Monday, December 01, 2008

A Handpicked Team for a Sweeping Shift in Foreign Policy - New York Times

A Handpicked Team for a Sweeping Shift in Foreign Policy by David Sangler, New York Times

President-elect Obama today introduced a set of cabinet appointees for positions involved in national security. Among them are Sen. Hillary Clinton (a rival candidate for the Presidency), Mr. Gates (current Secretary of Defense under a Republican Presidency) and Gen. Jones (USMC, ret.) The range of reactions has reached a bit of predictability. Progressives/liberals complaining that these are people who have been working in this field and therefore do not represent change. The Republican National Committee talking about how these picks are taking their places alongside the Four Horsemen of the Apocylpse (I'm only slightly facetious here). And various greybeards observing that President-elect Obama has a pattern of picking pragmatists for all of his policy positions. And Obama supporters who have observed that the entire Obama campaign was based on pragmatism planks over ideology.

But looking at those senior picks of Jones and Gates, neither of whom is there any reason to believe are Obama loyalists, the question is how can they work together. All of the picks (to include Sen. Clinton, Dr. Rice and the others) have strong personalities and definitive beliefs. President-elect Obama has stated that he intends his senior leadership meetings to be one of vigorous debate, in stark contrast to the current policy of removing all cabinet members that showed dissent. But it is also observed that people who disagree all the time don't work together all that well.

It turns out there is a unifying theme among the top nominees. The theme are the elements of national power, described as DIME (diplomacy, information, military, economic). Gen. Jones and Secretary Gates have been heard on many occasions advocating the need to strengthen the non-military elements of national power. Sec. Gates going so far as to say he would willingly give up part of the budget of the Department of Defense to strengthen the Department of State. (and reminding JCS Chief Admiral Mullen he made similar statements when he was PACOM). This is also the driving factor of candidate Obama's national security platform when running. So, essentially, the top-level nominees and the President-elect (with the exception of Sen. Clinton, whom I do not know about) have each independently advocated the same change in the overall approach to the national security of the United States. For all their differences (and it is expected that intelligent, capable people have differences), the fact that they have subscribed to the same paradigm makes the rest details.
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