Obama’s national security team

200209241_cabinetphoto2002092515h I was asked my opinion on this.  It must be remembered that the professionals at CIA, NSA, DIA, the armed forces, etc. are the actual capability of these agencies and parts of government.  Agency leadership provides vision, purpose, moral guidance, all the higher functions of management.  Top leadership does not conduct operations.

From that point of view the team that Obama has assembled looks good.  Clinton, Gates, Napolitano, Jones. Blair, Panetta, Brennan, these people will make a formidable management team and a veritable sea change in leadership ability from the Dark Age through which we have just passed.

Will this team last very long?  That remains to be seen.  I have a hard time believing that the moneyed interests that supported Obama for president are going to accept the possibilities for policy change implicit in mot of these appointments.  pl

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16 Responses to Obama’s national security team

  1. PeterE says:

    Could you clarify and expand on your last sentence about moneyed interests? I suspect that the stewards of great fortunes are terrified by the consequences of policies they supported and implemented. They don’t want a counterrevolution. They want to be saved.

  2. Knut Royce says:

    Those “moneyed interests” support only one foreign policy issue, and from my recollection they contributed more heavily to Clinton than to Obama. They were nervous about Obama. Unfortunately the issue they support is also the only foreign policy agenda controlled by Congress, not the Executive. And those “moneyed interests” are very effective with Congress. I don’t think the carnage in Gaza will change that. Cheers, Knut

  3. Pat:
    The new Economist has a lead analysis entitled ‘The Hundred Years War” and I found it illuminating. It provide a far deeper historical context to this part of the world than I had accessed before. To quote through the article:
    “”Why They Fight”
    And Gaza, remember, is only one item in a mighty catalogue of misery, whose entries are inscribed in tears. The Jews and Arabs of Palestine have been fighting off and on for 100 years. In 1909 the mostly Russian socialist idealists of the Zionist movement set up an armed group, Hashomer, to protect their new farms and villages in Palestine from Arab marauders. Since then has come the dismal march of wars—1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, 2006 and now 2009—each seared by blood and fire into the conflicting myths and memories of the two sides.””
    “”At heart, this is a struggle of two peoples for the same patch of land. It is not the sort of dispute in which enemies push back and forth over a line until they grow tired. It is much less tractable than that, because it is also about the periodic claim of each side that the other is not a people at all—at least not a people deserving sovereign statehood in the Middle East.””
    “The fact that the Arabs rejected the UN’s partition plan of 60 years ago has long given ideological comfort to Israel and its supporters. Abba Eban, an Israeli foreign minister, quipped that the Palestinians “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity””
    “After the ignominious defeat of 1967, the Arab states again rejected the idea of peace with Israel. That was, indeed, a wasted opportunity. But even though the Israel of 1967 discussed how much of the West Bank it was ready to trade for peace, the Likud governments of the late 1970s and 1980s wanted it all. For Israel fell in love with the territories it had occupied.””
    “In Israel’s early life Zionism was a mainly secular movement and the dominant force on the other side was a secular Arab nationalism. Since 1967, however, religion, nationalism and hunger for Palestinians’ land have fused to create a powerful constituency in Israel dedicated to retaining control of the whole of Jerusalem and Judaism’s holy places on the West Bank. Israel’s system of proportional voting has given the settlers and zealots a chokehold over politics. Among Arabs secular nationalism is meanwhile waning in the face of a powerful Islamic revival through the region. And a central dogma of the Islamists is that Israel is an implant that must be violently resisted and eventually destroyed.””
    “One far-seeing Zionist, Vladimir Jabotinsky, predicted in the 1930s not only that the Arabs would oppose the swamping of Palestine with Jewish immigrants but also that “if we were Arabs, we would not accept it either”. In order to survive, the Jews would have to build an “iron wall” of military power until the Arabs accepted their state’s permanence.””
    The Economist concurs with issue of IDF effectiveness:
    “”There is worse. On top of the return to rejection and the growing role of religion, a third new obstacle to peace is the apparent crumbling of Jabotinsky’s iron wall.
    In Lebanon three years ago, and today in Gaza, Hizbullah and Hamas seem to have invented a new military doctrine. Israel has deterred its enemies mainly by relying on a mighty conventional army to react with much greater force to any provocation. But non-state actors are harder to deter. Hizbullah and Hamas, armed by Iran with some modern weapons, can burrow inside the towns and villages of their own people while lobbing rockets at Israel’s.””
    And, disabusing of a 100% American commitment to Israel from its initial creation:
    “”For too long the conflict in Palestine was a hostage to the cold war. America was once neutral: it was Eisenhower who forced Israel out of Gaza (and Britain out of Egypt) after Suez. But America later recruited Israel as an ally, and this suited the Israelis just fine. It gave them the support of a superpower whilst relieving them of a duty to resolve the quarrel with the Palestinians, even though their own long-term well-being must surely depend on solving that conflict.””
    And, finally, this advice to all, including President Obama and his national security team:
    “”There is a limit, however. Taking Hamas down a peg is one thing. But even in the event of Israel “winning” in Gaza, a hundred years of war suggest that the Palestinians cannot be silenced by brute force. Hamas will survive, and with it that strain in Arab thinking which says that a Jewish state does not belong in the Middle East. To counter that view, Israel must show not only that it is too strong to be swept away but also that it is willing to give up the land—the West Bank, not just Gaza—where the promised Palestinian state must stand. Unless it starts doing that convincingly, at a minimum by freezing new settlement, it is Palestine’s zealots who will flourish and its peacemakers who will fall back into silence. All of Israel’s friends, including Barack Obama, should be telling it this.””

