President-elect Obama is hard at work during the waning Bush days. Today, he announced his national security team. His appointments tell a great deal about his vision for American foreign policy in the coming years. All members of the team support a shift in U.S. policy. Like Obama, they want it to include more diplomacy and fewer military solutions.
Over the weekend, terrorists killed hundreds of people in Mumbai. These attacks underscore need for global solutions to terrorism. After the announcements, each nominee spoke briefly. Several times, they referred to the attacks. Each nominee pledged to keep Americans safe, and many stated that the America cannot solve global problems it faces alone.
Obama recognizes the support he enjoys throughout the world. He is ready to use his influence to change America’s standing in the world community. When other countries begin to see America as a partner rather than an adversary, terrorism will decline. This is Obama’s stated goal.
Several members of the team will disagree often and vigorously. Obama stated that he appointed them because of their differences, saying that it was dangerous for the President to surround himself with yes-men. He told the press that he would direct foreign policy after hearing and considering the views of the team.
The current Secretary of State, Robert Gates will remain in his position. This appointment fulfills Obama’s promise to appoint a bi-partisan cabinet. The team also includes Senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Obama praised Clinton’s intelligence and work ethic. He defended her to the press who questioned his change of opinion following the campaign, noting that it was fun for the press to pose such questions. He also stated that he would not have offered her the job if he thought she was not the best candidate for it.
His candidate for ambassador to the United Nations is Susan Rice. Dr. Rice is a Rhodes scholar who served in President Clinton’s State Department. She was also foreign policy advisor to several other Democratic campaigns for president before Obama’s. In her statement, she pledged to support and improve the United Nations. Her pledge is a signal that the United States plans to become more of a team player in world affairs. Retired General James L. Jones will serve as National Security Advisor.
William Holder is Obama’s candidate for attorney general. He pledged to work for policies that were more in line with the constitution. Closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay will likely head his list. Janet Napolitano, nominated for head of the Department of Homeland Security, will be concerned with domestic issues. She is currently the governor of Arizona, and many expect her to bring a practical and sane approach to immigration reform.
Many of the team stressed the complexity of the world situation. The United States needs to change course from trying to achieve domination to being a world citizen. During that change, it is important that its national security team be intelligent, experienced, and supportive of its new direction. At the same time, they must represent diverse views to prevent a kind of policy tunnel vision. Obama has carefully selected this team to do exactly that.