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Wolfowitz Is Not a Mistake But a Chance

Lee Crane. History: Biographies. Wolfowitz, Paul Dundes —, American political figure, b. Brooklyn, N. Cornell B. In he entered government service, and worked for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency —77 and as deputy assistant secretary of defense — During the Reagan years, he became a Republican neoconservative and served as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs —86 and ambassador to Indonesia — After the draft was leaked to The New York Times and was roundly denounced as bellicose and unilateralist, the language was softened.

But a number of years later, in an essay published in The National Interest, Wolfowitz contended that most Americans had come around to favoring the kind of Pax Americana envisioned in that document. He argued that American interventions in the Balkans and elsewhere had demonstrated a growing consensus for an American leadership, which entailed ''demonstrating that your friends will be protected and taken care of, that your enemies will be punished and that those who refuse to support you will live to regret having done so.

That now seems to have become the Bush doctrine, sprung from Sept. The evidence suggests that the world consensus is somewhat shakier than Wolfowitz predicted.

Allied support is confined to the loyal Tony Blair, who may pay a high price at home for it; the American public is supportive, but in no hurry; the president's father's inner circle is sounding cautions. Wolfowitz regards all of this as little different from the hand-wringing before Desert Storm or before the intervention in Bosnia. View all New York Times newsletters. In its early days, the Bush administration set in motion a review of Iraq policy, but it dragged on without much direction, so that by Sept.

At the C. Tenet, was pushing the idea of ''stateless'' terrorism, which implied less, not more, emphasis on the role of state patrons. At State, Colin Powell seized on an idea that had been gestating in the Clinton administration -- smart sanctions'' -- that would have eased restrictions on food and medicine sales to Iraq but would have clamped down hard on smuggling of equipment for Saddam's rearmament.

There was general agreement within the administration that sanctions were an abject failure, doing little to impede Saddam's military ambitions while creating a P. It is not clear that anybody had much faith that sanctions could be fixed, but smart sanctions created the impression of doing something. Iraq was, frankly, nobody's high priority -- not Rumsfeld, who was preoccupied with missile defense; not Cheney, who was consumed by the domestic agenda; not Condoleezza Rice or Powell, who had Russia and China to think about.

See a Problem?

When the Sept. Friends of Wolfowitz's say his initial reaction was that Iraq was probably a party to the attacks. He had already studied the work of Laurie Mylroie, an investigator who has labored to connect Iraq to earlier terrorist attacks, including the bombing of the World Trade Center, and now an ardent student of clues connecting Saddam to Sept.

The Friday Cover

The Clinton administration treated Mylroie as, in her words, ''a nut case,'' but Wolfowitz -- then spending the Clinton years as dean of the prestigious School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins -- listened to her minute briefing on the evidence trail and wrote a sympathetic blurb for her book blaming Iraq for the first trade-center attack. After Sept. James Woolsey, the former C. Woolsey contends that evidence connecting Iraq with terrorist assaults on America, while circumstantial, is ''about as clear as these things get.

He can describe the evidence in detail, the clandestine meetings between Iraqi intelligence and figures who may have been Al Qaeda operatives, and says he finds it intriguing but not conclusive. But the more general connection between Saddam and terrorists -- his hosting of the murderous and recently deceased Abu Nidal, his subsidies for Palestinian suicide bombers -- is enough, in Wolfowitz's view, to make their future collaboration against America almost a given. While Iraq might arm a missile or a bomber with one of those horrible weapons, Wolfowitz says, the more likely delivery system is via the terrorist international.

And that, too, is an underlying assumption in the administration's case for war. Throughout his career, Wolfowitz has managed to push hard against the prevailing view while avoiding the kind of confrontation that gets you marked as not a team player. But several people who know Wolfowitz say he seemed galvanized by Sept. I think Paul tended to be Mr. Interagency Stealth in the past, and now he's Mr.

Open Warfare,'' says Stephen Sestanovich, a Russia expert who once worked for Wolfowitz as a policy planner. Now, in this town, there's a near consensus about it. They've accepted the Wolfowitz goal, and now they're just haggling about how it's to be done. That was a result that could only be achieved by open warfare. A result of his being so out front, of course, is that along with the considerably higher stakes of human life and strategic order, one thing riding on the future of Iraq is Wolfowitz's future.

