Soft Power

In the comments to this thread, we discussed the possibility that Obama would execute a long overdue shift in emphasis in our foreign policy, emphasizing the State Department and soft power over DOD and military power (and, even, soft power implmented by the military). See, especially, this nadezhda comment.

That appears to be the plan:

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. However, it is unclear whether the financing would be shifted from the Pentagon; Mr. Obama has also committed to increasing the number of American combat troops. Whether they can make the change — one that Mr. Obama started talking about in the summer of 2007, when his candidacy was a long shot at best — “will be the great foreign policy experiment of the Obama presidency,” one of his senior advisers said recently.

The adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the three have all embraced “a rebalancing of America’s national security portfolio” after a huge investment in new combat capabilities during the Bush years.

The article points out many of the hurdles Obama will face in implementing this plan. There’s DOD’s insatiable appetite for money–the same money that would need to be switched to State. And there’s the right wing suspicion of any kind of foreign policy that doesn’t give them a hard-on.

Of course, those hurdles may be easier to overcome given the team Obama is announcing today, partly because Gates will give Obama cover for "gutting" Defense, Hillary will be adamant about increasing her portfolio, and Jones will have the chops to knock any skeptics in the military back in place.

Let’s hope they succeed.

51 replies
    • jackie says:

      If you are still around? I left this link at the end of a previous thread. I don’t know if you have seen it yet so I’ll put it up again. (the ‘on the ground stuff’ re; the morning/day of Sept 11 may be of interest to you)

      Conversation With Major General Larry Arnold, Commander, 1st Air Force, Tyndall AFB, Florida…..2/defense/

  1. DeadLast says:

    Does anyone know what board games Obama is fond of? Chess, Risk, Diplomacy?

    Obama seems very adept at getting the archetypal Machiavellians to elevate each other for the greater good.

    Obama also has reigned in Bill’s international libido. I just read an interesting piece on what else Obama got from the Clintons:

    So the deal was, he had to turn over the names of 200,000+ foundation donors to the Obama drill-masters, and that’s what all the waiting was about..[snip]..Now, anytime Hillary Clinton even thinks about going off the farm Emmanuel could just browse through the donor list and construct an email titled, for example: “The New York Times: Adolescent Girls Recall Orgy, Fundraising Event In Azerbaijan With Former US President.”

    • Leen says:

      “Obama seems very adept at getting the archetypal Machiavellians to elevate each other for the greater good”

      Sure seems like this is what he is after, just hope they check their egos at the door and follow his lead.

      The Jones appointment gives me hope. A voice of reason with a wider perspective and not beholden to those who have funded campaign races.

  2. BoxTurtle says:

    I don’t think Obama is going to “gut” defense. There will be strategic and tactital shifts, some major programs will be cancelled, others will be started.

    Winners (IMO):

    1) Special forces. Beefing them up was one of the few smart things BushCo did.

    2) Defensive R&D. BMD for Iran/Korea/Pakistan, since the focus will most certainly NOT be an invasion. IED countermeasures. The Russians will likely obtain operational stealth, we’ll need countermeasures. Chinese hacking needs addressed.

    3) UAV’s, along with their ground & sea counterparts.


    1) Strategic Nuclear Forces.

    2) Navy, other than submarines.

    3) Outside contractors.

    All of the losers have strong, vocal backers. We’ll have to see if Obama can stand up to them. All our major shipyards are in states that went for Obama, for instance.

    The wingnut election consultants who came up with “The sky is falling” will have no trouble finding new work.

    Boxturtle (There’d be another round of base closings, if not for the economy)

    • BlueStateRedHead says:

      Will the loser and court martialed include those who have made Defense a partner of the fundies? At the Air Force academy, and according to a current rec’d diary on Dkos, in a mandatory briefing about suicide prevention.

      It has not happened under Gates. Is that kind of change part of his mandate, that of the Sec. of the branch, or the chain of command.

      Cause it sure is unconstitutional. Back in a sec. with the link.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        I doubt there will be any courts martial. Some folks will quietly resign/retire and be thanked for their many years of service to their country.

        I know there are complaints about religious intolerance by Christians in the DoD system, I think they’ll move faster now that offending major GOP support groups will be desired by both sides. The Dems will want a touch of revenge and the GOP will want a red meat issue to wave in front of the wingnuts in 2010.

