Steamboat Springs The major international challenge facing the Obama administration is repairing our nation's frayed international relationships. Restoring global partnerships is key to achieving our global aims and priorities, and it is what Americans voted for. So how does President-elect Obama's new national security and foreign policy team shape up to this challenge?
We hear that 78 percent of America likes the team. It is a strong team filled with pragmatic choices. But others say it looks like a group of Washington retreads, and we hear the skeptics ask: "Where is the change?"
Do not be fooled. The Obama team's shift away from the foreign policy of the Bush administration will be quick, led by an immediate paradigm change in how our national leadership engages the world.
We can expect a new national security strategy for positive world engagement. Neo-conservative philosophy is out, and the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive strike (a particularly disastrous strategy) will experience a speedy death under the Obama team.
The new team proactively will engage international leaders. Obama stated this during the election campaign and maintained this intent despite criticism. The team includes seasoned diplomats such as Susan Rice with track records of positive international engagement. Hillary Clinton embraced and engaged the world as a respected policy maker and diplomatic envoy. Bob Gates and Jim Jones have pragmatic experience engaging world leaders on major security issues including terrorism and energy. Working as this president's foreign affairs team, they may be the most qualified and experienced ever assembled.
We can expect experienced leadership of U.S. foreign policy and security institutions. The new Obama team understands the importance and the appropriate roles of the institutions it will lead. Bob Gates, with his extensive Pentagon management experience, has spoken eloquently about what the U.S. military should and should not be asked to do. Jim Jones knows the NSC well and is equipped to bring together strong opinions to forge consensus. As First Lady, Hillary Clinton worked most closely with the institutions of "soft power," our diplomatic, development, humanitarian and exchange programs. She knows the real power of soft power. As Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Rice experienced the United Nations and knows it well as a partner, a powerful advocate, a peacekeeper and a flawed institution that too often exposed its weaknesses in Africa.
Finally, we can expect a new, high-level commitment to international morality and active U.S. leadership in implementing that new morality. Respect for human rights and our own civil liberties dominate the careers of this team. Even as all have vowed to confront the dangers of terrorism directly, we can expect the closure of Guantanamo Bay and a major rethink in our counter-terrorism tools.
This team also advocates strong, moral leadership in addressing the origins of terrorism. For example, in 2007, Rice noted that "when Americans see images of bone-thin African or Asian kids with distended bellies, they think of helping. But does it also occur to us that we are seeing a symptom of a threat that could destroy our way of life? Efforts to illuminate the complex relationship between poverty and insecurity may be unwelcome (in some quarters), but we ignore the implications of global poverty for global security at our peril."
And Hillary Clinton: "We enhance our international reputation and strengthen our security if the world sees the human face of American democracy in the good works, the good deeds we do for people seeking freedom from poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and oppression."
And Robert Gates: "I am convinced ... that around the world, men and women seeking freedom from despotism, want, and fear will continue to look to the United States for leadership. We made our share of mistakes; we have strayed from our values; and, on occasion, we have become arrogant in our dealings with other countries. But we have always corrected our course."
America will correct its course again because in November 2008, America made a fundamental change in its leadership. President-elect Obama has chosen this team to help him change how the world views America and how America leads the world. This team will bring about that change.
Steamboat Springs resident Cynthia Rozell owns a small consulting firm that provides management assistance to international organizations. She spent most of 2008 designing economic recovery programs in Afghanistan and Northern Uganda.