Barack Obama’s Hawkish National Security Team

The Associated Press is reporting that Barack Obama will announce Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State this Monday. ABC News reports that the entire national security team will be announced Monday. ABC News reports on the makeup of the team:

Pending Senate confirmation, the President-elect’s national security team will include: Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who will serve as Secretary of State in his administration; Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano who will be Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; attorney Eric Holder, Attorney General; Retired Marine General Jim Jones, National Security Adviser; retired Adm. Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence; Susan Rice, Ambassador to the United Nations; and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who will stay on in that role for at least a year.

With Jim Jones, Hillary Clinton and Bob Gates in the three most important national security positions, Barack Obama has a foreign policy team that any Republican would approve of. Barack Obama is keeping George W Bush’s Defense Secretary, appointing as his National Security Advisor someone who campaigned with John McCain, and is putting someone at the State Department who has publicly threatened to obliterate Iran. The progressive Left has discovered a new mantra for explaining this apparent shift to the right on foreign policy: it is not the people who Obama appoints that matters, it is the policy that he executes. I hope those making that argument are right. But, it seems to me that if you surround yourself with a team of advisors who are all hawkish, you are liable to get hawkish advice. In the face of such hawkish advice, it seems silly to ignore all of it and chart a foreign policy course that is independent of all the advice you are getting from your advisors.

Let us hope that, in spite of who is manning the fort, Obama somehow manages to take US foreign policy in a direction away from the ditch George W Bush has put us in. Back in May, Obama said this of Clinton’s bluster on Iran:

"It’s not the language we need right now, and I think it’s language reflective of George Bush," Obama told NBC’s "Meet the Press."

Let us hope that our new Secretary of State will heed her President’s advice. Still, I am not encouraged. If Obama’s foreign policy team is some brilliant head fake to give him political cover to break new ground, he sure fooled me.



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4 Responses to Barack Obama’s Hawkish National Security Team

  1. Mike says:

    In defense of Gen. Jim Jones USMC ret… He did endorse John McCain but that is because he served as his Senate Liason when he was a Major or Lt. Colonel back in the early 1980’s. They were buddies to a certain extent serving in that capacity. Marines are a very loyal bunch. I can’t speak for President Elect Obama’s other choices without making this an essay but as for Gen. Jones I think Obama’s team is seeking someone who has sincere releations with the key intel players we will need to cooperate with in the coming days. Let’s just pray that when the hawks are squawking for justice someone will temper that tone with the mercy that comes with the experience of the battlefield firsthand. Gen. Jones is a Decorated Veteran having commanded troops in the field at the platoon level, he knows the price of blood.

  2. Mash says:

    Mike, you are right about General Jones. I think he is highly respected and not a bad pick on its own. I think if the team included Jones as NSA and a less hawkish person at State, I would be more encouraged. Between the two, Jones will be the dove on Middle East issues if his stint as envoy over there is any indication.

    I much prefer a soldier or a diplomat than a politician at State, frankly.

    And while I have read very good arguments for keeping Gates at Defense, I am troubled that Gates publicly came out against Obama’s planned drawdown. Keeping Gates sure signals continuity with the Bush admin on Iraq policy. I am waiting to be pleasantly surprised as Obama implements his stated policies even with having senior staff that has publicly disagreed with those policies. But I guess I wouldnt be a blogger if I didnt say so now that I had my concerns about this team that he is put together 🙂

  3. Rivkeleh says:

    I noted with interest that when NPR made the announcement this morning, they specifically said that Gates had been asked to stay on FOR A YEAR in his current role. Strikes me as a good way to allay the concern that during a transition in leadership is a good time to launch a terrorist attack, during the administration handover, and in that light, I’m pretty pleased, actually, with the decision.

    I think that if you can also get your brain around (Not YOU, Mash — but “one,” if you will) the concept that the campaign is a big game, like a big game of Trivial Pursuit or something, and at the end, everyone’s still friends and has more in common than what divides them and can shake hands and all go get a beer, which seems unthinkable from a distance, but here near it all, it makes more sense — with all of that taken into consideration, it seems more like good sportsmanship to take Hilary on as SoS. I’m not in love with it, but I wasn’t in love with her during the campaign in part because I thought her Trivial Pursuit strategy was a little over the top. But I suppose I’m prepared to give her a chance to give the post a try. If it doesn’t go well, at least we’ll still have someone to lampoon, right?

  4. Mash says:

    Rivkeleh, I am not optimistic.

    Today at the press conference 3 questions were about the Clinton pick and the difference between the two. This is only the beginning. Putting someone with political ambition as SoS is always a risk, and putting someone like Clinton with a history of strategic leaking there, is a doubly bad idea. Obama will have to work extra and unnecessarily hard to convince the world that what Clinton says on his behalf is in fact what his policy is. And when there is disagreement, we are almost guaranteed to hear about it from the likes of Lanny Davis and crew. What a nutty and weak position to be in. The BBC, in their first article on the appointment, highlighted how difficult it would be for Obama to manage policy with Clinton at State. You can rest assured that if the press is talking about this as a problem, so are leaders in every capital in the world.

    I am thinking of how Kissinger kept undermining Nixon with his leaks. We are looking for a fun time. I think we ought to rename Foggy Bottom as Leaky Bottom.

    I see that the major progressive blogs are spinning like mad to make this seem all good. They should all read what they had to say about this a few months ago. If the claim now is everything said during the primaries by commentators was all spin, then what credibility do any of their words have now. It seems to me if it was all spin then it is all spin now.

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