Archive for the ‘James Jones’ Category

Obama: “Arbiter in Chief”

December 21, 2008

With several senior, experienced foreign policy people at his side, President-elect Barack Obama has done what many of us might do: he has sent two out of the room, kept one and made another a domestic policy chieftain.

Vice President-elect and former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joe Biden will run middle class education, training and jobs programs…..

Biden is now a “domestic.”

Former Obama rival Hillary Clinton will be out of the U.S. Senate where she could harass Obama from the sidelines and she is now working for Obama from Foggy Bottom.  This gets Clintons out of the Senate and out of the White House too.  And one false move and Hillary is jobless without even a shot at the Senate again for some time.

The Governor of New York might just replace the experiened Mrs. Clinton with a newby Kennedy; which shouldn’t worry the White House.

And Susan Rice, one of the most experienced and liberal Obama foreign policy aides will be in New York at the U.N. and not in the Oval Office.

Who will be in the Oval with President Obama?  Former Marine Corps General James Jones, the National Security Advisor.  And Rahm Emanuel.  Maybe.

All this will make President Obama the “Arbiter in Chief.”

As Vice President-elect Biden said of his role as an advisor:

“If in fact there is no consensus, [I’d] go to the president of the United States and say, ‘Mr. President, I think we should be doing this, cabinet member so-and-so thinks that. You’re going to have to resolve what it is we think we should do.’ ”

President-elect Barack Obama takes questions from reporters ...
Above: President-elect Barack Obama takes questions from reporters during a news conference in Chicago, Monday, Dec. 1, 2008, with, from left to right: Attorney General-designate Eric Holder; Homeland Security Secretary-designate Janet Napolitano; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Vice President-elect Joe Biden; Secretary of State-designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.; National Security Adviser-designate Ret. Marine Gen. James Jones; and United Nations Ambassador-designate Susan Rice.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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Pentagon’s Overarching Influence Is Bad For America, World

December 21, 2008

We no longer have a civilian-led government. It is hard for a lifelong Republican and son of a retired Air Force colonel to say this, but the most unnerving legacy of the Bush administration is the encroachment of the Department of Defense into a striking number of aspects of civilian government. Our Constitution is at risk. 

By Thomas A. Schweich
Washington Post
Sunday, December 21, 2008; Page B01

President-elect Barack Obama‘s selections of James L. Jones, a retired four-star Marine general, to be his national security adviser and, it appears, retired Navy Adm. Dennis C. Blair to be his director of national intelligence present the incoming administration with an important opportunity — and a major risk. These appointments could pave the way for these respected military officers to reverse the current trend of Pentagon encroachment upon civilian government functions, or they could complete the silent military coup d’etat that has been steadily gaining ground below the radar screen of most Americans and the media.

While serving the State Department in several senior capacities over the past four years, I witnessed firsthand the quiet, de facto military takeover of much of the U.S. government. The first assault on civilian government occurred in faraway places — Iraq and Afghanistan — and was, in theory, justified by the exigencies of war.

The White House, which basically let the Defense Department call the budgetary shots, vastly underfunded efforts by the State Department, the Justice Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to train civilian police forces, build functioning judicial systems and provide basic development services to those war-torn countries. For example, after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Justice Department and the State Department said that they needed at least 6,000 police trainers in the country. Pentagon officials told some of my former staffers that they doubted so many would be needed. The civilians’ recommendation “was quickly reduced to 1,500 [trainers] by powers-that-be above our pay grade,” Gerald F. Burke, a retired major in the Massachusetts State Police who trained Iraqi cops from 2003 to 2006, told Congress last April. Just a few hundred trainers ultimately wound up being fielded, according to Burke’s testimony.

Until this year, the State Department received an average of about $40 million a year for rule-of-law programs in Afghanistan, according to the department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs — in stark contrast to the billions that the Pentagon got to train the Afghan army. Under then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Defense Department failed to provide even basic security for the meager force of civilian police mentors, rule-of-law advisers and aid workers from other U.S. agencies operating in Afghanistan and Iraq, driving policymakers to turn to such contracting firms as Blackwater Worldwide. After having set the rest of the U.S. government up for failure, military authorities then declared that the other agencies’ unsuccessful police-training efforts required military leadership and took them over — after brutal interagency battles at the White House.

The result of letting the Pentagon take such thorough charge of the programs to create local police forces is that these units, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, have been unnecessarily militarized — producing police officers who look more like militia members than ordinary beat cops. These forces now risk becoming paramilitary groups, well armed with U.S. equipment, that could run roughshod over Iraq and Afghanistan’s nascent democracies once we leave.

Or consider another problem with the rising influence of the Pentagon: the failure to address the ongoing plague of poppy farming and heroin production in Afghanistan. This fiasco was in large part the result of the work of non-expert military personnel, who discounted the corrosive effects of the Afghan heroin trade on our efforts to rebuild the country and failed to support civilian-run….

