Okay, the new national security team is now officially unofficially leaked. We’ll have General James Jones as National Security Adviser with Tom Donilon as his Deputy. And Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, with James Steinberg as her deputy. And Robert Gates will stay on at the Pentagon. Susan Rice will become UN Ambassador.
To be honest, this team sort of raises more questions than it answers. UN Ambassador is a very choice position for Rice. But she’s also the only person on this team who actually supported Obama’s candidacy from the beginning. And from her perch in New York it seems she won’t have much ability to ensure that younger policy operatives who joined her in backing Obama get the kind of mid-career jobs that may define the future of progressive national security thinking. It’s also completely unclear here how the many, many, many subordinate jobs in the Pentagon are going to be allocated under this scheme. And little is known about Jones’ views on most issues — apparently he was willing to make the Israeli government uncomfortable as Bush’s mideast envoy. Nor do we really know all that much about what Robert Gates “really” thinks.
I would only reiterate that I think it’s very possible to overstate the notion that keeping Gates on is in tension with Obama’s record of opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Bush’s pet war was viewed with a great deal of skepticism by the realist faction in the GOP, and Obama has long hinted around at admiration for the realpolitik of the Powell/Scowcroft school of Republicans. In many ways it’s the rapprochement with the liberal hawk faction within the Democratic Party that’s a more novel development, though Ilan Goldenberg rightly notes that all three non-neocon perspectives on national security policy are sort of converging at the moment. Perhaps, then, this is the right way to understand Obama’s team — as a kind of grand coalition of non-neo perspectives aimed at steering us out of the shoals into which Bush/Cheney policies have marooned the ship of state.