Stephen Hadley is a controversial former Bush administration official who chairs the board of directors of the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) and is a principal of the "international strategic consultancy firm" Hadley Rice Gates LLC, whose other executives include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
Hadley served as President George W. Bush's national security adviser during Bush's second term, replacing Condoleezza Rice when she became secretary of state. Hadley was part of a loosely constituted group of foreign policy advisers known as the Vulcans who advised candidate Bush in 2000 and became the core of his presidential transition team. Among the other Vulcans who later joined the administration during Bush's first term were Rice, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, Richard Perle, and Donald Rumsfeld.
After leaving government service, Hadley landed an exclusive contract with an elite speakers' bureau called Leading Authorities, Inc., which has also represented several other former top Bush administration officials. At one point he reportedly commanded a fee of $10,000 to $30,000 per talk. He also was appointed senior adviser for global affairs at USIP, a congressionally funded think tank that purports to be "devoted to the nonviolent prevention and mitigation of deadly conflict abroad." In January 2014, USIP named Hadley chair of its board of directors.
In February 2015, Hadley was named as one of 21 experts tapped to advise 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush on foreign policy issues. Other advisers included Bush administration alums Paul Wolfowitz, Meghan O'Sullivan, Michael Chertoff, John Negroponte, Otto Reich, and Michael Hayden.
Hadley has advocated a hardline towards Russia in response to the 2014 Ukraine crisis. In November 2014, Hadley told an audience at an event hosted by the Aspen Institute that the United States should arm Ukrainian rebels covertly. He said: "If I were in my old job I would be thinking about lethal assistance—yes. But you know this is why you have a CIA, you know this is why you have covert action and I would be thinking—do we want to do it explicitly to send a message to Putin? Or do you want to do it covertly?" He added: "I'm all in favor of truth but sometimes doing things without talking about it is a more effective way of achieving your objectives."
A frequent commentator on U.S. foreign policy, Hadley has expressed optimism about the possibility of the United States and Iran concluding a comprehensive final agreement on Tehran's nuclear program Iran. In a February 2014 interview with Al Monitor, Hadley argued that Israel would also ultimately accept a limited Iranian enrichment program. "At the end of the day, if we can come up with a limited enrichment capability that really puts the Iranians back so that breakout is a year to 18 months away [instead of a few months], if the alternative is a military strike and all the international isolation of Israel that is likely to follow that, my guess is that the Israelis will choke down the agreement."
In June 2015, Hadley signed an open letter issued by the "pro-Israel" Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an offshoot of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, that some media outlets portrayed as critical of President Obama's on-going nuclear negotiations with Iran. The New York Times' David Sanger framed the letter as a warning from President Obama's "ex-advisers" about the "Iran nuclear deal." However, in addition to Hadley, former George W. Bush undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs Paula Dobriansky also signed the letter. A number of prominent neoconservatives, including Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs' CEO David Makovsky, former Sen. Joseph Lieberman, WINEP director Patrick Clawson, along with former Obama National Security Council official and WINEP fellow Dennis Ross signed the letter as well.
The letter advanced a number of hawkish recommendations. "Most of us would have preferred a stronger agreement," it stated about the April 2015 Lausanne framework agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 world powers. The letter argued that "the United States must go on record now that it is committed to using all means necessary, including military force" to prevent "Iran from producing sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon." It added that "the President should declare this to be U.S. policy and Congress should formally endorse it."
However, some signatories of the letter, including former Obama adviser and President of the hawkish United Against a Nuclear Iran, Gary Samore, contended after the letter's publication: "If you look through the substance of the letter, you'll see that the positions we take on the key unresolved issues are very much in line with current U.S. policy." The letter itself ended with the disclaimer: "This statement reflects the broad consensus of the group; not every member of the group endorses every judgment or recommendation."
