No Solidarity for Envoys to Poland

By Al Kamen
Friday, March 28, 2008

At the State Department, the ideological splits usually divide the hawks and doves, the internationalists and the isolationists, the pragmatists and the human rights supporters.

But some historical fault lines include personal rivalries and warring factions that the public rarely hears about. Some internal conflicts even feature groups akin to the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Take, for example, the nearly 30 years' war between the Hill-ites and the Fried-ists, including recent skirmishes that are much the talk in Foggy Bottom corridors.

Hostilities began in the 1980s when Daniel Fried and Christopher R. Hill were working on Poland at the State Department. Hill was skeptical of the dockworker-electrician Lech Walesa, whose Solidarity movement was trying to topple the communist dictatorship. Fried was a true believer in the effort. (Score one for Fried on that.)

Each was later an ambassador to Poland, and each has evidently made it clear to aides that he was better than the other. When Hill was in Warsaw early in the Bush administration and Fried was at the National Security Council overseeing Europe, Hill would openly gripe that Fried purposely kept him out of the good meetings with the president.

When Fried became assistant secretary of state for Europe under Secretary Condoleezza Rice, and Hill was assistant secretary for East Asia, Fried promptly cleaned house of the Hill-ites at the European bureau. Hill promptly hired some of the people Fried axed.

Then came the vacancy earlier this month for the top job for a career diplomat, undersecretary of state for political affairs, the No. 3 post in the department. And while nominee William Burns awaits confirmation, the acting undersecretary is none other than Fried, which means he's, for now, Hill's boss.

Hill, the point man on getting the North Koreans to drop their nukes program, is said to be none too pleased about the situation, and we're told his displeasure is apparent at senior staff meetings where Fried is present.

This reminds us of the occasional tension among the folks on "Gilligan's Island." Maybe they should all sing the theme song or one of the other songs on the show, which Fried's father worked on to put young Dan through college. To recall:

" So this is the tale of the castaways,

They're here for a long, long time.

They'll have to make the best of things,

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