This story in the New York Times posits that the President-elect’s new, decidedly right-of-center national security line-up is, in effect, a “cover” for a new departure in foreign policy:
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.
Goodness knows if this is really what the Obama team is up to. Are we about to see a “shift,” or instead merely some additional non-military resources based on the demands of events in the real world? Oh yes, the real world. There, it seems, even the Gray Lady would concede, the priority is for a substantial increase in military forces in Afghanistan. And “rebuilding failed states” — which states precisely are those? Perhaps Iraq, where Secretary Gates has warned against a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. military forces.
It may well be that we’ll see more diplomatic scurrying about and more foreign aid (India should be at the top of the list, if we’re looking to bolster allies). Some of this may be helpful (especially if we can assist allies through mutually beneficial free trade agreements). Some will be a waste of time (e.g the Middle East “Peace Process”). And still others will be a dangerous distraction from growing threats (e.g. yet another endless round of negotiations with Iran as it proceeds with its nuclear development).
But the notion that all of this is going to replace the need for a robust military or become the mechanism for combating violent aggression of the type we witnessed in Mumbai is misguided in the extreme. Shifting from “hard” to “soft” power is the sort of thing that the New York Times thinks is a swell idea, but which bears no relation to the threats we face.
But the Left is frankly desperate to put a happy face on the Obama roll out of distinctly non-Left national security advisors. We’ll see if Hillary Clinton, James L. Jones, and Robert Gates are the sort to “have embraced a sweeping shift of priorities and resources in the national security arena.” Even if they wanted to, the real world has a funny way of intruding and calling upon American military force. In a year or so we’ll see just how much “shifting” we did and just how much continuity there is. And if we are able to “shift,” it will, I suspect, be as a result of some very successful military action of the type currently delivering peace and stability to Iraq.