Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Team Of Rivals

Now that the cat's officially out of the bag with 44's new crew, Nik Gvosdev, a senior editor at The National Interest, and a professor of national-security studies at the U.S. Naval War College, shares that the meetings of the National Security Council should be interesting!

"Defense Secretary Robert Gates remaining at the Pentagon, former rival Senator illary Rodham Clinton now nominated for Foggy Bottom and retired–Marine Commandant James Jones as national- security adviser.

Meanwhile, his campaign foreign-policy adviser, Susan Rice, will
take up the post of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations—and will be given cabinet rank. And we should not forget that the vice president-elect, Joe Biden, is also effectively a member of the foreign-policy team.

Yet, it is hard to imagine this diverse collection of individuals
(and their respective staffs) forming an integrated, seamless national-security apparatus.

What is going to happen at a meeting, for instance, where Susan
Rice’s advocacy of armed intervention to stop civilian deaths (e.g. in a place like Darfur) runs up against Bob Gates’ pronouncement that not every tragedy around the world merits a U.S. military response?

This, of course, raises two disturbing possibilities. One is that
the Obama administration will become paralyzed on foreign affairs, with infighting reminiscent of the famed split during President Carter’s tenure between then–Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The other is that different parts of the policy establishment will
seek to become independent actors in foreign and defense policy—á la Bill Casey as CIA director during the Reagan Administration.

Robert Gates is the “cleanup crew,” the one in charge of winding
down the Iraq war and putting the Afghan house in order. (In political terms, he also provides cover for the president from his critics—by providing the continuity with the past administration).

Joe Biden is the president’s liaison to the foreign-affairs
apparatus in Congress and the one who can argue to key Democratic members why they can’t afford to undermine the new president in the eyes of the world.

General Jones represents Obama’s outreach to the military, with
assurances that he not only won’t be disarming America anytime soon but also that the advice and perspectives of the uniformed services—perhaps overly discounted in the outgoing administration—will receive a fair and respectful hearing.

Clinton and Rice, each in their own arenas, are charged with
winning support from friends and allies—not token “coalition of the willing support” but serious, James Baker-style assistance.

This approach can work, but two things are required. First, the
president himself must be able to provide clear guidance for the type of world he wants to achieve and what he’s willing to pay to get it. He has to effectively communicate his wishes.

The second is that the people he’s selected must be willing to
carry out what he has requested—and that will also mean staying out of other people’s lanes.

It’s a gamble.

If it works, Obama becomes the new FDR (who also successfully
pulled off the “team of rivals” gambit in foreign affairs). If it fails, Obama becomes the political heir of Jimmy Carter."

Either way, the meetings of the National Security Council should be interesting!

Art - "Team of Rivals"


Findalis said...

Lincoln couldn't make it work having political enemies in his cabinet. Obama will not make it work either. Within a couple of years we will see either a total meltdown of the government or a totally new makeup of the cabinet with only Obama's leftist cronies in it.

Ottavio (Otto) Marasco said...

Great analysis here; "Integrated, seamless national security apparatus" and consensus within the Obama admin … I doubt it. This is serious stuff! The skill and shortcomings of NSC staff can easily translate into FP failures with consequences for the entire globe. The NSC team are the architects of American power being part of the most powerful committee in the world. FP and Nat Sec paralysis is not an improbable outcome....