November 26, 2008

Thanks to Faiz at Think Progress for the vid.

Following the S.O.P. of making the leak the story, the Obama transition team has now unofficially officially announced the headliners for national security and foreign policy roles.

Secretary of Defense Bob Gates; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones:

Other front-runners have emerged in recent days, including Adm. Dennis Blair, retired from the Navy, for director of national intelligence; Susan E. Rice, a former assistant secretary of state, for ambassador to the United Nations; James B. Steinberg, a former deputy national security adviser, for deputy secretary of state; and Thomas E. Donilon, a former chief of staff at the State Department, for deputy national security adviser.

Gates' deputy and heir-apparent will likely be Richard Danzig and Michele Flournoy will fill the highly important positionof DoD #3, undersecretary for policy.

It is, as just about everyone seems to be noting today, a very centrist team rather than a progressive one. Rice and Flournoy are the (partial) exceptions, rather than the rule. No surprises there to anyone who wasn't drinking the kool-aid that Obama was a very liberal person wholesale - perhaps not what we might have hoped for and looking set to perpetuate the pervasive VSP meme of American exceptionalism albeit in a gentler form, but still streets ahead of a Bush or McCain foreign policy.

And, despite the frantic attempts of the Cretindens of the Right to spin it otherwise, few left-of-centrists are going to be too upset about keeping Gates for a year or so when everyone saw (and the Right are hoping we've forgotten) that Gates was an adult imposed by Poppy Bush's realists to supervise the incompetent neocon kiddies of the Bush Junior administration in the first place. Progressives might not be ecstatic about keeping Gates, but we can see the point - and no, the point isn't praising Junior for his Babysitter. It's partly about stopping the military's desk-jockeys from whining, in Clinton era style, about a President and SecState who don't "get" them while much needed reforms are pushed through but mostly about a consensus that freezes outthe neocons and their Cheneyite fellow travelers.

Clinton, if anything, is more problematic than Gates and potentially the most trouble of all simply because there's little doubt that Gates knows how to subordinate himself to his President's overall direction while still keeping his own end of policy debates respectfully strenuous. Hillary...well, we'll see.

But as Obama himself noted today while talking about his economic team picks, if he'd picked a whole bunch of new faces he'd have been accused by his opponents of leaving the country at risk without experienced hands at the helm instead of the current cries of "no change there". He also stated, clearly, that he expects his cabinet to follow his lead:

"Understand where the vision for change comes from, first and foremost," he said. "It comes from me. That's my job, to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure then that my team is implementing it."

I fully expect progressives are going to have a lot to criticize about Obama's foreign policy, going forward. His administration is going to insist that Afghanistan is a job that needs finishing (i.e. staying the course), not solving. It's going to keep rattling sabers at Iran even as it negotiates, in a classic case of strategic ambiguity. The chances of the next four years playing out without some new American military adventure, probably on claimed humanitarian grounds, are less than even. But his administration will also get a lot of things at least more right than Bush. The first instinct will not be to reach for the military to solve America's overseas relationship problems, massive Pentagon budgets will get deflated a little but not as much as needed, pragmatic European governments will breathe a sigh of relief and maybe even kick loose some NATO co-operation. It's going to be a mixed bill, but that's better than an overwhelmingly disappointing one.

Crossposted from Newshoggers

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