Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Obama signals the end of military interventions

We will, of course, have to wait for Congress to ratify President Barack Obama's nominees for his new national security team (which is by no means a foregone conclusion), but the very fact that he has nominated people like John Kerry and Chuck Nagel tells you all you need to know about where American foreign policy will be heading during Mr Obama's second term at the White House.
The obvious difference between Mr Obama's nominations for his new security/foreign policy team is that these are Mr Obama's appointments, rather than those he was obliged to make, which was very much the case when he first entered the White House in 2009.
Hillary Clinton was given State because he thought that was the best way of silencing a powerful rival, while Robert Gates – the former Bush administration Defence Secretary – was retained in his post to deflect criticism that Mr Obama was vulnerable on national security issues. General David Petraeus, meanwhile, was sent off to run the CIA in order to silence his criticism of Mr Obama's cut and run policy on Afghanistan.
But having won a thumping victory in November's presidential election contest, Mr Obama now has the freedom to make his own appointments. Senator John Kerry, himself a former presidential candidate, is to be the new Secretary of State while John Brennan, who has spent most of his career on the front-line in the war on terror, is to take charge at Langley. But arguably the most controversial appointment is that of Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as America's new Defence Secretary.
Apart from the fact that Mr Hagel has spent his entire political career fighting the Democrats, he is also known for his pronounced anti-Israeli views, which is the reason his nomination will face a serious challenge when it comes before Congress.

But whatever the outcome of the nomination process, the very fact that Mr Obama has made these appointments gives a very clear indication of the direction his foreign policy will be taking during the next four years. In 2009 Mr Obama initially gave the impression that he would continue the military interventionism of the Bush administration by authorising a new surge strategy for Afghanistan.
But, as we now know, the president was in two minds about the policy, and quickly changed tack, ordering the withdrawal of American forces at the earliest opportunity. And with the likes of Kerry, Brennan and Nagel controlling foreign policy, steering clear of overseas military entanglements will be the name of the White House game for the foreseeable future.

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