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Op-Ed: The Obama/Biden National Security Team
January 8, 2009—No. 1 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed: The Obama/Biden National Security Team

WASHINGTON, DC—The following Op-Ed by Gene Rossides appeared in the National Herald, Hellenic Voice, and the Greek News.

The Obama/Biden National Security Team

By Gene Rossides

December 9, 2008

On Monday, December 1, 2008, President-Elect Barack Obama stated: “Today Vice President-Elect Biden and I are pleased to announce our national security team. The national security challenges we face are just as urgent as our economic crisis. We are fighting two wars. Our old conflicts remain unresolved. And newly asserted powers have put strains on the international system.

The spread of nuclear weapons raises the peril that the world’s deadliest technologies could fall into dangerous hands….

The common thread linking these challenges is the fundamental reality that in the 21st century, our destiny is shared with the world’s, from markets to our security. From our public health to our climate, we must act with the understanding that now, more than ever, we have a stake in what happens across the globe. And as we learned so painfully on 9/11, terror cannot be contained by borders nor safety provided by oceans alone….”

The Obama/Biden national security team is composed of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State; Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to remain in the job; retired General James L. Jones as National Security Adviser and Susan E. Rice as United Nations Ambassador.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

The nomination by Obama of Hillary Clinton, his key rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, was a surprise to many. David Broder of the Washington Post, a leading political commentator, thought such an appointment would be a mistake. Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist also had misgivings.

On the other hand, former Secretary of State Madeline K. Albbright supported the nomination and said: “I think they are both highly professional and highly respectful of each other. I am sure that in fact that they have worked out a way that she will have the kind of access she needs. She will give him her opinion unvarnished, but she will also be a very good team member.

In response to a reporter’s question regarding the sharp criticism he made of Clinton and her foreign policy experience, Obama said the press was “having fun” by brining up quotes from the campaign.

Obama then promptly stated: “Differences get magnified” during campaigns. “I did not ask for assurances from these individuals that they would agree with me at all times. I think they understood and would not be joining this team unless they understood and were prepared to carry out the decisions that have been made by me after full discussion.”

“On the broad core vision of where America needs to go we are in almost complete agreement. There are going to be differences in tactics and different assessments and judgments made. That’s what I expect; that’s what I welcome. That’s why I asked them to join the team.”

“But understand, I will be setting policy as president, he added. “I will be responsible for the vision that this team carries out, and I expect them to implement that vision once decisions are made.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, nominated by President Bush in 2006, has agreed to remain in the job, providing continuity while taking on what Obama said would be a new mission to finish the U.S. role in the Iraq war “through a successful transition to Iraq control.”

Gates responded to Obama by stating he was “deeply honored” to be asked to continue service. He added “I must do my duty as they [U.S. troops at war] do theirs. How could I do otherwise?” Gates, in a number of speeches, has mirrored Obama’s stress on the importance of diplomacy and “soft power” together with military force.

Gates’ nomination also brings a bipartisan flavor to Obama’s cabinet.

Ret. General James L. Jones

Ret. General James L. Jones, former Supreme Commander of NATO, spent 40 years of active duty with the Marine Corps. In 2007 he testified before the Congress on the readiness of Iraq security forces.

Jones was reported to have resisted several efforts from Obama until late November. His concerns included end runs around Bush’s national security adviser by then Defense Secretary Rumfeld and Vise President Cheney. Regarding Jones’ concerns, Obama would say “I can fix that.” According to the Washington Post, “Jones is said to have emerged with guarantees that he would have Cabinet rank and be the main foreign policy conduit to and from the president.” (Washington Post 12-02-08; page A1; col.1)

Susan E. Rice

Susan Rice, no relation to Condoleezza Rice, is a close friend to the President-Elect and was his senior foreign policy adviser during the campaign. She served on the National Security Council and as assistant secretary of state for African affairs during the Clinton administration. In appointing her to the visible role of ambassador to the U.N. he is sending a message that the U.S. will favor multilateralism and U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Obama also restored the position of ambassador to the U.N. to a Cabinet-level rank stressing the importance he places on his stated goal of more international cooperation.

“Susan knows the global challenges we face demand global institutions that work. She shares my belief that the U.N. is an indispensable and imperfect forum,” Obama said.

President-Elect Obama is the ultimate decision maker on our issues. Each of these four persons named by Obama is of significant importance regarding our issues, not just the Secretary of State. Our key community membership organizations and federations; our key political leaders and our elected officials in Congress and in State legislatures must be active in bringing our issues to the forefront with the President-Elect and his national security team based on what is in the best interests of the United States. The facts, policies, and principles are on our side. Let’s make sure to get them to President-Elect Obama, Vice President-Elect Biden and their national security team.


For additional information, please contact C. Franciscos Economides at (202) 785-8430 or at For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at