        Gates may also look into some politically annoying things, like Iraqi war veterans mental health and Gulf War Syndrome. Obama won’t have the same concerns about being embarassed that BushCo did.

        Unless the MSM finds a new major scandel, I think that will likely be it.

        Boxturtle (Or maybe they’ll dig a BIIIIIIG hole and bury everything)

    • eCAHNomics says:

      1) Special forces. Beefing them up was one of the few smart things BushCo did.

      You like a bunch of lawless assassins running around the world wrecking havoc in the name of the U.S.? Nope, nothing could possibly go wrong with that.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper could still block coalition efforts by proroguing Parliament, that is, suspending it without dissolving it. That would mean his government could not be defeated in the current session of the House of Commons.

      Place your bets!

      Boxturtle (I have to believe Canadian wingnuts are at least a good at gaming the system as ours our)

      • BoxTurtle says:

        Boxturtle (I have to believe Canadian wingnuts are at least a as good at gaming the system as ours ourare)

        Never post before caffine.

        Boxturtle (*sigh*)

      • skdadl says:

        I’ve been trying not to exasperate EW by dribbling too much OT maple syrup around this morning. And I’m trying not to get too cheerful too fast.

        But I actually don’t think that this system can be gamed. The PM can’t prorogue any more than he can dissolve. He has to ask the GG to do that, and a month after an election, she is just going to tell him to face the music in Parliament, where he is almost certain to be defeated on a money bill (confidence motion) — that will be next Monday. Then he may ask her to dissolve and call an election, but she is free to turn to the opposition (especially a month after an election) and ask them whether they can form a government — which they can, as long as someone is keeping all those feckless Libruls in line.

        There’s only one downside in all this — we may be looking at PM Michael Ignatieff. Sigh. skdadl goes to dust off her Ignatieff files.

        • Petrocelli says:

          I’m not enthused about Iggy or Rae, but I’m hyped about Goodale being brought in to head this coalition.

          Surely such a move would help Marcy plan a quickie trip to Toronto to celebrate with the rest of us … *g*

          • MrWhy says:

            Just a reminder to everyone, the standing in the Canadian Parliament is

            Conservatives 143
            Liberals 76
            NDP 37
            Bloc 50
            Independent 2

            Total seats 308

            Liberals + NDP = 113

            In his first term as PM, Harper seriously courted Quebec voters. Fortunately they saw through his grandmere costume. Harper is substantially to the right of the Mulroney government of the 1980s.

            Although I have not heard any substantial rumours in support of my intuition, I expect that there are Liberals looking for a way to avoid a coalition. They have a leadership race underway, and will want to be fighting each other.

            The NDP is not accustomed to the discipline of holding office. Although there are some sensible people in the caucus, there are also several loose cannons.

            The BQ has several sensible members in caucus, including their leader Gilles Duceppe. I can’t imagine they’re all sterling MPs, though. Supporting the Liberals? Especially with Stephane Dion as leader, I don’t see it.

            To me, the patchwork doesn’t hold together.

            • skdadl says:

              I would respectfully disagree in any case, but it’s now a done deal. The three leaders have signed an accord, taking the Libs and NDP to 2011, with the Bloc in at least until 2010. I read that the Privy Council Office has asked all departments to begin preparing transition books for a new government.

              Dion won’t be Liberal leader for long (we need to see the accord to know how long he’s staying); I disagree with your assessment of the NDP, and I very much admire Duceppe, who is one of the longest-serving federal public servants we have and a serious social democrat. I just have no patience with paranoia about the Bloc. They have shown themselves to be good guys for a lot of years.

              It ain’t ever over till it’s over, but I think we’ve won.

        • LabDancer says:

          The rules of parliamentary procedure seem awfully like 43 man Squamish, eh wot?

          MIght I go ’small’ to one point, i.e. to wit as in per se & all that rot: the resort proroguing.

          Firstly, it is, as I appreciate, not nearly as naughty in a Victorian way as one might hope, and moreoever it is quite distinct from another custom peculiar to the semi-frosted el Norte, the resort to peroging [which I believe has something to do with the vast reserves of natural gas in the vasty plains of Saskatchewan into the Land of the Midnight Sun.

