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September 29, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

China policy shift
The Bush administration's China policy is shifting noticeably to the left through several key appointments. First, President Bush announced Sept. 1 he was permanently appointing National Security Council staffer Dennis Wilder, a longtime CIA analyst with a record of leading mistaken analyses on China, as the senior director of East Asian affairs. Mr. Wilder had been acting senior director.

In another politically suspect move, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., the former Goldman Sachs executive, recently appointed Deborah Lehr as the lead staffer in charge of the new "economic strategic dialogue" with China. Mr. Paulson has been dubbed China's man in the Bush Cabinet by columnist Frank Gaffney because of his pro-China stance.

The White House announcement on her appointment described Miss Lehr as a well-known China specialist but failed to mention that she will be leaving the consulting firm of Clinton administration National Security Adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger to take the new Treasury post.

Mr. Berger, now head of Stonebridge International, was the architect of the disastrous Clinton administration China policy that gave us Chinese missiles with improved accuracy based on illegally transferred U.S. space technology, not to mention Chinese government payoffs to the 1996 Clinton re-election bid. Mr. Berger also pleaded guilty last year in his mishandling of classified documents from the National Archives.

"It is the most outrageous mistake by White House personnel I have ever seen," one administration official said. "She used to be at [the U.S. Trade Representative's Office] in charge of getting China into the [World Trade Organization], so she is a perfect panda hugger."

She also has worked at the National Security Council and was involved in export-control and trade-policy issues at the Commerce Department.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said in an e-mail that Mr. Bush makes China policy and that it is markedly different from President Clinton's.

Liberal cartoonist Garry Trudeau, creator of the syndicated Doonesbury strip, is a constant critic of conservatives and President Bush, especially in the war on Islamist terrorists. The Pentagon is a fairly conservative place. One would guess Mr. Bush would get 70 percent of the vote, or more.

But there was Mr. Trudeau at lunchtime Tuesday, sitting at a desk along the Pentagon shopping concourse, signing copies of his new book, "The War Within."

The book is a sequel to "The Long Road Home." It continues the chronicles of war veteran B.D., a longtime Doonesbury character who loses a leg fighting in the war. The book tells the story of B.D.'s struggle to re-enter American society. Mr. Trudeau is donating book proceeds to Fisher House, the network of homes-away-from-home for wounded troops receiving medical treatment and their families.

Troop facts
The Army is putting out a "fact sheet" to help reporters understand its wartime troop commitments.

Among the facts:

The Army has 105,000 soldiers in Iraq, 15,000 in Kuwait and 16,000 in Afghanistan. The Army National Guard has 55,327 soldiers mobilized; the Reserve has 32,286.

Units in the combat rotation cycle spend 14 months at home before deploying again for one year.

There are 499,000 soldiers on active duty. Congress has authorized the Army 482,400 active-duty troops. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has OK'd a temporary increase up to 512,000.

"The bottom line is the U.S. Army is the best Army in the world," the statement says. "It is the best manned, trained and equipped force fielded in over a decade."

Some retired generals say the force is near the breaking point because of frequent deployments and lack of equipment for stateside troops to train.

Skeptical press
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, addressing Washington reporters this week on the premise that attacking terrorists begets more terrorists:

"Ma'am .. terrorism was hurting us way before Iraq or September 11. The president mentioned some examples of it. These extremist forces were killing people in Afghanistan and around for years: closing schools; burning mosques; killing children; uprooting vineyards with vine trees, grapes hanging on them; forcing populations to poverty and misery.

"They came to America on September 11th, but they were attacking you before September 11 in other parts of the world. We are a witness in Afghanistan as to what they are and how they can hurt. You were a witness in New York. Do you do you forget people jumping off the 80th floor or 70th floor when the planes hit them? Can you imagine what it will be for a man or a woman to jump off that high?

"Who did that? And where are they now? And how do we fight them? How do we get rid of them, other than going after them? Should we wait for them to come and kill us again?"

Growing terrorists
The fact that al Qaeda-linked groups are growing in numbers is not new. It was happening in the 1990s, before President Bush declared war on Islamist extremists.

A National Intelligence Estimate, completed in April, stated, "We .. assess that the global jihadist movement which includes al Qaeda, affiliated and independent terrorist groups, and emerging networks and cells is spreading and adapting to counterterrorism efforts."

The implication is that the war on terror is creating terrorists. Maybe it is. But the Clinton administration faced a similar trend in the 1990s.

Former Clinton national security aides Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon wrote in their 2002 book, "The Age of Sacred Terror," of stopping terror plots in 1999.

"The sense of success was mingled with astonishment at how many groups were out there," they wrote. "The millennium experience had the further effect of leaving the counterterrorism community stunned at how many terrorists .. had turned up in the United States."

  • 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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