  4. Cujo359 says:

    Of that list of folks, the only one I have reservations about is Brennan, due to his support for the “rendition” policies of the Bush Administration.
    I’m glad to see that you don’t have a problem with Panetta. As Clinton’s CoS, he was certainly aware of what intelligence means to the President, so I wasn’t too worried. Given the example of the current administration, it’s probably better to leave the collection and analysis to the agency’s employees, anyway.

  5. J says:

    the one that i have ‘concerns’ about is blair as dni.

  6. Will says:

    The great missed opportunity was Camp David. Dennis Ross is the great culprit. Summits cap off pre-arranged deals where the summits finish off sticking points. Camp David was a total ambush- not anywhere close to what ultimately was platable such as the final Taba Accord but by then the Second intifida had ignited.
    The “moneyed interests” should be obvious. American Jews, though nominally 2%, effectively exert an influence in the corridors of power close to 20%, maybe more. 13 senators, 43 representatives,control of media. Many times on TV, you will see a Jewish-American interviewing another one- say Wallace vs Kristol.
    The reason for this is the IQ spread 114 to 100. But due to the bell shaped curve at the shoulders, the result is that one out every four American w/ an IQ over 140 is a Jewish Americans. This is where the rubber hits the road as far as grad schools, law schools, med schools, management & government and just plain entrepeneurship.
    From James Petras, the NYU socialologist(sp?) Power of Israel in the United States
    “He puts forth the thesis that American Jewry are less than 2% of the population, yet represent 25-30% of U.S.’s wealthiest families (citing Forbes). He asserts that they weild their wealth effectively. As an example(citing Richard Cohen in the Washington Post) — supplying 60% and 35% of the total contributions respectively of the American Democratic and Republican political parties. Petras maintains that little public discussion is allowed about this financial power.
    Petras maintains that this supposed Jewish influence in the Unites States affects Israel and Middle East Warfare. Petras has the view that Israel has engaged in ongoing military adventures with U.S. support and he has the view that these actions are contrary to U.S. national interest and are inexplicable without the Lobby connection. He repeats the analysis that neoconservatives embroiled America into the Iraq War under pretextural reasons to further greater Israel’s interest. He has claimed that neoconservative Jewish organizations accurately reflect what he sees as the “dual loyalties” of the vast majority of American Jews. He further notes that pro-Israel neoconservative hawks are now urging war with Iran. He coins a new term -“Zioncon.”
    Petras analyzes the Global War or Terror as overblown and a way to mischaracterize resistance movements as “terrorists” and delegitimitize them.”
    Real change must come with Jewish Americans such as Dennis Ross. Surprisingly Rahm Emmanuel, a second generation Israeli-American has moderate views and is no Dennis Ross.

