National Security Council
Les Gelb thinks Obama's trip to Asia was a flop, and that the time would have been better spent on a Hawaii vacation. He also wonders whether, after a couple of foreign trips with little to show for them, Obama's foreign policy team is serving him well: First, the trip’s limited value per day of presidential effort suggests a disturbing amateurishness in managing America’s power. On top of the inexcusably clumsy review of Afghan policy and the fumbling of Mideast negotiations, the message for Mr.
As I argue in my recent print story on Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the prevailing view in Washington foreign policy circles is that Gates, as an anti-Soviet hardliner at the CIA in the late 1980s, misread the import of Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika and failed to see the USSR's collapse coming. But here's a dissenting view, via email, from Andrew Hamilton, a former national security council staffer, among other government posts, as well as a longtime writer on foreign policy issues (who now writes editorials for the Chaleston, S.C., Post and Courier): Michael Crowley’s engaging portray
One afternoon in October, a blue and white jumbo jet flew high above the Pacific Ocean, approaching the international dateline. On board was the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, who was on an around-the-world trip that would end with a summit of NATO defense ministers, where the topic of the day would be Afghanistan. Gates was flying on what is often called “the Doomsday Plane,” a specially outfitted 747 that looks like a bulkier Air Force One and was built to wage retaliatory nuclear war from the skies.
Mark Lippert When I was at the White House reporting a story this summer, I ran into Obama's longtime foreign policy advisor Mark Lippert, a Naval reservist who is leaving his post as chief of staff at the National Security Council to return to active duty. (Lippert also did a tour of duty in Iraq from 2007 to 2008.) Lippert looked a little tired. He had just returned from Obama's whirlwind tour of Russia, Africa, and Europe. I asked whether he'd recovered from the trip yet. Not really, Lippert said. He explained that he'd gotten home well after midnight the previous Saturday.
On the evening of Saturday, June 13, a day after the Iranian presidential election, Vice President Joe Biden was preparing for an appearance the next morning on NBC's "Meet the Press." Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian incumbent, was already claiming a preposterously large margin of victory, and reformist protesters were clashing with basiij thugs in Tehran. The Obama administration faced a delicate and fluid situation, and it was far from clear what Biden should say. In circumstances like these, the vice president--especially this vice president--could not simply wing it.
As David Ignatius noted earlier this year, the views of former Congressman Lee Hamilton hold considerable sway within the Obama national security team. Hamilton, a member of the 9/11 Commission and the Iraq Study Group, has emerged as a Democratic foreign policy mandarin in recent years, and also, in Laura Rozen's words "a kind of wise-man mentor to Obama." Obama, for instance, dined with Hamilton a few days before his inauguration back in January. (Bolstering the connection: Several key national security council aides are former staffers for the Indiana Democrat.
The Obama National Security Council has a new director for WMD terrorism and threat reduction in Laura Holgate, a vice president at the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a private nonprofit outfit, chaired by former Senator Sam Nunn and funded by the likes of Ted Turner and Warren Buffett, that has done yeoman's work in helping the federal government address the WMD threat.
This afternoon, Hillary Clinton gave what I thought was an excellent speech laying out the Obama administration's approach to the world. A sizeable portion of the Washington foreign policy establishment packed the Council on Foreign Relations to hear her remarks, and the secretary was accompanied by a gaggle of lieutenants, including (from my view of the room) special envoys Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell, Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, and a number of assistant secretaries, including Rose Gottemoeller, Andrew Shapiro, and P.J. Crowley.
While paging through the much-remarked on list yesterday, I noticed it was both incredibly comprehensive--everyone from Rahm down to the most obscure "correspondence analyst" was on it--but also that a couple big names were missing. Two in particular jumped out at me: Mike Froman, a deputy national security adviser (who has a joint appointment with the National Economic Council), and Samantha Power, a one-time TNR contributor who is senior director for multilateral affairs, also at the NSC.
It seems that Ha'aretz report wasn't totally off base. Says Time: Dennis Ross, the Obama Administration's special adviser on Iran, will be leaving his post at the State Department to become a senior adviser at the National Security Council with an expanded portfolio, Administration officials tell TIME. The new White House position puts him closer to the center of foreign policy power, placing him in the top ranks of Obama's in-house aides, said an Administration official. "He is closer to being able to provide advice to the President," the official said.