Thursday, December 27, 2007

The WP's Michael Dobbs Misses the Point of the Obama-Clinton Foreign Policy Advisers Debate

The Washington Post's Michael Dobbs has a post about the supposed controversy over the following remark by Obama:

You could argue that there are more foreign policy experts from the Clinton administration supporting me than Senator Clinton. That should raise some pretty interesting questions.
The post has a list of advisers for each candidate, with a number of advisers excluded by Dobbs' arbitrary and unclear criteria. Since this such a non-issue, I won't try to put together my own count. Dobbs neglects to provide any context to explain what the exchange was about. In his follow-up remarks, Obama said
Well, look, this was based on, what I said is "one could make" the argument, that was based on an argument that had been made by James Traub in an article in the New York Times. We, I have not done a systematic headcount.
Here's are a key few paragraphs from that (highly recommended) article:
The great project of the foreign-policy world in the last few years has been to think through a “post-post-9/11 strategy,” in the words of the Princeton Project on National Security, a study that brought together many of the foreign-policy thinkers of both parties. Such a strategy, the experts concluded, must, like “a Swiss Army knife,” offer different tools for different situations, rather than only the sharp edge of a blade; must pay close attention to “how others may perceive us differently than we perceive ourselves, no matter how good our intentions”; must recognize that other nations may legitimately care more about their neighbors or their access to resources than about terrorism; and must be “grounded in hope, not fear.” A post-post-9/11 strategy must harness the forces of globalization while honestly addressing the growing “perception of unfairness” around the world; must actively promote, not just democracy, but “a world of liberty under law”; and must renew multilateral instruments like the United Nations.

In mainstream foreign-policy circles, Barack Obama is seen as the true bearer of this vision. “There are maybe 200 people on the Democratic side who think about foreign policy for a living,” as one such figure, himself unaffiliated with a campaign, estimates. “The vast majority have thrown in their lot with Obama.” Hillary Clinton’s inner circle consists of the senior-most figures from her husband’s second term in office — the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, the former national security adviser Sandy Berger and the former United Nations ambassador Richard Holbrooke. But drill down into one of Washington’s foreign-policy hives, whether the Carnegie Endowment or the Brookings Institution or Georgetown University, and you’re bound to hit Obama supporters. Most of them served in the Clinton administration, too, and thus might be expected to support Hillary Clinton. But many of these younger and generally more liberal figures have decamped to Obama. And they are ardent. As Ivo Daalder, a former National Security Council official under President Clinton who now heads up a team advising Obama on nonproliferation issues, puts it, “There’s a feeling that this is a guy who’s going to help us transform the way America deals with the world.”

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