posts in the Bush administration, chaired the interagency group charged with mapping out Bush’s new Iraq strategy, whose main feature, it is expected, will add some 20,000 new US troops to the 140,000 already there in hopes of stabilizing Baghdad and rebellious Anbar province.

Crouch, whose substantive expertise is in arms control – or, more precisely, how the US can evade or undermine international efforts to promote arms control – has long been a favorite of Vice President Dick Cheney, whose own national security adviser, neoconservative John Hannah, has reportedly played a key role in the deliberations over Iraq.

Crouch first worked under Cheney at the Pentagon during the administration of President George H.W. Bush when, as a deputy assistant secretary for international security, he contributed to the controversial 1992 draft "Defense Policy Guidance" (DPG) that, among other things, called on Washington to pursue unquestioned military dominance in and around Eurasia.

He returned to the Pentagon as assistant secretary for international security after the younger Bush’s election in 2001. In that capacity, he focused mostly on the administration’s withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, its plans to develop new kinds of nuclear weapons, and the preparation of the 2002 National Security Strategy, which codified many of the ideas first proposed in the 1992 DPG, rather than on Washington’s military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He left the administration in late 2003 to return to Southwest Missouri State University (SMSU), long a stronghold of missile defense, nuclear arms and space weapons advocates, only to be appointed the following year as US ambassador to Romania, a post he held for just eight months before being recalled to Washington in early 2005 as deputy national security adviser under Stephen Hadley.

His return was described by Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland as evidence that Cheney was "charging ahead with undiminished influence and unshakable self-confidence."

Now 48, Crouch first entered government after earning a doctorate in international relations at the University of Southern California in the mid-1980s. With the help of his long-time mentor and one of then-President Ronald Reagan’s most hawkish advisers, William Van Cleave, Crouch was assigned to the State Department’s Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) before joining the staff of the far-right senator from Cheney’s home state Wyoming, Malcolm Wallop, in 1986.

He moved to the Pentagon in 1990 where he worked under then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Paul Wolfowitz. After the first Gulf War he was part of a team that included Wolfowitz; Cheney’s future vice-presidential chief of staff until 2005, I. Lewis Libby; and Washington’s current ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, that prepared the draft DPG. Its leak to the New York Times sparked a major controversy that eventually prompted the senior Bush administration to repudiate its more-unilateralist proposals.

Crouch spent most of the 1990’s teaching at SMSU, whose Department of Defense and Strategic Studies was headed by Van Cleave, and speaking out against what he and his associates charged was the "appeasement" policies of the Clinton administration.

He strongly denounced US-North Korean negotiations in 1995, for example, calling for Washington to send more US troops and deploy tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea to carry out air strikes against nuclear targets in the North if Pyongyang refused to give up its nuclear program at the time.

The following year, he criticized Clinton for imposing travel restrictions and economic sanctions against Cuba after its air force shot down two civilian planes flown by anti-Castro activists from South Florida. "We ought to have considered military options," he said at the time. "As long as we allow a totalitarian communist regime to exist 90 miles from our borders, we can expect these kinds of problems to recur."

He also joined the board of advisers of the ultra-hawkish Center for Security Policy (CSP), a lobby group funded by defense contractors and far-right Zionists associated with Israel’s Likud Party and headed by hardline neoconservative Frank Gaffney.

Other members of that board have included senior members of the Bush administration, including Elliot Abrams, the senior Middle East director on the National Security Council; former Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle; former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith; and a number of former and current SMSU faculty members, including Van Cleave, Charles Kupperman, Keith Payne, and the former head of Reagan’s Star Wars program, Henry Cooper.

From his perch at SMSU, meanwhile, Crouch also spoke out and wrote on domestic issues.

In a letter published in the Washington Times, he blamed the shooting rampage by two teenage students of 12 of their classmates and one teacher on "30 years of liberal social policy that has put our children in day care, taken God out of the schools, taken Mom out of the house and banished Dad as an authority figure from the family altogether." He has since insisted that he does not oppose "women in the workplace."

Although such positions generally do not reflect neoconservative views, neoconservatives, including Perle and Gaffney, have, like Cheney, been among Crouch’s most-enthusiastic boosters over the years.

"Knowing him as I do," Gaffney, whose list of US adversaries against which Washington should be much more confrontational runs from Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela to China, Russia, and France, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch earlier this year, "I’m almost certain that he is exercising influence, and influence that is reinforcing the most robust policies and positions of this administration…"

(Inter Press Service)

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Author: Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe writes for Inter Press Service.