Monday, December 01, 2008

Spotlight on National Security Team

By Carol Gee

Things will get less crazy -- Today is a big day for the cause of sanity in U.S. foreign policy. President-elect Barack Obama announced his choices for the new administration's national security team. The news for this post is drawn from foreign newspapers in order to provide a flavor of what those outside our borders are thinking about the Obama team. The sources include The Financial Times, the BBC News, Aljazeera and the International Herald Tribune.

Three "heavyweights" lead the list. And they will need to be big and strong because they could be called upon to lead Obama's promised foreign policy redirection. They could be asked to look at turning some of the U.S. Defense Department's kinetic "swords" into State Department diplomatic "plowshares." It is an amazing possibility, that three who were seen by many as "hawks," would be willing to sign on to such a long overdue shift within the national security enterprise . David Sanger explains in an excellent analysis for the International Herald Tribune. He begins,

. . . all three of his choices — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as the rival turned secretary of state; General James Jones, the former NATO commander, as national security adviser, and Robert Gates, the current and future defense secretary — were selected in large part because they have embraced a sweeping shift of resources in the national security arena.

With the economic crisis in the forefront as the highest priority, the themes running through the group's qualification include bipartisanship, experience, self-confidence, intellect and willingness to speak the truth to power. That means that their strong leadership, informed by Barack Obama's vision, will guide the nation along the right path from early on. Not named, but part of the solution, is former President Bill Clinton, who will be making significant sacrifices to clear the way for his wife's appointment to her former rival's administration.

Of the six choices that were announced today, three are women. Each appointee made a statement, Clinton speaking first and longest. In addition to Senator Clinton, President-elect Obama named Susan Rice as U.N. Ambassador (raised to a Cabinet-level position) and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security. Rounding out the team is Eric Holder as Attorney General. The group is diversity personified, as Holder and Rice are African-Americans. Vice-President-elect Joe Biden was present on stage and also made a good statement reinforcing the sophistication and depth of his knowledge of foreign affairs.

The "Wow factor" is quite astonishing as I think about it. For years I have admired Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, Janet Napolitano, and Jim Jones. I have been more recently impressed by Holder's courage and evident constitutional bent, as well as Rice's towering intellect.

The appointments will not be without criticism, as Aljazeera reports. To quote their good story's conclusion,

'Moving backwards'

Critics have told Al Jazeera that the appointments were a move backwards.

"What we're seeing here is that Barack Obama is once again taking us back to the 1990s in terms of the people he's assembling," said Jeremy Scahill, the author of Blackwater.

"It's the old guard people who have been so wrong about so much from the beginning."

However, some say that the old guard blamed for past mistakes have gained valuable experience from those very errors said to have put the US in its current tenuous financial and military situation.

"There's a hope that he is using very experienced people with centrist credentials to drive a very bold, progressive programme," said Robert Borosage of Campaign for America's Future.

Mondays at this blog have usually been set aside for Republican rants, stories of their latest failures, scandals, indictments or trials, and rounding out with a sigh of relief as we are more and more able to say, "Goodbye to all that!" Sanity will be coming back to Foggy Bottom and the NSC. The adults are again going to be in charge.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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