Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

December 1, 2008

CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN.... Hilzoy mentioned this overnight, but it's worth re-emphasizing, since it's likely to be today's big story. At 10:40 a.m., the president-elect will introduce the leaders of his national security team, and while they come from disparate political backgrounds, they agree on where the country needs to go.

[A]ll three of his choices -- Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as the rival turned secretary of state; Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander, as national security adviser, and Robert M. Gates, the current and future defense secretary -- have embraced a sweeping shift of priorities and resources in the national security arena.

The shift would create a greatly expanded corps of diplomats and aid workers that, in the vision of the incoming Obama administration, would be engaged in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states.

One Obama advisor told the New York Times that all three have all embraced "a rebalancing of America's national security portfolio" after a huge investment in new combat capabilities during the Bush years.

Denis McDonough, a senior Obama foreign policy adviser, added, "This is not an experiment, but a pragmatic solution to a long-acknowledged problem. During the campaign the then-senator invested a lot of time reaching out to retired military and also younger officers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan to draw on lessons learned. There wasn't a meeting that didn't include a discussion of the need to strengthen and integrate the other tools of national power to succeed against unconventional threats. It is critical to a long-term successful and sustainable national security strategy in the 21st century."

It seems two of the more common criticisms of late about the team Obama is putting together is that there aren't enough "fresh faces" in key roles, and that the officials are less likely to help push U.S. policy in a fundamentally different, more progressive, direction. A Clinton/Gates/Jones team may not fare well on the first complaint, but it seems poised to debunk the second.

In fact, this NYT report points to a fairly dramatic shift, not only in foreign policy tactics, but also in priorities. Gates and Obama routinely tell the same story: the United States has more members of military marching bands than foreign service officers. It's a shortsighted error both are anxious to correct.

We're talking about a sea change when it comes to the influence of U.S. power abroad -- emphasizing prevention, bringing some new fiscal discipline to the Pentagon budget, making a new commitment to diplomacy, bringing stability to failed states to prevent a vacuum filled by terrorists.

And in a political context, the president-elect is poised to do all of this with a decidedly non-liberal team of officials -- indeed, with Bush's Defense Secretary -- offering the kind of cover that may make success even more likely.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (15)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Steve ; Last post 12:45 next post 8:00am When do you sleep? I am thankful you are here for us , providing a perspective we can get only in a few places.

Posted by: John R on December 1, 2008 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

Not only is Obama taking us in the right direction, but he's playing it beautifully. I'm in awe.

Yeah, I know he won't be President for another 50 days, but still: he's played everything in a way that has undercut pretty much every argument for GOP opposition.

How do you think he does it?
I don't know.
What makes him so good?

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 1, 2008 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

If they were going to roll something out at 10:40 a.m., shouldn't it have been their tax policy? :-)

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 1, 2008 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, talking as diplomatic strategy instead of cowboy bs! I love it!

Posted by: Personal Failure on December 1, 2008 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

There was a recent discussion centered around a counterfactual film "What would Kennedy have done in Vietnam" it seems like the usual Kennedy puff piece but the interesting point was made that almost all of the advisers remained under LBJ but the policies did a 180. The buck stops in the Oval office is something we've forgotten under Bush.

Posted by: grinning cat on December 1, 2008 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Time to apply to the Foreign Service again: this time, it'll be worth it.

Posted by: Calton Bolick on December 1, 2008 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

grinning cat - the policies didn't do a 180° under Johnson, because the policies hadn't been set yet under Kennedy. The debate in Kennedy's Administration over what to do about Vietnam was far from being resolved when Kennedy was shot.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 1, 2008 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Gates and Obama routinely tell the same story: the United States has more members of military marching bands than foreign service officers. It's a shortsighted error both are anxious to correct.

It probably takes years to grow competent FSOs, so this has to be a short haul/long haul thing.

Posted by: sjrsm on December 1, 2008 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

the United States has more members of military marching bands than foreign service officers

But nothing inspires admiration of America like John Philip Sousa!

Posted by: lobbygow on December 1, 2008 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

"A fairly dramatic shift," "a sea change" in American foreign policy?? Hardly. The changes described certainly are positive, reflecting the expected move away from Bush's right-wing nationalism to a more open and pragmatic approach to the world. But Obama shows no signs of questioning basic assumptions of the centrist foreign policy establishment--for example, that NATO is essential and must expand, or that we need to add 90,000 people to the armed forces. There's been a lot of wishful thinking on the left about Obama being a secret progressive--e.g., that he will cunningly govern from the left with a centrist team. I would like to think it's true, but I have yet to see some credible evidence that it is.

Posted by: Tony Greco on December 1, 2008 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Not so fast on Bob Gates

He may NOT be so much Obama’s guy after all.

Otherwise, what Tony Greco said. This summmer, Obama wrote Georgia just as much a blank check as Bush and McCain did, for example.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 1, 2008 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Sounds like same-old, same-old. Sticking our noses everywhere and meddling.

Posted by: Luther on December 1, 2008 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

How do you think he does it?
I don't know.
What makes him so good?

He stands like a statue? Becomes part of the machine? Feels all the bumpers? Always plays it clean? Plays by intuition? Never tilts at all?

Posted by: drjimcooper on December 1, 2008 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

How Quickly Obama Forgot Hillary's Sniperless Bosnia Adventure
Hillary Clintons story about landing in Bosnia under sniper fire, running to the car with her and Chelsea's heads down and a canceled greeting rang as very inspirational and possibly Presidential. Too bad Sinbad and others on the trip began to speak out and claim it was all a farce. Hillary and her daughter discounted their stories and insisted it was true. We have documented news footage that it wasn't true.
The truth is that Hillary and Chelsea strolled off the plane, were met by greeters on the tarmac, remained there to hear a little girls sing and then posed for photo opportunities with nary a sniper to worry about.
When the footage surfaced she called her repeated statements a misstatement.
When troops are being shot at and dying over seas, she makes false statements about imagined moments under fire. Iguess that says it all. I guess 12 years ago and the lies she told now says everything you need to know about her character. She is not only too inexperience for Secretary of State she would be an embarrassment as well.

Posted by: Eddie on December 1, 2008 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

If Clinton is such a bad choice why do moderates on both sides think that she is a good choice? I think it is a good litmus test that if she angers the extremes on both the left and the right, she is probably a good choice for the position.

I sense something different about Obama. For the first time since about 1971 I have some hope for the system. He seems to me to be more than just your average pol. I could be wrong, but what have we got to lose? He's worth the shot.

Posted by: Roger on December 1, 2008 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly