If Brown had really wanted to bring Ashdown inside the tent he could have tempted him with something involving Iraq or Afghanistan. He could have put Ashdown in charge of a government, rather than think tank, Baker-Hamilton style Iraq commission. Or, offered him the post of defence secretary. This would have been both good politics, distancing Gordon from Iraq and muddying the Lib Dem’s anti-war stance by bringing one of the very few pro-war Lib Dems into the government, and good for the country, Ashdown's Balkans experience makes him by far the most qualified politician to deal with these issues. The fact Brown didn’t, suggests that his real aims were what Fraser reported.
One other thing worth thinking about, both Cameron and Brown have now tried and failed to do deals with Ming. But while Cameron’s failure blew up in his face, Brown’s seems to be rebounding to his benefit.