Controversies as Bush Adviser
Hadley's work in the Bush administration was tainted by a number of controversies, in particular his alleged mishandling of intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq. Hadley first gained notoriety when news reports revealed his role in promoting the false allegation that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger. According to theWashington Post, CIA Director George Tenet told Hadley that the Niger allegations, which Bush cited in his January 2003 State of the Union Address and served as a key justification for invading Iraq, were probably bogus and that the president should not use them. Hadley told the Post, "I should have recalled ... that there was controversy associated with the uranium issue … it is now clear to me that I failed."
Nonetheless, a few weeks after Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address, Hadley repeated the allegations in a Chicago Tribune op-ed, writing that the Iraqi "regime has tried to acquire natural uranium from abroad," pointing to what he said was a sustained, wide-ranging effort to acquire nuclear weapons.
In December 2008, a few weeks after Barack Obama was elected president, Hadley disputed a New York Times editorial asserting that "Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had been chafing to attack Iraq before Sept. 11, 2001. They justified that unnecessary war using intelligence reports that they knew or should have known to be faulty." Hadley protested that "There is no support for the Times' claim that the president and his national security team 'knew or should have known [the intelligence] to be faulty' or that 'pressure from the White House' led to particular conclusions. … As the president has stated, he regrets the intelligence was wrong, but it was intelligence that members of Congress, foreign governments, as well as the administration all believed to be accurate."
Hadley's credibility also took a hit after he pushed the claim that Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker in the 9/11 terror attacks, had met with Iraqi intelligence agent Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani in the Czech Republic several months before the attack. In an effort to establish a connection between former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the Al Qaeda hijackers, Hadley—in tandem with Vice President Cheney and his top aide I. Lewis Libby—worked to incorporate the allegation into speeches during the lead up to the war. The trio carried out this task despite the Czech Republic's admission that it could not verify that the meeting took place and U.S. intelligence agencies' inability to prove that Atta was abroad at the time of the alleged meeting.
The effort apparently alienated several officials in the Bush administration. According to a September 29, 2003, Washington Post article, behind the scenes, Cheney, Libby, and Hadley "began pushing to include the Atta claim in Powell's appearance before the UN Security Council a week after the State of the Union speech. Powell's presentation was aimed at convincing the world of Iraq's ties to terrorists and its pursuit of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. On Jan. 25, with a stack of notebooks at his side, color-coded with the sources for the information, Libby laid out the potential case against Iraq to a packed White House situation room. 'We read [their proposal to include Atta] and some of us said, Wow! Here we go again,' said one official who helped draft the speech. 'You write it. You take it out, and then it comes back again' ... [Some] officials present said they felt that Libby's presentation was over the top ... Much of it, in fact, unraveled when closely examined by intelligence analysts from other agencies and, in the end, was largely discarded."
Despite these controversies during Bush's first term, Hadley smoothly transitioned to national security adviser early in the second term. In late 2006 and early 2007, Hadley's National Security Council (NSC) staff, including most notably his former deputy, J.D. Crouch II, oversaw the development of the "surge" strategy for Iraq, which Bush unveiled in January 2007.
Many observers saw the "surge"—an idea the neoconservatives had heavily promoted—as a direct response to the final report of the Iraq Study Group (ISG), headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and the former chair of the House International Relations Committee, Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN). The Iraq Study Group had concluded that the United States should shift troops to training Iraq's military and engage diplomatically with Syria and Iran. Hadley served as a key spokesperson for the president's response to these proposals when he floated the alternative idea of a temporary "surge" in troop levels in mid-December 2006.
During the run up to the release of the ISG's report (also known as the Baker-Hamilton report), Hadley was key to preparing the ground for the president's negative response. He repeatedly told reporters that because Bush knew that "things are not proceeding well enough or fast enough in Iraq," he was considering several options. However, Hadley made clear that the president would not consider any rapid withdrawal from Iraq, even if—as many pundits surmised—the Baker-Hamilton report could provide convenient justification. Hadley told NBC's Meet the Press a few days before the report's release that "of course, as the president has said, cut and run is not his cup of tea."