If, as some of his friends believe, Wolfowitz, who is 58, would like to ascend to a cabinet job -- Rumsfeld would be 72 at the start of a second Bush term; Powell has dropped hints of being a one-termer; and a shuffle could land him as national security adviser or C. Wolfowitz grew up in a household in which Hitler and Stalin were not abstractions.

His father, a mathematics professor at Cornell and an innovator in the field of statistics, was a Polish Jew who emigrated from Russian-held Warsaw in He often told his children how lucky they were to have escaped the totalitarian horrors of Europe for the benign security of America. There were many Wolfowitzes consumed in the Holocaust, and according to Wolfowitz's sister, Laura, the world's perils and America's moral responsibility were constant topics at their dinner table. As a teenager, Wolfowitz was a lonely John F.

Kennedy Democrat in his conservative Ithaca, N. He says the only time he ever marched in a demonstration was when he was 19, at Martin Luther King Jr.

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Wolfowitz on Point by Lee Crane

He remains, by his own description, a ''bleeding heart'' on social issues and a civil libertarian. The day I watched him under questioning from those eager majors at Fort Leavenworth, he argued against the use of torture in interrogating terror suspects and against the deployment of the military in domestic crises. But his sense of America's large place in the world, like his father's, has always hewed close to that of the late Senator Henry M.

Jackson, the pioneering Democratic hawk nicknamed Scoop, who believed in an American obligation to support democracies and in the willingness to use military force sometimes to accomplish that. Jackson was also Richard Perle's mentor. Wolfowitz, who switched parties during the Reagan administration, now describes himself as ''a Scoop Jackson Republican.

Wolfowitz followed his father into mathematics, taking courses from him at Cornell, shifted to chemistry and ''probably would have ended up a very unhappy biochemist'' if not for the intervention of Allan Bloom, the charismatic political philosopher, who was a resident scholar in the elite student dormitory where Wolfowitz lived. Bloom emboldened Wolfowitz to follow his childhood fascination with world affairs, to the enormous dismay of his father, who regarded political science as roughly equivalent to astrology.

Wolfowitz earned his doctorate at the University of Chicago, a seedbed of what is now called neoconservative thinking in economics, political science and strategic studies. Student deferments kept him out of the military draft during the Vietnam War, and he looks back on that war with a kind of scholarly detachment that is in striking contrast to, say, Colin Powell, who served two tours there and regards Vietnam as the paradigm of good intentions gone wrong. Wolfowitz was sympathetic to the war and only later came around to the view that it was ''a very costly overreach.

After three years teaching political science at Yale, Wolfowitz was recruited through Wohlstetter's profuse grapevine to work in Washington at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. In the waning days of the Nixon administration, the agency was one link in a network of conservative insurgents. Their target was the diplomacy of patient coexistence with the Soviet Union. Their ringleader was Perle, operating out of Scoop Jackson's office. The insurgent view was that the Soviet Union should be not simply contained but challenged on all fronts.

They argued that American intelligence agencies had played down the aggressive designs and military advances of the Soviet Union to conform to the White House drive for arms control. In the waning days of the Ford administration, the C. Bush sought to appease the hard-liners by commissioning ''Team B,'' a group of kibitzers with license to second-guess the intelligence reports on the Soviet Union. Wolfowitz was one of the 10 members. The report they produced was more than Bush bargained for.

It painted the Soviet Union as an expansionist boogeyman. In hindsight, much of the Team B report was worst-case hyperbole; it credited the Soviet Union with developing superweapons it never had and ignored the handicaps of a failing Soviet economy. But Team B became a political bludgeon to batter the proponents of arms control and drive up American military spending.

Wolfowitz, who contributed a thoughtful and unhysterical chapter on the importance of intermediate-range missiles to the Soviet strategy, says he never bought Team B's alarmist contention that the Soviet Union believed it could fight and win a nuclear war. But he says the report was a useful guerrilla attack on conventional thinking, including the tendency of intelligence agencies to assume that rival countries think the same way we do.