          Secondly, under the English system [”Parliament Classic”], at least since that nasty patch where Charles the One invoked it, culminating in the separation of his head from the rest of his bits, the common folk have been able to ensure that the executive authority, traditionally, albeit now mostly symbolically, referred to as “the Crown”, resorts to their Parliament, by the simply expedient of reserving onto it the sole authority to raise and collect revenue by means of imposing charges, taxes if you will, on particular activities, things and persons.

          Should the Crown find Her or Him Self in need of a spot of money to Do Things, such as to Wage Wars or Repair Roads or Buy Bread, ‘twould be necessary [Nay: TIS necessary] to call upon the people through their voice, Parliament, to authorize the collection of funds needed to do so.

          Now, it does seem to me quite possible that Mister Harper has confused his role with that of King Charles, and if so, I should think he’d be feeling somewhat nervous at that point of the possibility of a similar fate [symbolic though that may be].

          Perhaps more importantly, for having suggested to Him Self the option of proroguing, might there be some question, not just as to the above conflation in the manner of “L’etat c’est moi”, but also as to His competence to function within the country’s political model?

          Certainly most importantly, how can it be that He reserves to Him Self the power to Prorogue Parliament, when such is so clearly the exclusive Prerogative of the Crown?

          Have I just succeeded in catching my own tail on this?

          • skdadl says:

            lol. It’s true — we have lots of perogies here, especially on the prairies and in southwestern Ontario, but everywhere, really. (That was the pun you were making, yes?) Our greatest national cookbook is a celebration of old Ontario Mennonite cookery, Edna Staebler’s Food That Really Schmecks — Staebler died just a couple of years ago, one hundred years old and a much beloved great dame.

            And you’re quite right about Harper, although there is an easier way of getting there. We have separation of government and state. As PM, Harper is head of government, but he is not head of state. Head of state is teh queen, through her local rep, the GG, a charming young woman born in Haiti named Michaelle Jean. Mostly teh queen is figurehead, but you are quite right: she has some powers, and one of them is to prevent PMs from attempting to seize power and be dictators.

            We don’t elect leaders or governments. We elect MPs. A majority of the MPs in the current Commons do not support Harper. They might have co-operated with him if he had not shrivelled into a little Rovian-Segretti dirty trickster, but he overplayed his hand with only 37 per cent support, and I think everyone has now gone too far to back down. We won’t know for sure for a week, but I think he is finished.

            • Petrocelli says:

              Yes, yes and yes … adding only that IMHO, Hungarian Perogies are better than the others and anyone who’d like to convince me otherwise is more than welcome to invite me over for dinner …

  3. BlueStateRedHead says:

    An interesting analysis of PEBO’s m.o. as SenBO of Illinois from 57andFemale @ Daily Kos

    Obama established serious relationships with the other side. Not just lip service, but actual, serious relationships. When it came to an issue like videotaping interrogations, Obama didn’t need to do traditional strongarming. He was able to build consensus, explain to the reddest of red Republicans that sit in the State Senate of Illinois, law and order officials, cops, etc. — and get them to understand the progressive virtue of videotaping interrogations. He convinced these guys from the other side that it was in their best interests to support progressive legislation. He replaced us-vs-them with true consensus. It wasn’t by force or threat or any of the other tactics that we’re accustomed to. He did that with the Law Review at Harvard and on any number of issues in the State Senate, and the U.S. Senate as well.

    If you think Obama’s going to live in a little Bushy-like bubble and not know, read, or understand all sides of every issue and every bit of information, then you don’t understand Obama.

    • BlueStateRedHead says:

      The last line is part of the quote

      If you think Obama’s going to live in a little Bushy-like bubble and not know, read, or understand all sides of every issue and every bit of information, then you don’t understand Obam

  4. Leen says:

    Hopefully Clinton, Jones and others listen to other experts on Iran besides folks like Lieberman who put together legislation about Iran based on unsubstantiated claims.
    Joint Experts Statement on Iran (Cole, Pickering etc)…..=firefox-a

    • BoxTurtle says:

      I think they will. Jones is a realist and, except for the last month or so of her latest campaign, Hillary is as well.

      I hope we re-establish relations with Iran. I LOVE the thought of that nutcase president trying to negociate with Hillary.

      Israel is the wildcard. No matter what we want, if they think Iran is getting too close to the bomb, they’ll hit hard. For that reason, I think they should listen to Holy Joe. He’s closer to the Israeli government then the current ambassador.

      Boxturtle (Hopefully, with Bushco gone, Iran won’t feel as threatened by us)

      • klynn says:

        …I think they should listen to Holy Joe.

        Klynn version:

        …I think they should listen “in” on Holy Joe.

      • Leen says:

        Maybe Clinton and others should start by reading the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran instead of Lieberman and listening to Israel. Maybe Israel, Pakistan and India should start considering signing the Non Proliferation Treaty If Israel signed Iran might relax a bit. When persistent and unsubstantiated claims are continuously being repeated about Iran by some in the Bush administration, Clinton, Kristol, Woolsey etc the I lobby and Israel and all the MSM does is allow these claims to be repeated I somehow understand how Iran would be on edge.

        Seems like there’s some nervousness in that part of the world having to do with some countries having nuclear,biological and chemical weapons that sit in the shadows that are not inspected.

        Israel’s Nuclear capabilities a threat to Peace in the middle east…..=firefox-a

        When is the last time we have heard anyone bring up Israel, Pakistan and India signing the NPT?

        • BoxTurtle says:

          I don’t trust any of the current NIE’s on Iran, I want a fresh one after BushCo is gone. Israel may actually have better intelligence than we do, but their interptations are all colored by fear of their countries survival.

          And as for those three in the NPT, you don’t hear about it because it’s a total non-starter. All three consider their nukes critical to their survival, and all three are likely right.

          The entire area is a powder keg, Hillary will have her hands full. But she and Bill have a LOT of personal contacts in the middle east and those count for a lot.

          Boxturtle (I think Israel has behaved very responsably with it’s nukes so far)

          • Leen says:

            So 16 intelligence organizations coming together to share and come out with a report about Iran is not enough for you? You would discard this intelligence report as the Bush administration did? Come on. Do you want our intelligence to come from the likes of Ledeen, Feith, Woolsy and others with a huge agenda?


            • BoxTurtle says:

              Disgard, no. But I want a fresh look at everything. I simply don’t trust anything BushCo could have “edited”.

              Is Iran working on nukes? Dunno, but I would if I were Iran. Even if I never intended to use them, think of the deal I could get for giving them up! Heck, think of the deal I could get for just letting people prove I wasn’t building nukes! I don’t even need a program, just the threat of a program!

              I bet the final deal will include diplomatic relations, end of sanctions, end of Iran terror support, international monitoring of Irans program. And I think we could have had that deal 6 years ago, if not for Bush.

              Boxturtle (BushCo tainted all our intel. Needs redone, period)

              • Leen says:

                Many in the Bush administration hated the findings in the latest NIE on Iran they blocked the release of the NIE for quite some time.

                Hell as a nation we have yet to witness anyone held accountable for the false WMD intelligence. Just happens that millions of dead are a direct result of the use of that false intelligence. These days holding individuals accountable for these crimes is referred to as “vengeance” or being obsessed with the past or some other horseshit excuses.

                Just exactly when did enforcing the rule of law and holding people accountable for very serious crimes become “vengeance” instead of Justice?

          • Leen says:

            I think we will hear this issue talked about during an Obama administration. Non Proliferation is a huge issue for him. Ted Turner sure has Non Proliferation as a focus. He was on Meet the Press on Sunday. Found myself agreeing with much of what he had to say.

          • katymine says:

            The 16 agency NIE on Iran was a scam, heard Scott Ritter speak on the “stopped” their program in 2002 but according to Ritter, there was NEVER a nuclear weapons program. Again it put those who refute that Iran NEVER sought a nuclear weapons program have to try to prove a negative.

            Due to sanctions and restrictions on purchase of uranium ore, Iran has not been able to get their hands on pure ore to use in their centrifuges. What they are using is uranium ore found in Iran which is contaminated. Iran is unable to remove those contaminates from the ore and when used it blows up the centrifuges.

            It was the slight open door to allow bombing of Iran by having that phrase “stopped their nuclear weapons program” by then releasing some new info saying they restarted it. All monitoring organizations have denied that Iran has been developing weapons but creating domestic nuclear power program.