Related:
Condoleezza Rice takes responsibility for Iraq
occupation woes; absolves Rumsfeld

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/
2008/12/19/AR2008121902748.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Obama Cabinet: pragmatism could leave them rudderless, without intellectual cohesion

December 20, 2008

Placing too much emphasis on pragmatism could leave the Obama team rudderless and without intellectual cohesion.
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“Pragmatism has its place, but there are limits, as well,” said Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

“If you aren’t anchored to a political philosophy, you get blown about, and government becomes ad hoc and you make it up as you go — and if you’re not careful, you begin to go in circles,” said Wehner….

By Alec MacGillis
Washington Post

President-elect Barack Obama wrapped up his Cabinet appointments yesterday, meeting his ambitious holiday deadline by assembling a team full of outsize personalities with overlapping jurisdictions and nominees who are known more for pragmatism than for strong leanings on the issues they will oversee.

In Chicago, the president-elect announced his picks to lead the Departments of Labor and Transportation, the Small Business Administration and the office of trade representative. The announcement of the labor nominee, Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-Calif.), the daughter of a union family who has a strongly pro-labor voting record, came as a relief to some liberals who had grown slightly anxious about Obama’s commitment to organized labor’s agenda. “She’s an inspired choice from a working-class background, who represented a working-class district with middle-class sensibilities,” said AFL-CIO legislative director Bill Samuels.

Ken Salazar (L) speaks while US president-elect Barack Obama ... 
Ken Salazar (L) speaks while US president-elect Barack Obama listens during a press conference to nominate Salazar as Secretary of the Interior in Chicago. Obama Wednesday filled out his incoming cabinet with nominees to take over the agriculture and interior departments, two hot-button jobs where controversy is never far.(AFP/Nicholas Kamm)

But many of Obama’s other picks reflect his apparent preference for practical-minded centrists who have straddled big policy debates rather than staking out the strongest pro-reform positions. Their reputations as moderates have won Obama plaudits….

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/art
icle/2008/12/19/AR2008121902086.html

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By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer

Barack Obama has wholeheartedly embraced experience in choosing his Cabinet.

That may seem at odds with the president-elect’s campaign theme of “change we can believe in.” But some Democratic activists and nonpartisan analysts say it makes sense, given the dire economy and public anxiety.

Obama has tapped senators and representatives, governors and veteran bureaucrats to help him confront the challenges of two wars, a crippled financial system and a deepening recession.

“In uncertain times, Americans find it much more comforting that the people who are going to be advising the president are steeped in experience,” said Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker. “A Cabinet of outsiders would have been very disquieting.”

To be sure, Obama’s inner circle includes far more veterans of elected office and federal agencies than government newcomers.

More so than his recent predecessors, he has drawn heavily from the Senate for top advisers. His choices for secretary of state (Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York), interior secretary (Ken Salazar of Colorado) and vice president (Joe Biden of Delaware) were fellow senators. Tom Daschle, named health secretary, was the Senate Democratic leader from South Dakota until he lost his seat in 2004.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081220/ap_ca/obama_cabinet_5

Joint Chiefs Chairman: Adapting to a New Boss

December 15, 2008

As President-elect Barack Obama convened the first meeting of his national security advisers on Monday, there was just one person at the table that the new president did not choose to have there: Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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Admiral Mullen, who was selected by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for a two-year term, has been on the job for a year. Come January, he will face perhaps the biggest challenge of his career — pivoting from one commander-in-chief to another, in the middle of two wars. Friends describe him as an even-tempered, intellectually curious and politically astute presence who sees the world beyond the immediate battles of the Pentagon and White House — all skills they say will serve him well in the new administration.

“He’s not a jumper or a screamer, he looks at things to make them better for the long term,” said Adm. Dennis C. Blair, a retired Pacific Fleet commander who is expected to be named by Mr. Obama as director of national intelligence. “He’s an incredible networker, too.”

By Elisabeth Mumiller    
The New York Times

Above: Admiral Mike Mullen.  Photo: Adem Altan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In the last year, Admiral Mullen has sought advice from the retired generals who revolted against former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, reached out to the former Army chief who was vilified for saying more troops were needed in Iraq and invited to dinner prominent Democrats like Gregory B. Craig, Mr. Obama’s choice for White House counsel. His efforts may have been an attempt to soothe the military after the cataclysmic Mr. Rumsfeld, or an anticipation of a change of administration — or both.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/us/
politics/16mullen.html?_r=1&hp

Iran’s Ahmadinejad: Attacks France’s Sarkozy, Israel on Nuclear Issue

December 15, 2008

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday shrugged off criticism from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and said his comments lacked “political credibility.”

