Monday, December 01, 2008


This New York Times article about Barack Obama's plans for a foreign policy shift is rather fascinating -- and I think it's causing some anxiety,disguised as bluster, on the right.

First, if you haven't seen it, a bit of the article:

As President-elect Barack Obama introduces his national security team on Monday, it includes two veteran cold warriors and a political rival whose records are all more hawkish than that of the new president who will face them in the White House Situation Room.

Yet all three of his choices -- Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as the rival turned secretary of state; Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander, as national security adviser, and Robert M. Gates, the current and future defense secretary -- have embraced a sweeping shift of priorities and resources in the national security arena.

The shift would create a greatly expanded corps of diplomats and aid workers that, in the vision of the incoming Obama administration, would be engaged in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states....

The article goes on to cite Obamaesque past statements from both Gates (complaining about "the gutting of America's ability to engage, assist and communicate with other parts of the world -- the 'soft power' which had been so important throughout the cold war") and Jones (on the need to do a much better job on reconstruction projects in Afghanistan), making clear that "centrism," if that's what these guys stand for, is apparently a hell of a lot more progressive and anti-Bushite than we may have realized.

The response from Commentary's Jennifer Rubin seems smug -- but I detect a note of anxiety, the sound of a jilted lover, or a problem drinker who wants to go hit a few after-hours joints and can't believe that the old gang doesn't want to stay out all night:

...Goodness knows if this is really what the Obama team is up to. Are we about to see a "shift," or instead merely some additional non-military resources based on the demands of events in the real world? Oh yes, the real world....

Shifting from "hard" to "soft" power is the sort of thing that the
New York Times thinks is a swell idea, but which bears no relation to the threats we face.

But the Left is frankly desperate to put a happy face on the Obama roll out of distinctly non-Left national security advisors. We’ll see if Hillary Clinton, James L. Jones, and Robert Gates are the sort to "have embraced a sweeping shift of priorities and resources in the national security arena." Even if they wanted to, the real world has a funny way of intruding and calling upon American military force. In a year or so we’ll see just how much "shifting" we did and just how much continuity there is....

Of course, no one is arguing that there'll never again be the need to resort to the use of American military force, even if this works brilliantly. But Rubin isn't really imagining that Obama plans to take military force off the table -- what makes her nervous is that he's put other options on the table in a serious way -- that can't be allowed to happen! America will go wobbly! What's more, people Rubin thinks of as "distinctly non-Left" actually seem to agree with Obama and no longer want to get drunk every night on jingoism and saber-rattling and preventive war.

But Rubin is sure they'll be back on the martial sauce any day now -- just you wait.

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