Preventative Peace

Ken AshfordObama & Administration, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Supposedly, there is a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth from the "angry left" with regard to Obama's choices for his "international team" — i.e., Hillary as Secretary of State, Robert Gates staying on as Secretary of Defense, and Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander, as national security adviser.

I think it's premature to complain.  None of them, in my view, is severely hawkish. 

And this should be reassuring to the doubters:

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 — were selected in large part because they have embraced a sweeping shift of resources in the national security arena.

The shift, which would come partly out of the military’s huge budget, 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.

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.

But 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.

So there you have.  A national security structure with greater emphasis on preventing conflict rather than winning conflict.  Seems to me that's how we save money and lives in the long run.

It reminds me of an exchange between two characters in the now-dated but marvelously written Cold War play A Walk In The Woods.  The Russian arms negotiatior is speaking with the American arms negotiator and says something like (I'm paraphrasing):

"Millions and millions of dollars our countries spend in preparing for war.  Vast armies.  Huge stockpiles of missiles.  But how much do they invest in preparing for peace?  Eh?  You and me."

Well, it looks like that is about to change, as our military budget will be transformed in large part to a "peace budget".

I like it.