            • eCAHNomics says:

              Ah the molybdenum contamination. Thought I was the only one who remembered Ritter talking about that. Heh. In about 05 or 06, I went to a seminar at Asia Society on Iran. I asked one of the experts about that and he looked at me like I was nuts and punted by saying that was not a problem.

              • katymine says:

                It turns out that Ritter was stationed in Turkey when I was stationed in Greece, he served with the best man at my wedding who was a fellow nuclear weapons specialist. So Ritter who is military trained and worked with the UN Unscum for years in the field of nuclear weapons who spoke strongly out against the Iraq war and any action against Iran. The grand Ayatollah issued a fatwa – serious shit…

                Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa saying the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons was forbidden under Islam. The fatwa was cited in an official statement by the Iranian government at an August 2005 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

                • eCAHNomics says:

                  Scott Ritter is one of my heroes who has not yet developed feet of clay (that scurrilous rumor of pedophilia being bogus). He was the final thing I read before in fall 02 that convinced me that there were no WMDs in Iraq. I don’t know a more thorough, smart, honest person.

                  And yes I’ve know about the fatwa, but it’s useless to use that as evidence here because everyone thinks the Grand Ayatollahs are rabid terrorists and wouldn’t believe a word they say.

                  • selise says:

                    i don’t care if he has feet of clay. he still did a good thing by speaking out when he did, and unless i misunderstand what he did i will always admire that. very few people, regardless of their other weaknesses or strengths, do what he did.

  5. Leen says:

    Important read
    Juan Cole “Leaks to the Indian press by security officials in charge of interrogating the captured terrorist”

    Do you really think by not releasing the demands or statements of terrorist that this really reduces attacks? Do you think that people are just born terrorist or that many have attempted to voice opposition to what is going on in their countries and then end up turning to violence

  6. ezdidit says:

    In a team of rivals, the name Andrew Bacevich ought to be mentioned. Not only will local policing and coordinated international intelligence contain terrorism, it will democratize the process of criminalistics and take spying and evidence-gathering out of the hands of scoundrels like BushCheney and other political nitwits from the neocon right-wing. All-in-all, a far better plan than decimating countries that never attacked us.

  7. ART45 says:

    Obama invites projection upon his person.

    Thus, I oppose war, I support Obama, therefore he opposes war.

    Hope I’m correct.

  8. selise says:

    Gates will give Obama cover for “gutting” Defense

    i haven’t read all the comments, so maybe this has already been covered… but what are the reasons to think obama wants to gut defense? last i heard he wanted to increase the size of the standing forces by something like 90,000. has that changed?

    • dakine01 says:

      Well, one of the ways is to take money from many of the big ticket items that don’t gain the defense dept very much but do make the MIC quite rich.

      This includes the so-called missile defense, New generation fighters and bombers and nuclear subs. These funds can then go to pay for more actual troops and the ‘un-glamorous’ aspects known as maintenance and replacement for existing weapons.

      Maintenance and replacement costs are fixed with known/limited profit margins. “New gen” weapons systems are wide open and highly subject to bill padding and all sorts of cost plus shenanigans.

  9. Eureka Springs says:

    Hey! I want to be one of those fancy new peace workers… and I will do it for half the price of a contracted Blackwater employee with far fewer bullets. I guarantee it.

  10. jimhicks3 says:

    “a rebalancing of America’s national security portfolio” after a huge investment in new combat capabilities during the Bush years.
    The Bush Admim. spent tons of money but didn’t invest in much of anything that I can tell. Mostly, from my point of view, they gutted the national guard to man the occupation of I & A.
    Plus out-sourcing half the work being done (as it turns out all gov jobs not just ‘over there’) paying 4 or 5 times what it would cost if done ‘in house’ like in the olden days.
    This is not investment – unless,of course, investment means what all those geniuses were doing on wall street for the last few years.

  11. Raven says:

    While you are at it disband the entire military, they are all just a bunch of bloodthirsty assassins anyway.

  12. Bluetoe2 says:

    Roman emperorers always had to mollify the Praetorian Guards, the real power behind the thrown. American presidents must mollify the DOD or else.

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