Sarkozy, whose government has taken a tough stance against Tehran over its nuclear drive, said on Wednesday he could not sit at the same table as Ahmadinejad, who has questioned Israel’s right to exist.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers the closing speech ... 
French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers the closing speech of an European summit on innovation in Paris December 9. Iran has summoned the French envoy to Tehran to protest at comments by Sarkozy about refusing to meet his counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, state television reported on Thursday(AFP/Pool/File/Eric Feferberg)

AFP

“We do not care much, we have to see in practice. We do not consider this remark to have any political credibility,” Ahmadinejad told reporters.

Iran said on Thursday that its foreign ministry had summoned the French ambassador to Tehran, Bernard Poletti, to express the Islamic republic’s “strong objections to the recent interfering comments by the French president.”

France has condemned Iran’s threats against Israel and maintained its position after Tehran summoned the ambassador

“The declarations of the Iranian authorities questioning this right are unacceptable and can only have a negative effect on the perception of Iran by the international community,” a French foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to be speaking directly to Israel and its allies.

“The crimes being committed by the Zionist regime [Israel] are happening because it is aware that it has reached the end of the line and will soon fade away from the earth,” Mehr news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying during an anti-Israeli rally in Tehran.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iran’s Ahmadinejad

A senior Iranian cleric described President-elect Barack Obama on Friday as a novice who was adopting old U.S. tactics of “deception and fraud,” underscoring Iran’s skepticism about prospects for change in U.S. policy.

President-elect Obama has a lot of good instinct, intelligence and information.  His advisors like Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and nominated Bational Security Advisor James Jones are first rate.

U.S. Senator Kit Bond of the Senate Intelligence Committee said of U.S. policy toward Iran, “Offering them carrots does nothing, talking about it is not effective. We need sanctions and full pressure.”

Senator Bond may be right: the time for carrots to Iran is over…

Signals To Obama: Back Off

December 13, 2008

People like Russian leaders Dmitry Medvedev, Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seem to be sending a message to President-elect Barack Obama.

The message might be interpreted as this: America has been too pushy and it’s time to back off.

Testing O's spine in Europe.
Medvedev: Testing O’s spine in Europe?

Today, Russia recaptured the village of Perevi near South Ossetia in Georgia. 

“The Russians deployed a battalion of special forces with helicopters and armor and told the Georgian policemen to get out immediately,” said Shota Utiashvili, a Georgian ministry spokesman.

Russian troops had previously stopped EU ambassadors from visiting Perevi.  The European Union is monitoring the cease-fire in the region.

The Russian action seems to have been a signal to Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili and President-elect Barack Obama.  The U.S., Russians say, has been unfairly siding with the Georgians in the dispute with Russia.

Paul Haven of the Associated Press wrote, “Russian President Dmitry Medvedev chose the day after Barack Obama’s election victory to brandish a threat of ballistic missiles.”

Russia's "Iskander" missile system on display ... 
Russia’s “Iskander” missile system on display at a military exhibition in the Siberian town of Nizhny Tagil in 2005. Just hours after Barack Obama’s election, President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia would place short-range missile systems on the EU’s eastern border to counter planned US missile defence installations in Eastern Europe.  Medvedev later backed away from the threat. (AFP/VEDOMOSTI/File/Evgeny Stetsko)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also seems to be speaking directly to Obama.

“The crimes being committed by the Zionist regime [Israel] are happening because it is aware that it has reached the end of the line and will soon fade away from the earth,“ Mehr news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying during an anti-Israeli rally in Tehran.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Ahmadinejad

A senior Iranian cleric described President-elect Barack Obama on Friday as a novice who was adopting old U.S. tactics of “deception and fraud,” underscoring Iran’s skepticism about prospects for change in U.S. policy.

President-elect Obama has a lot of good instinct, intelligence and information.  His advisors like Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and nominated Bational Security Advisor James Jones are first rate.

The new President Obama is likely to be tested, and not just challenged, in the months after he is sworn into office….

Related:
Russia Retakes Georgian Village Near South Ossetia, Georgia In New Provocation

Iran’s Ahmadinejad is at it again; predicts Israel’s end

Foes ready to test Obama overseas

Foes warned off ‘testing’ Obama

The “Real” Obama: How Centrist?

December 12, 2008

Barack Obama has garnered praise from center to right — and has highly irritated the left — with the centrism of his major appointments. Because Obama’s own beliefs remain largely opaque, his appointments have led to the conclusion that he intends to govern from the center.

Obama the centrist? I’m not so sure. Take the foreign policy team: Hillary Clinton, James Jones and Bush holdover Robert Gates. As centrist as you can get. But the choice was far less ideological than practical. Obama has no intention of being a foreign policy president. Unlike, say, Nixon or Reagan, he does not have aspirations abroad. He simply wants quiet on his eastern and western fronts so that he can proceed with what he really cares about — his domestic agenda.

 Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, December 12, 2008; Page A27

Similarly his senior economic team, the brilliant trio of Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and Paul Volcker: centrist, experienced and mainstream. But their principal task is to stabilize the financial system, a highly pragmatic task in which Obama has no particular ideological stake.
A functioning financial system is a necessary condition for a successful Obama presidency. As in foreign policy, Obama wants experts and veterans to manage and pacify universes in which he has little experience and less personal commitment. Their job is to keep credit flowing and the world at bay so that Obama can address his real ambition: to effect a domestic transformation as grand and ambitious as Franklin Roosevelt’s.

As Obama revealingly said just last week, “This painful crisis also provides us with an opportunity to transform our economy to improve the lives of ordinary people.” Transformation is his mission. Crisis provides the opportunity. The election provides him the power.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/12/11
/AR2008121102951.html?hpid=
opinionsbox1

Obama’ Disappointment Appointments: Not the Change We Thought You Said

December 7, 2008

The more things change, the more they stay . . . well, you know. And looking at President-elect Barack Obama‘s top appointments, it’s easy to wonder whether convention has triumphed over change — and centrists over progressives.

By David Corn, Washington Post

A quick run-down: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who supported the Iraq war until she initiated her presidential bid, has been handed the Cabinet’s big plum: secretary of state. And Bush’s second defense secretary, Robert Gates, will become Obama’s first defense secretary. The Obama foreign policy adviser regarded as the most liberal in his inner circle, Susan E. Rice, has been picked for the U.N. ambassador slot. Obama is elevating this job to Cabinet rank, but he’s still sending Rice to New York — and in politics and policy, proximity to power matters. For national security adviser, Obama has picked James L. Jones. The retired four-star general was not hawkish on the Iraq war and seems to be a non-ideologue who possesses the right experience for the job. But he probably would have ended up in a McCain administration, and his selection has not heartened progressives.

President-elect Barack Obama takes questions from reporters ...

Above: Hardly a new model roll out.  President-elect Barack Obama takes questions from reporters during a news conference in Chicago, Monday, Dec. 1, 2008, with, from left to right: Attorney General-designate Eric Holder; Homeland Security Secretary-designate Janet Napolitano; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Vice President-elect Joe Biden; Secretary of State-designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.; National Security Adviser-designate Ret. Marine Gen. James Jones; and United Nations Ambassador-designate Susan Rice.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Obama’s economic team isn’t particularly liberal, either. Lawrence H. Summers, who as President Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary opposed regulating the new-fangled financial instruments that greased the way to the subprime meltdown, will chair Obama’s National Economic Council. To head Treasury, Obama has tapped Timothy F. Geithner, the president of the New York Federal Reserve, who helped oversee the financial system as it collapsed. Each is close to Robert Rubin, another former Clinton Treasury secretary, a director of bailed-out Citigroup and a poster boy for both the corporate wing of the Democratic Party and discredited Big Finance. Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board will be guided by Paul Volcker, the former Fed chairman whose controversial tight-money policies ended the stagflation crisis of the 1970s but led to a nasty recession. (A genuinely progressive economist, Jared Bernstein, will receive a less prominent White House job: chief economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.)
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Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/12/05
/AR2008120502602.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

 

Kissinger: Obama’s Choices On International Issues Could Pay Off

December 5, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama has appointed an extraordinary team for national security policy. On its face, it violates certain maxims of conventional wisdom: that appointing to the Cabinet individuals with an autonomous constituency, and who therefore are difficult to fire, circumscribes presidential control; that appointing as national security adviser, secretary of state and secretary of defense individuals with established policy views may absorb the president’s energies in settling disputes among strong-willed advisers.

By Henry A. Kissinger
Washington Post
December 5, 2008; Page A25

It took courage for the president-elect to choose this constellation and no little inner assurance — both qualities essential for dealing with the challenge of distilling order out of a fragmenting international system. In these circumstances, ignoring conventional wisdom may prove to have been the precondition for creativity. Both Obama and the secretary of state-designate, Sen. Hillary Clinton, must have concluded that the country and their commitment to public service require their cooperation.

Those who take the phrase “team of rivals” literally do not understand the essence of the relationship between the president and the secretary of state. I know of no exception to the principle that secretaries of state are influential if and only if they are perceived as extensions of the president. Any other course weakens the president and marginalizes the secretary. The Beltway system of leak and innuendo will mercilessly seek to widen any even barely visible split. Foreign governments will exploit the rift by pursuing alternative White House-State Department diplomacies. Effective foreign policy and a significant role for the State Department in it require that the president and the secretary of state have a common vision of international order, overall strategy and tactical measures. Inevitable disagreements should be settled privately; indeed, the ability of the secretary to warn and question is in direct proportion to the discretion with which such queries are expressed.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/12/04/AR
2008120402863.html?hpid=opinionsbox1