  7. Cieran says:

    It’s worthwhile considering DOE’s intelligence operations as well. Nonproliferation is one of the most important aspects of current U.S. intelligence efforts, and the DOE has a key role to play there, e.g., accurate information on the spread of centrifuge technology.
    Spencer Abraham didn’t have the technical moxie to push back successfully on the aluminum tubes debacle in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. But it’s going to be a lot harder for anyone to argue effectively with Stephen Chu on such topics, given his status as a Nobel Laureate in the relevant technical field.
    So this is another intelligence venue where Obama seems to have chosen his people well.

  8. lina says:

    I, too, need a little more information about “moneyed interests.” The Obama campaign raised three quarters of a billion dollars, primarily in donations of $100 or less. Who are these moneyed interests and why would they influence foreign/national security policy?
    If you’re talking about the “Israel, right or wrong” crowd, you might find their financial contributions inconsequential on the overall ledger sheet.

  9. jr786 says:

    I think Lina’s point is well taken. That’s why Obama’s cave in to Aipac was even more remarkable – he din’t need their money and had enough grass roots political support to overcome anything they could have thrown at him. Or at the very least he could have tried.
    He’s supposed to make a big speech shortly after he’s elected expalining how and why the United States is not at war with Islam. This after his silence over Gaza.

  10. Will says:

    the following Obama comment from Bloomberg’s gives insight into the political donor process:
    “Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) — President-elect Barack Obama will uphold at least one of Washington’s old ways: the appointment of campaign donors to plum ambassadorships.
    “There probably will be some” political appointees serving abroad, Obama said at a news conference yesterday. “It would be disingenuous for me to suggest that there are not going to be some excellent public servants but who haven’t come through the ranks of the civil service.””
    Yes, there were many small donors. I myself, gave $25. But half the money was bundled by Wall Street (Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers ) and other organizations. And Wall Street is paying for most of the Inaugration.

  11. R Whitman says:

    The desired policy change can happen if it is done swiftly and surely. If they screw around a month or two it is lost in the shuffle. It needs to be announced Jan 20, 21 or at the latest, in Hillary’s acceptance speech after she is confirmed.

  12. Jose says:

    Will, read the book:”World on Fire” by Amy Chua for insight in the term “dominant minorities”.
    Is Panetta simply the best available and prominent Hispanic?
    I’m not really sure…

  13. Yohan says:

    I’m still curious who the next rung down will be, all the deputies, assistants, and deputy assistants who are where the policy rubber meets the bureaucracy road. When the first W cabinet came out, they didn’t look so bad, especially with so much focus on Powell. Little did we know how important and influential people like Wolfowitz, Perle, and Feith would be.
    Also, how will the departmental turf wars change under Obama? Will Clinton lead a successful State counteract against Defense’s mission creep? Will the CIA reclaim some of its former clout? Will the DNI gain some teeth or remain just another layer of bureaucracy?

  14. I'll wake up soon says:

    I have a dream:
    That on Day #1 of the Obama Administration, he’ll meet with his Cabinet and agree to immediately cut off *all* military and economic assistance to Israel, until all settlements are cleared back to 1967 borders, Jerusalem is divided, the wall is re-routed to consider Palestinian needs, etc. Maybe put the same embargo on Palestinians.
    These two people have sucked up FAR too much of the world’s diplomatic oxygen for the past 100 years.
    There are far more pressing problems than those created by the 10 million or so people living on that speck of dusty land.

  15. inquire says:

    I would welcome your reaction/comments to Allan Nairn’s detailed critique of Blair’s appointment on Democracy Now recently in three parts:
    New Trouble for an Obama Nominee: Admiral Dennis Blair Aided Perpetrators of 1999 Church Killings in East Timor Jan 6
    Obama Nominee Admiral Dennis Blair Aided Perpetrators of 1999 Church Killings in East Timor (Part II) Jan 7
    Did Obama Aide Admiral Dennis Blair Lie to Congress? Jan 9
    Nairn recounts very serious accusations with what appears to be concrete evidence, including US Army communiques. I imagine these issues will recur in the confirmation hearings.

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