In April 2007, as the administration began stepping up troop levels in Iraq, Hadley and other officials announced they were looking for a "war czar" to oversee the war effort there and in Afghanistan, and to act as an intermediary between the White House and the various agencies involved in prosecuting the "war on terror." Many hardliners and neoconservatives applauded the announcement, arguing that a war czar would be critical to ensuring the success of the escalation. "It would be definitely a good idea," said Frederick Kagan, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute often credited as an architect of the surge strategy. "Hope they do it, and hope they do it soon. And I hope they pick the right guy. It's a real problem that we don't have a single individual back here who is really capable of coordinating the effort." Hadley concurred, saying, "We're at a point now where we've got a plan. Execution of that plan is now everything."
However, many observers, including potential candidates for the czar job, ridiculed the idea, asserting that it was further sign of desperation from an administration still under the sway of Vice President Dick Cheney. One retired general approached about the position, retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, told the Washington Post: "The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going." Explaining why he turned down the offer, Sheehan pointed to what he saw as the continuing dominance of Cheney and his allies in the administration. "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer, and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks.'"
Hadley began his government career in the early 1970s, when he served as a Pentagon policy analyst during Nixon's first term. He steadily moved up the ladder in the national security community, serving as a member of President Gerald Ford's NSC staff and then on several official committees, including the Defense Policy Board and the National Security Advisory Panel to the Director of Central Intelligence.
Hadley also worked in the George H.W. Bush administration. From 1989 to 1993, Hadley served as an assistant to then-Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, at a time when Wolfowitz, under the auspices of then-Defense Secretary Cheney, oversaw the development of the now-infamous 1992 Draft Defense Planning Guidance, a document that largely foreshadowed the post-Cold War evolution of neoconservative discourse. According to his NSC biography, at the Pentagon, Hadley "had responsibility for defense policy toward NATO and Western Europe, on nuclear weapons and ballistic missile defense, and arms control. He also participated in policy issues involving export control and the use of space. Mr. Hadley served as Secretary of Defense Cheney's representative in talks led by Secretary of State Baker that resulted in the START I and START II Treaties."
According to the Center for Public Integrity, before joining the George W. Bush administration, Hadley "was a board member of ANSER Analytic Services, an Arlington, VA-based nonprofit research group that specialized in government effectiveness and threat assessment. Its trustees include several former Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency officials as well as corporate officers from defense contractors such as Raytheon and Bellcore." Hadley was also a partner in the law firm of Shea & Gardner, which serves major corporate clients, including defense contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and which counts among its former employees James Woolsey, the former CIA head and Defense Policy Board member.
Hadley was also on the team at the hardline National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP) that produced Rationale and Requirements for U.S. Nuclear Forces and Arms Control, a study that called for the development of "mini" nuclear weapons and served as a road map for George W. Bush's Nuclear Posture Review. The NIPP report advocated the use of bunker-busting nuclear weapons—even against non-nuclear countries—to rid "rogue" nations of any weapons of mass destruction. Prefiguring the Bush administration's "preemptive strike" doctrine, the report asserted: "Under certain circumstances very severe nuclear threats may be needed to deter any of these potential adversaries."
As early as 1997, Hadley said nuclear weapons could play a role in deterring any and all weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological weapons. He wrote in the Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law: "To say that a security policy based on nuclear weapons was 'irresponsible' and 'immoral' from the outset is to accuse the United States government of pursuing a policy that was irresponsible and immoral. Such a serious and false accusation against a democratic government destroys public confidence in our institutions and our leaders. ... It is often an unstated premise in the current debate that if nuclear weapons are needed at all, they are needed only to deter the nuclear weapons of others. I am not sure this unstated premise is true. As [former head of U.S. Space Command] General [Charles] Horner pointed out, this is not why we got into the nuclear business. In fact, one of the lessons other countries have drawn from the Gulf War is that no nation should even consider a confrontation with the United States military without having a weapon of mass destruction at its disposal, be it nuclear, chemical, or biological. They drew this lesson after observing the overwhelming conventional non-nuclear military capability that General Horner and others so visibly demonstrated on the Gulf War battlefield."