US President-elect Barack Obama announced his national security team on Monday. Deutsche Welle's Daniel Scheschkewitz says that Obama's erred on the safe side in picking his team -- and for a good reason.
"Safety first" is what President-elect Barack Obama is going for. His choices for secretaries of state and defense (US Senator Hillary Clinton and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates respectively) as well as his new national security advisor (former NATO commander James Jones) are proof of a smart security policy that's based on competence and that's consensus-oriented.
It's a policy that cleans up the Bush legacy, but that also attaches the kind of priority to national security policy that it deserves. It would have been hard for Obama to find a more convincing top diplomat than Hillary Clinton. The senator from New York was able to collect enough experience on the international stage as first lady and continued to build on this as a member of the senate's armed forces committee during the last couple of years.
The Iraq conflict, the nuclear dispute with Iran or the threat of international terrorism -- the challenges of the years ahead -- are issues that she's familiar with. Her intellectual abilities should serve her well in conducting the second most important job in a way so sensible that America's allies will feel like partners and not just brothers in arms again.
Her nomination ends the old rivalry with her opponent during the Democratic primaries and is also a sign of the future president's aplomb. Interestingly, Clinton -- like Gates -- was a supporter of the war in Iraq. Gates, who is respected on both sides of the political spectrum, took over from his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, two years ago. Since then, he's made things more stable in Iraq by adjusting strategy.
Gates is a man that stands for an orderly withdrawal. Obama seems to agree with that now. Everything else could easily turn into a security policy disaster, which would turn Iraq into a new playground for al Qaeda.
Former NATO commander James Jones is also an old acquaintance. He is one of the fiercest critics of the way the US, under President Bush, waged war in Afghanistan. As national security advisor, he will have enough military expertise to realize that the conflict there will not be solved by the armed forces alone.
Obama is guarding his back with the national security trio to give him room to focus on America's urgent domestic problems. The financial crisis, the coming recession and a new beginning when it comes to environmental policy require his complete attention and that's why it's convenient to have foreign and security policy in good hands. And having said that, putting safety first is a smart strategy.
Daniel Scheschkewitz is Deutsche Welle's former Washington correspondent (win)
Editor's note: Obama on Monday also nominated Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as secretary of homeland security and former deputy attorney general Eric Holder as attorney general. He named Susan Rice as ambassador to the United Nations. Rice was among his top foreign policy advisors during the campaign and formerly served on the National Security Council.