I’m not usually a fan of “prisoner of the staff” type arguments, but reading this LA Times account of an Obama administration divided between advocates of pressing for change in Egypt (Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power) and those who prefer a more modest approach (Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates) I can’t help but notice something.
There were good reasons to keep Robert Gates on as Secretary of Defense. And there were good reasons to make Hillary Clinton Secretary of State. But an odd consequence of the move was to leave surprisingly little room on the team for people such as Rhodes and Power who were Obama suporters from the get-go. This is a strange state of affairs on the subject where the president has the most autonomy from congress and also where policy preferences are least determined by partisan coalitions. I was an Obama supporter from way back primarily because of his statements and records on foreign policy issues, and now here we are faced with a real split between that original vision and the views of the national security establishment. I think this is an issue where the perceived interests of the permanent security elite diverge from those of most Americans and Obama would do well to listen to the Obama-ists on his team.