Economy Done, Now What About Foreign Policy?


Last week president-elect Barack Obama sent clear signals (yet again) that he is more than ready to take on the role as commander in chief. Seizing the reins on the economy Obama held three press conferences (in as many days), announced his economic team and new advisory board, held talks with President Bush and declared that, once in office, he will swiftly push Congress to carry through a large-scale economic stimulus package, with the goal of creating 2.5 million jobs over a two year period. 

These are certainly exciting times! Obama continues to break records, unwrapping his administration quicker than any president-elect before him, in an effort not only to assure investors and calm volatile markets, but to alter America’s perilous course and fill the leadership vacuum even before he takes office. 

However, last week did not only bring joyful news. The horrific attacks in Mumbai, India, which lasted for three days and killed at least 190 people, served as a cruel reminder of the terror the world still suffers from. Furthermore it is a reminder of the fact that a U.S. president’s focus can shift to national security at any time (even in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the depression).

Thus, it is not very surprising that the president-elect will dedicate this week to national security and foreign policy. Embracing a sweeping shift of priorities and resources, the Obama administration is creating an expanded body of diplomats and aid workers that will be engaged in projects around the world, aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states.

At the time of my writing it is unclear whether the financing will be shifted from the Pentagon, as Obama is also seeking to increase the number of American combat troops (primarily for Afghanistan). This willcertainly add to Obama’s strenuous agenda, and as one of his senior advisers said, “[it] will be the great foreign policy experiment of the Obama presidency”.

Other events concerning national security and foreign policy this week are the announcements Obama is expected to make, starting tonight with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State

While Obama has made some respectable and wise decision, this is probably one of his most bewildering announcements and has certainly raised my eyebrows. Contrary to what you may believe, this bafflement does not come as a result of the rivalry which has formed between Obama loyalists, like myself, and traveling pantsuit Clintonites. Despite the tough primaries and the strained relationship, which developed as a result, Clinton and Obama share many important views and stand closer on these issues than they stand apart on others.

Therefore it seems only natural that Hillary Clinton should play a role in the new administration. However, with the exception of health care, the most debated issue throughout the campaign (and the one on whichthey disagree the most) has been foreign policy. (Sniper fire or no sniper fire?) Thus, it seems contradicting that the president elect would choose to place Clinton on top of this department (which, most certainly, will lead to frustrations in the situation room) when he could have good use of her in several other areas.

While I admire Obama’s effort to form a colorful administration, rich in views and perspectives, his choice for secretary of state might come back to haunt him. Indeed, the Obama transition team is doing everything they can to make sure the appointment will not harm his presidency. One of the more prominent actions include the close scrutiny of the Bill Clinton foundation (which lead to an agreement on nine conditions, of which one requires the former president to disclose more than 200,000 of the foundations donors.) 

Another factor of this eyebrow raising moment is, of course, Joe Biden. With all his foreign policy credentials and years of experience one would expect Obama to have a strong foreign policy agenda ready for him, indeed, that is the reason why he was chosen as VP, is it not? 

Making record fast appointments, Obama has been suspiciously quiet about what role his vice president will have. With Hillary Clinton as secretary of state the chance of a large-scale foreign policy agenda for Biden seems slim. But, as I mentioned before, these are exciting times and future will tell if Obama made a wise decision today.

Either way we can expect the situation room to be filled with arguments (for better or worse) as the future president realizes that the future secretary of state already has a very clear and strong agenda, which, undoubtedly, will clash with his own.

— Kajsa, Admin Future for America


~ by politicsoftomorrow on December 1, 2008.

3 Responses to “Economy Done, Now What About Foreign Policy?”

  1. Excellent post! Oh to be a fly on the wall in the Situation Room…time will tell if this team can mesh smoothly…

  2. Det känns betryggade att Obama inte väntar att agerar tills hans tillträder. Hansvilja till stora långsiktiga satsningar på ekonomin är mycke tintressant, och kommer kanske bli banbrytande. Vi befinner i en mycket speciell situation där nyskapande politiska lösningar krävs. Men jag undrar hur det skallv ara förenligt med skattesänkningar!
    Utnämningen av Hilary Clinten är änn ett prov på Obamas vilja och förmåga till kompromisser och få alla med sig. Återstår och se om Hilary är rätt kvinna på rätt plats.

  3. I think Clinton could turn out to be a good secreteray of state. Now Obama does not have to take that three a clock telephone call 🙂 It is understandable however that some Obama supporters are a bit suspicious about Obama´s cabinet picks (a lot of old clintonits). Great post by the way

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