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National Insecurity
The President's "Pathetically Weak" National Security Team

President Obama’s national security team is beset by shortsightedness, prone contradictory messaging, often reduced to panicked scrambling, and needlessly partisan—that’s the gist of a scathing article by Politico‘s Michael Hirsh. The former defense insiders among his sources certainly pull no punches:

“I think this is the most insular White House national security team in recent history,” says Jim Thomas, vice president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a former senior Pentagon official, who added that the president’s most recent big decision, picking an “Ebola czar,” was “symptomatic of the problem.” The choice: former Joe Biden chief of staff Ron Klain, picked by a White House seemingly unconcerned over the dubious optics of naming a Beltway politico to battle a deadly international disease. […]

But others are less gentle with their criticism. “It’s a pathetically weak team,” says one retired general who was in a senior command position, and who faults Hagel as much as Rice for some of the problems.

Read the whole thing. While some of this criticism may be put down to a desire to settle scores, Hirsh’s piece provides extensive evidence in support of one of our major concerns: that the current U.S. leadership is not up to the task of dealing with a world facing a fast-growing array of complex challenges. The best excuse that the White House’s defenders can come up with seems to be woe-is-me : “‘In [Rice’s] defense some of that was there before, and I would say probably no president in recent times has faced the variety of threats that confront the United States right now, and the speed with which they’re emerging,’ this former official said.” If that is the mindset of the Administration—that this job is just too difficult—then the President needs to find himself a new national security team. Of course whether he would listen to that new team is a separate question.

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  • Fat_Man

    Now they find out. This was obvious to objective observers sometime ago.

    • Pete

      Amen, Brother.

      They all were so enthralled with the prospect electing a Negro to the presidency that they threw what little common sense they had out the window.

  • John Tyler

    Obama’s national destroy American security team is merely a manifestation of Obama’s contempt for anything American. They mimic and echo his thoughts and world view.
    Then again, what do you expect from an honor graduate of the pot-head choom gang.

  • jeburke

    No doubt, but their weakness is a feature, not a bug, of Obama politics. What Hirsch, AI and so many others have even now failed to account for is that President Obama is a leftist, not a liberal Democrat such as we have known from FDR to WJC. More Tony Benn than Tony Blair, in British terms.

    • Evan Seitchik

      As someone more or less sympathetic to the Left I wish I could agree that Obama is a leftist. It is a political reality that the left wing of the Democratic party is extremely disappointed with Obama both on foreign and domestic policy, from drone strikes to perceived closeness with corporate interests, to immigration. Forget about the real Left, most progressives in the party are disappointed that after the message of hope and change, he essentially turned out to be a moderate centrist.

      If Obama is a leftist, what do you think of Howard Dean? Labor leaders? The majorities in state legislatures in the Northeast? All of these far to the left of Obama.

      • f1b0nacc1

        There is a difference between what someone believes, and what he does when he has actual responsibility to govern. Obama has been as far left as he can be, given the limits of the American political system, and has struggled mightily to move further left beyond that.
        As for what I think of Howard Dean and Labor Leaders? Noisy whacks, devoid of even a shred of intellect or any other virtue. Perhaps useful as organ donors….not much else

      • jeburke

        Hmmm. I guess the simple answer to that is that when Tony Benn was busy destroying the Labor Party, there were people on the Left even nuttier than he.

  • B-Sabre

    ” If that is the mindset of the Administration—that this job is just too difficult—then the President needs to find himself a new national security team. Of course whether he would listen to that new team is a separate question.”
    I believe we are going to have find ourselves a new president before that happens.

  • qet

    Like the Holy Roman Empire, the president’s national security team is neither national, security, nor a team.

  • Jmaci

    The woe-is-me defense as expressed by that former official –” I would say probably no president in recent times has faced the variety of threats that confront the United States right now” — overlooks how many of the threats were created by Obama. Iraq, Syria, ISIS, open borders here and looming, the likely disaster in Afghanistan, were self-inflicted wounds. Some even originated when Obama had a more competent team.
    WRM’s conclusion that a new team will only work if Obama listens is exactly right.

    • Bob

      It occurred to me as well that the Administration might well have created its own excess of work, which now is beyond its capacity to handle. I wish I could vote this comment up a dozen times.

      Even if Obama were to listen to a new team, would he follow its recommendations? Listening ain’t the same as concurring.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Are y’all pining away for the good old days of Cheney and Rumsfeld?

    • Bob

      Back in the “good old days” before the Iraq war, Saddam Hussein was seen by many as a major destabilizing force in the world. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were not the only proponents of this view.

      It’s certainly possible, maybe even likely, that the removal of Saddam, or perhaps the handling of the aftermath, has proven to be even more destabilizing. But, that’s hard to know either way.

      What makes more sense is that the current President and his team haven’t the skills to recreate that supposedly stable world order we (sort of) enjoyed. It’s arguable that their (mis)adventures in places like Libya and Syria have just made things that much worse.

      The President’s Big Mouth certainly hasn’t helped.

      • FriendlyGoat

        It’s “arguable” that neither the Bush group nor the Obama group actually understood Islam. But that does not keep Cheney and Rumsfeld from being a pair of arrogant jerks.

        • Bob

          That’s probably true. I was just reacting to the tendency of people to blame Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld for all the woes of the world.

          Does anyone really understand Islam? Does Islam understand Islam?

          • FriendlyGoat

            You’re onto something with your questions, seriously. We in the west are all looking for the so-called “moderate Muslims”. I have come to believe that the moderates do not really believe it much at all, rather just live in the cultural reality of their location, families, etc. Try to pray five times a day, avoid pork and alcohol, etc.

            But the sayings of Mohammad are actually much, much more and can be easily construed to justify the actions of what we call the extremists. The “moderates”, though, will not quit, will stay with Islam nominally, and will vote with it in elections.

            In two administrations we have thought that secularism would win if we just got them to fair elections. This does not appear to be happening anywhere except Tunisia.

          • Bob

            A short reply really wouldn’t do your comment justice. The issue is simply too complicated. With over a billion Muslims worldwide, it’s impossible to imagine they represent a monolithic force.

            I understand the idea of the “nominal” believer, the person who “goes through the motions of belief” but who keeps their own counsel on matters of faith. But I also know some Iranians, residents of Canada, who are devout Muslims, very observant and so far as I can tell, true believers. I think I know them well enough to know they would not throw bombs or cheer on beheadings. I’m just not sure I can characterize them as “moderates.”

            I certainly agree with you there was too much expectation that post-Saddam Iraq would be a secular success. Faith, and misplaced faith, if you will.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I hope you will know in all this that I am NOT a hater of Muslims. I am deeply disturbed by what can be found in the sayings of Mohammad, and I wish we had a mechanism for helping people to just turn away from it in large numbers. But I wish nothing but good will to individual Muslim people, and I’m fully aware that many, many, many of them are nice people.

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